Indoor maps have many different functions. From literally putting your venue on the map by releasing its indoor map on Google and Apple Maps to improving the experience of employees and visitors to introducing accurate indoor navigation.
In the last article, we shared the best indoor map providers that can do the job for you. All you have to do is provide your building’s floor plan and shell out the cash. Today, we will explain how to create an indoor map by yourself.
Reasons for creating an indoor map
As we noted in the introduction, indoor maps have lots of different functions. That means different businesses and venues have different reasons for creating indoor maps.
You could build one to allow your employees to find their way around the place, in case you own a large factory that’s hard to navigate or a huge office park with dozens of floors and hundreds of offices.
Large retail objects can provide visitors with mobile apps that include an indoor map of the venue along with navigation and other features that can greatly improve the visitor experience. The similar can work for stadiums, hospitals, museums, and other large objects that can be hard to navigate and have countless people visiting them on a daily basis.
Of course, a better visitor or employee experience is far from the only reason for creating an indoor map of an object. Owners can improve security, increase productivity, more efficient usage of resources, etc.
No matter what your reason for creating an indoor map is, the first step is creating the floor plan.
Creating the floor plan
There are lots of free and premium tools for creating floor plans and most of them are rather simple to use. You can create floor plans ranging from simple areas that contain just a couple of rooms to huge plans covering entire shopping malls, hospitals, and other large venues.
If you never created a floor plan, we recommend software such as Planner5D, Smart Draw, Floor Planner, or Floor Plan Creator. You can also use Visio, which is part of the Office 365 package. You could even map your building with Microsoft Excel.
While most floor plan creation tools can export files in JPG or PNG formats, it is recommended to use apps such as AutoCAD or MicroStation in case you want to create an indoor map of a building on your own. You can use these apps to transform an architectural drawing into a detailed floor plan. JPG and PNG formats are great when using a third party service, or if you want to upload your map on Google Maps. If you want to know how to export a floor plan to Google Maps, read our previous article.
Converting the floor plan
Once you create the floor plan, you have to transform it into a file supported by different indoor mapping solutions.
Importing a floor plan into Google Maps will automatically create the indoor map of your building. You can use floor plans in JPG or PNG formats. This is great since it allows users to create the floor plan with almost any free floor plan software.
On the other side, Apple Maps uses a proprietary format called IMDF. Converting floor plans to Apple’s IMDF format is a bit tricky since most conversion tools are proprietary and will make you depend on a specific indoor map provider. Luckily, standalone apps such as FME Desktop allow users to convert their files into IMDF and then use them for their projects. Another plus for FME Desktop is that the app is fairly simple to use.
If you plan on using GIS software for map creation, there are handy instructions online for premium GIS software such as ArcGIS. Luckily, there are free and open-source GIS platforms such as QGIS, which also includes detailed documentation on how to convert floor plans and use the software.
Now that you’ve completed all previous steps, there’s just one thing to do before creating the actual map. Defining the map’s purpose.
Defining what you’ll use the map for
Reasons for creating an indoor map aren’t the same as the potential goals you want to achieve with the said map. Before you start creating the map itself, you’ll need to define potential usage scenarios and the list of goals for your map. Otherwise, you might have a bad time.
If the map is to be used for navigating your building, it should have support for the preferred way of indoor navigation. If it is designed to improve the experience of visitors, support for mobile APIs is a must. If the map is expected to offer dynamic content it should be able to connect to required services.
If the map is made for employees (to improve efficiency, to offer navigation, to be used for optimizing routes, etc.) make sure to implement support for devices that track employee movements such as RFID chips or smartphones.
Indoor maps can also be used for data collection and analysis. In this case, the map should have access to the desired storage server and it should be able to be optimized for data visualization. In case of trying to increase the security of the facility employees should know where security cameras are, as well as placement of emergency items. The map should also be able to show exit routes in case of an emergency.
There are many other potential usages of an indoor map so make sure you define all of the ones you want to implement in your map before commencing the final step.
Creating your own indoor map
We’ve finally reached the actual construction of your indoor map. This can be done on multiple platforms such as Indoor Atlas or ArcGIS Indoors. But if you want to do it for free and want to create a map with 3D support, we recommend using WRLD.
First of all, WRLD has support for beautiful 3D maps. Next, the platform is completely free to use in case you build the map yourself. Finally, you can read a comprehensive tutorial that explains how to build an indoor map with WRLD online for free.
The second choice, that’s also free (free for 12 months for one location) is Navigine. This platform provides excellent 2D maps along with indoor navigation app solutions. The process is straightforward and seems less complex than using WRLD.
If you want to create an indoor map all by yourself, without using a third-party solution, know that it will be a really complex project. Next, you’ll need an open-source GIS software. We recommend QGIS. As for a free indoor positioning system, there’s Redpin. Finally, OSRM is a free, open-source routing platform that can be used by indoor map creators.