UK Company Gets £500,000 Government Grant To Develop Indoor Navigation Tech

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RNF Digital Innovation is making a navigation system based on iBeacons which is likely to make its debut at Bestway stores

Leamingtonbased mobile app developer RNF Digital Innovation will receive £500,000 from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to develop an indoor navigation system for mobile devices.

The system will be based on iBeacons – tiny Bluetooth-enabled sensors pioneered by Apple that can interact with nearby mobile devices. The technology is expected to be used in supermarkets, hospitals and leisure parks, offering a “sat-nav shopping experience”.

“By embracing iBeacon technology throughout our network of UK stores and depots, we will be able to offer our customers a retail experience far beyond anything currently available,” said Jamil Mohammed, e-commerce manager at Bestway Group, one of the corporate partners of the project.

Bonanza

TSB is the UK government’s innovation agency, tasked with accelerating economic growth by supporting innovation. The organisation runs regular Launchpad competitions to encourage the development of new businesses through a combination of project funding, training and support. It also runs overseas trade missions and awards cash grants to most promising applicants.

iBeacons_office1The system being developed at RNF over the next 18 months relies on iBeacons, low-cost devices that use Bluetooth Low Energy (a.k.a. Bluetooth Smart) to find smartphones and tablets in close proximity and exchange data. At the moment, they are compatible with both iOS and Android, with Windows Phone functionality expected in the near future.

In the retail sector, iBeacons could enable the customer to work out their quickest and most economical route at the supermarket, while being alerted to offers and product updates on the way.

“Shoppers will be able to use an intelligent location-sensitive app which integrates with their shopping trip,” explained Dr Patrick Dickinson from the School of Computer Science at University of Lincoln.

“It will combine their preferences and previous shopping behaviour with information about the store they are visiting, to plan their unique experience in real-time, alert them to points of interest, resulting in a more productive and enjoyable visit.”

The £500,000 grant is part of the £5 million fund earmarked for the development of location-based technology in the UK. Another £202,000 will be invested by RNF and its project partners – the Bestway Group, Aston University and the University of Lincoln.

“RNF has always prided itself of being at the forefront of modern mobile app development. With the support of the Technology Strategy Board’s grant, our research and development activities in the field of beacons and indoor navigation will reinforce our position as market leaders,” said Rob Mannion, MD at RNF Digital Innovation.

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