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Bring your mapping inside with ArcGIS Indoors

Maps help us visualize and analyze aspects of the world at a glance, and often serve as a reference to help us understand the layout of a place, orient ourselves, and navigate through a space. In GIS, our attention is often focused on mapping outdoor features and phenomena – but what about mapping the world indoors, where the average person spends nearly 90% of their day?

An ‘indoor GIS’ is a system that supports indoor mapping, navigation, and space and asset management in both 2D and 3D. ArcGIS Indoors helps users create an indoor GIS for facility management, asset maintenance, and system analysis work that occurs at the building level. It is used across multiple industries for wayfinding and smart site management, including use in healthcare, safety, airport management, and private business. ArcGIS Indoors has also proven hugely beneficial for colleges and universities, whose often large and sprawling campuses can be difficult to manage, or even navigate, particularly for first-time students. It can also be applied to other uses that involve representation of indoor spaces, including research into interesting topics such as incorporating accessibility into navigation tools.

ArcGIS Indoors is centered around the use of floor-aware maps – maps or scenes that contain layers of features that are organized under a floor plan hierarchy. The information model associates specific features (such as rooms and exit points) to a level, levels to a specific facility, and facilities to specific sites. This allows users to quickly filter out and visualize rooms and other points of interest by floor, including any occupants.

To get started with Indoors, all you really need is data on the building itself – a CAD or BIM model file is ideal – and data layers for any relevant features you want to highlight or monitor within the facility. Using tools in the Indoors toolbox in ArcGIS Pro, you can import all of this data into the Indoors model in a single geodatabase. From there, you can configure your data, maps, and scenes for use in a number of floor-aware app templates, or for further analysis and visualization purposes.

Listed below are several ways you can utilize the capabilities of Indoors for facility or campus management, or in your research work. To illustrate some of these, I created an Indoors database for the (imaginary, unfortunately!)  B.C. Centre for GIS – a renowned conference and exhibition centre dedicated to advancing geospatial thinking and celebrating the science and history of GIS. 

3D Scene of the parking lot and BIM model for the B.C. Centre for GIS.

1. Campus Management & Asset Maintenance

Floor-aware data can be used locally within ArcGIS Pro, or uploaded to ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise for use in an Indoor Viewer app template that allows users to explore the different facility levels and features. You can filter rooms and features by floor; search for features and rooms by category, name or number; and select individual features for more information. This has clear implications for campus facility management in terms of visualizing space, improving asset tracking across large campuses, and facilitating maintenance inspections. You can also configure optional launch actions like opening a survey form from features’ pop-ups, which is useful in asset maintenance or for collecting data or feedback on particular points of interest.

Screenshot of the B.C. Centre for GIS Indoor Viewer app, with buttons to select a point of interest category to the left of the map showing the first floor floorplan, and a pop-up containing information about the selected feature.

The Indoor Viewer app for the B.C. Centre for GIS. A launch action has been configured that allows visitors to report issues with facility rooms through a Survey123 form.

2. Interior Wayfinding with Network Datasets and Kiosks

Similar to how network analysis can be used with large urban network datasets for outdoor navigation, geoprocessing tools for Indoors can be used to create and refine an indoor network of potential pathways connecting the rooms and floors of your building, or even connecting multiple buildings on a single site – like a campus! This network can then be used as the basis for a routing service, which can be accessed by users through Indoors apps to facilitate 3D indoor navigation. Aside from pure wayfinding purposes, the created network can be used in further analysis and research – like this clever project that used the network lattice generated through Indoors to simulate and analyze the (outdoor!) routing of sidewalk delivery robots on a university campus.

Image of an extensive preliminary pathway network generated by ArcGIS Indoors tools on the left and an image of a refined network with minimal pathways and vertical transitions connecting the different floor networks on the right.

Indoors tools allow you to generate extensive preliminary pathway networks and connecting vertical transitions (representing stairways and elevators), which are then thinned and modified as necessary.

Unfortunately the indoor routing service ability is currently limited to ArcGIS Enterprise implementations, but the basic components of a floor-aware map can still provide wayfinding value, as in this example that additionally uses a home location for viewing the Indoor Viewer app in kiosk mode. If you are interested in using the routing service for Indoors, talk to your university’s ArcGIS Administrator about using Enterprise. 

Screenshot of the BC Centre for GIS Indoor Viewer app in kiosk mode, showing a section of the first floor layout and a starred location that reads ‘You are here’.

A 'You are here' star will appear for the kiosk location if it first as set as the home location using the Indoor Viewer app in regular browser mode.

3. Enhanced Navigation with Indoor Positioning

Building on #2, if you need high accuracy for wayfinding, implementing an Indoors Positioning System can give users their current location on the map via an indoor ‘blue dot’ experience with an accuracy within a few metres. This is particularly useful for tasks that involve location sharing and tracking – think work orders, security, and geofencing for campus management, or the potential for indoor data collection on assets, space use, and navigational habits for analytics or research purposes. Additional ground work involving setting up technology such as Bluetooth beacons is required, but it can be well worth it, depending on what you want to achieve. 

4. Space Booking and Management

Another key use for Indoors is space planning and management. Post-pandemic, many companies and institutions have transitioned to a hybrid model, increasing the need for an organized way to assign both permanent offices and temporary work stations. The Space Planner is another configurable app template for Indoors that helps manage this, allowing administrative staff to assign people to offices, create and manage alternative space plans, and perform space usage analytics, while allowing users of the Indoors Viewer or Indoors Mobile apps to book meeting rooms and hoteling spaces ahead of time.

A GIF animation showing the process of using the Space Planner app to assign a person to a unit.

5. 3D Visualization of Indoor Spaces and Features

The Indoors Viewer app also has a toggle for switching between  2D map and 3D scene views, so you can add a 3D representation for enhanced visualization and comprehension, including 3D features or multipatches, BIM or other 3D format models, and other contextual 3D data, as desired. Models of indoor assets such as fire extinguishers can be added and filtered out by floor as well, as long as the models have an attribute associating them with a particular level. 

A screenshot of the Indoor Viewer app in scene view showing the layout of the first basement floor in 3D.

A 3D view of the Indoor Viewer app for the B.C. Centre for GIS.

6. Integration with other apps and technologies

Finally, a great thing about ArcGIS Indoors is the ability to integrate your floor-aware layers and collected data with other applications. You can create floor-aware dashboards and field maps, or custom apps that you configure yourself using ArcGIS Instant Apps or ArcGIS Experience Builder to visualize data and facilitate space assessment. The 3D Viewer app shown below allows users to explore the facilities of the B.C. Centre for GIS in 3D, and take a virtual tour of the current gallery exhibits.

A screenshot of the 3D Viewer app showing a section of one of the Exhibit halls, with a list of preconfigured slides used for the virtual tour.
The BC Centre for GIS 3D - Viewer app includes a feature to guide users through a virtual tour of the Centre’s exhibits.

If you want to learn more about ArcGIS Indoors, check out this learning plan in the Esri training catalogue or e-mail the Education and Research group at

About the Author

Kendra Munn is an Urban Solutions Specialist in the Education and Research group at Esri Canada. She contributes to academic research projects in collaboration with universities, and creates educational resources and workshops on ArcGIS software. Working with the Professional Services Urban team, she assists municipal organizations in developing Urban models and data preparation workflows through the deployment of packaged services. Kendra holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, applied biology and a master’s degree in geography, geographic information systems from Simon Fraser University.

Profile Photo of Kendra Munn