Nobody Actually Expires in “Pedestrian Dead Reckoning”
Dead reckoning. Unless you’re a pilot, you probably haven’t heard the term in a while. Refresher: It’s a navigational term, used to establish where you are, and where you’re going, using the last known (“deduced,” which is the “ded” of “dead reckoning”) information about your location.
Charles Lindbergh dead reckoned his way over the Atlantic to Paris, in 1927, using its basic formula — distance equals speed, multiplied by time.
And now, it gains a new, kind of odd, prefix: Pedestrian dead reckoning. It’s a way of using Wi-Fi and the sensor-enabled stuff in our gadgets to find other stuff, indoors — like how your Garmin used to navigate you to physical addresses, outdoors. (Before your phone’s map app did.)
In short, pedestrian dead reckoning — abbreviated “PDR” — is a little bit GPS (global positioning system), a little bit Wi-Fi, a little bit accelerometer, and a little bit magnetometer. (No country. No rock-n-roll.)
Refresher: GPS works over satellite, with predictable results once you drive into the parking garage. Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi. Accelerometers measure, well, acceleration. They’re what’s inside your FitBit, Fuelband, or other digital pedometer. Magnetometers inform your phone’s compass app.
Put it all together, with an app on top, and suddenly Costco could offer a “mobile butler,” that senses when you’ve entered the store, and when you’ve stayed still for a time. It could ask: Can I help you find something? Paper towels? Follow me — I’ll show you the way. Then your sensor-equipped gadget (meaning your phone) and app shows you the way.
That’s but one example in what has to be dozens of use cases that blend Wi-Fi, pedometer and compass. Pedestrian Dead Reckoning: It’s coming, and it’ll either save us time, or drive us nuts. Maybe both!
This column originally appeared in the Platforms section of Multichannel News.