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Indoor Mapping for Smarter Buildings at the University of Oxford

Indoor mapping is one of the most important forms of location navigation solutions today. Building occupants can benefit from features such as step-by-step directions to their destination and quick access to critical personal safety information during emergency situations, such as a fire or power outage. Building owners and managers can leverage data on how space is used for operational efficiencies. This leads to a stronger bottom line and a safer, more comfortable occupant experience.

Does the thought of going to an unfamiliar place give you a little bit of anxiety?

It can be unsettling not knowing where to go, and even worse, not knowing where you are. You might experience this when you go to the hospital, when you visit a big campus, or when you are at the airport. That momentary feeling of being lost can affect your first impression of a new place, whether or not you would return, and how you share your experience with others.

This is why indoor mapping is becoming more prevalent within buildings. An accurate, interactive and accessible indoor map can provide all types of building occupants with information about where they are, and how to get to where they need to be.

Indoor mapping uses different types of technology to find the location of an asset or space in a building. It’s similar to a GPS, but where you might see yourself as a blue dot on a map, an indoor map would show you which floor you are on, where you are on that floor, and what else might be nearby. A GPS can’t do that inside a building.

Looking for an example? Here’s a good one.

Location intelligence at the University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is known for being the oldest university in the English-speaking world and is one of the most prestigious centers of learning, teaching and research. It has over 24,000 students, including 11,955 undergraduates and 12,010 postgraduates. The University has a broad real estate portfolio that includes academic buildings, labs, student and staff housing, and commercial buildings for investment and leasing purposes.

Our colleagues at Esri UK are now working with the University of Oxford to upgrade the way they manage their real estate portfolio with a new indoor map that allows them to better collect and maintain property data. Data that is stored in the new indoor mapping system is used to keep track of how different university departments and tenants are using their space so that they are charged appropriately. It is also used to keep on top of building maintenance and service requests.

Estate Services Information Team Dashboard

The system, powered by ArcGIS Indoors makes it easier to monitor their entire portfolio which consists of at least 300 buildings and 35,000 indoor spaces. This new indoor mapping system combines over 2,000 existing CAD floorplans into one interactive map that enables users to visualize the campus. Each building is shown in relation to its surrounding, along with indoor spaces, down to individual floors and rooms. Interactive dashboards show floorplans, space usage and cost information. It’s a complete indoor mapping system for smarter property management.

Screenshot of campus map

Another great feature is map-sharing, where building managers and department administrators can share different versions of a map to provide updates and changes. The source map remains the same, centralizing the mapping data management for the University.

“The challenge was to create an indoor mapping system which would provide 24-hour access to floorplan and budget information for academic departments and other tenants and keep pace with the dynamic nature of our estate, which has several thousand changes every year, from repurposing an office into a laboratory to minor modifications such as moving internal walls,” explained Lomin Saayman, Information Records Manager, University of Oxford Estates Services.

“The [solution] gives us a geographical visualization of our estate and allows tenants to report any changes so our central asset record is always up-to-date. The old process of confirming what space they occupied used to take around five months and wasted time chasing data, so now the estates team is free to work on other tasks. Overall, the increased visibility and accuracy is helping improve how we inform departments what they will be charged for the year and in how we plan for the future expansion of the estate,” concluded Saayman.

The new indoor mapping system is already being used to build a large new laboratory facility by revealing how the old 1960s building was previously used. Future plans include adding large or important assets to the indoor mapping solution, such as an MRI scanner, by scanning items with a 3D scanner and making them visible on the map.

“Indoor mapping has made previously difficult to share static floorplan data rapidly accessible and easy to navigate by all stakeholders,” said Rob Nichols, Sales Lead at Esri UK. 

“Bringing CAD data into a GIS mapping environment has given the university complete situational awareness of its whole estate, allowing it to improve operational efficiency and make accurate decisions.”

We used excerpts from an article that was published in Geo Week News: Esri UK puts their indoor mapping system to the test at the University of Oxford in this story.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.