Guest article by Eyedog.US
Read Time: 8 minutes
Many of us remember the days when we’d study our printed MapQuest directions in advance of our Clark Griswold-esque family road trip. Learning how to read a map was a rite of passage, much like learning to drive a stick or change your own flat tire.
It’s truly remarkable that an entire generation of adult drivers has never been concerned with “map prep” prior to setting course to an unfamiliar driving destination. In-dash navigation systems, Google Maps, and Waze have revolutionized the way we get around. We don’t think much about how it works, we’re just grateful for the huge improvement over printing out maps, following road signs, tracking mile markers, or heaven forbid, pulling over to ask another human for directions.
As we consider the application of this new navigation paradigm to solve a different challenge - finding our way as we walk inside large complex buildings - we are quickly reminded that the real feat of Google Maps isn’t so much the tech that makes it all possible, but the simplicity and clarity with which Google communicates directions in cadence with the movement of the blue-dot on our navigation screen. When we can visually match our current location with our surroundings, it becomes easy to see where to go next.
However, when we try to apply this blue-dot concept to pedestrian indoor navigation, we realize the cool tech that works wonderfully for navigating in open space while moving at 60mph may not serve us as well in confined spaces at low speed, where our view of the navigation landscape is obstructed by walls and ceilings. What we need is a method that converges with users’ natural way of thinking and effectively accommodates indoor navigation nuances without confusing or frustrating the user.
Thankfully, the scientific community has produced a stable of research regarding how humans think when it comes to matters of spatial awareness. Their key takeaway is our need for visual landmarks. Academics unanimously conclude that visual landmarks are the most efficient way to communicate wayfinding instructions, especially in circumstances such as hospital navigation where anxiety is high, users are distracted, and cognitive capacity is compromised.
Landmarks allow for fast reasoning because they align with humans’ natural cognitive navigation process. So, how do we incorporate visual landmarks into mobile wayfinding applications? Simple: we use photos!
For that reason, Eyedog uses Photo Landmark Navigation, a more effective technique for indoor mobile wayfinding. Like GPS or blue-dot navigation, it leverages graphic algorithms to generate optimized pathways from one point of interest to the next - think “main entrance to fourth floor surgery unit.” But instead of representing the user as a moving blue dot on a map, the user is presented a narrative sequence of photos showing their surrounding building hallways, rich with visual landmarks. As users reach each new visual landmark, they simply swipe to the next picture, revealing the next set of landmarks to walk toward.
Our natural and biological instinct to use visual landmarks as a cue for navigation translates beautifully into digital wayfinding, leaning on photos as a tool to communicate. “We live in a world where the digital, physical, and biological environments have merged into an inextricably intertwined whole,” said Joe Brown, Intraprise’s Chief Information Officer. “We view digital wayfinding not as the digitization of signage but rather the digital transformation of indoor pedestrian navigation support, in all its forms.” Eyedog is uniquely positioned to combine a technology solution with what we know about human biology and behavior to create a new and interesting wayfinding solution that eliminates the common challenges found in the Digital Wayfinding space.
This is where the physical environment of a healthcare campus impacts digital wayfinding, and vice versa. A healthcare facility rich with visual landmarks, unique design features, and noteworthy points of interest makes a great candidate for Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation, as it is situated to help patients and visitors navigate easily by swiping through visually unique photos of their path, helping them find their way. There are ample visual markers to help users clearly see where they are, and where they are headed. We’ve all visited healthcare facilities with the same paint color lining the multi-floor, multi-building, large campus walls - it’s hard to tell where you are or where to go. With well designed facilities, though, Photo Landmark Navigation works because it draws on the natural human instinct to use physical landmarks to find your way. Seeing those landmarks photos on your smartphone’s screen signals that the user is on the right path.
Frequent changes and updates to the physical environment of healthcare facilities are inevitable: updates are a necessary and exciting part of keeping the hospital new, fresh, and well-fit to serve its community. But, those design changes introduce the potential for hidden difficulties for staff and patients, particularly those who are returning patients experiencing the changes in a facility they have visited before: changes to the environment can cause unexpected stress and anxiety in an already turbulent experience. Kay Via, Intraprise’s Vice President and Eyedog.US business line Manager points out, “Eyedog’s innovative digital wayfinding solution mitigates any added stress and anxiety commonly associated with hospital visits. It is intuitive and does not steal attention from users with more pressing priorities.” Amid changes in a healthcare facility, Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation does more than provide directions: it can drastically reduce the stress and anxiety often felt while navigating confusing healthcare facilities.
Because of the nature of hospital growth, many facilities opt to add in phases. Adding to existing, often older buildings can create confusing, difficult-to-navigate building landscapes; signage alone fails to effectively provide directions. Staff, who are also learning to navigate a new facility, often find themselves responsible for helping patients to navigate, as well, taking their time and attention from other duties and responsibilities to provide directions. With renovation comes confusion and stress for those working to navigate unfamiliar facilities.
And, for brand new patients, there is an inherent feeling of stress that accompanies navigating an unfamiliar facility. Photo Landmark Navigation is so effective and efficient in all of these settings because it combines high resolution photos of the campus with directional arrows and written directions, designed to help users navigate, regardless of their familiarity with the campus. Because users see on their smartphone screen their exact, current surroundings, a building’s confusing landscape, or out-of-date signage does not negatively impact the effectiveness of Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation.
Photo Landmark navigation gives patients and visitors intuitive access to effective indoor wayfinding that does not require a lot of attention to use; there are few barriers to entry, enabling successful wayfinding that can reduce the stress and anxiety commonly associated with navigating a new (or changing) healthcare facility. With the option to view a personalized photo route ahead of an appointment, users find a sense of control within their clinical experience. Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation provides directions, available before and during a clinical experience, that patients and visitors can trust.
Photo Landmark Navigation enhances existing wayfinding systems, without requiring any hardware, making it quick to deploy and affordable to maintain. Photos obviate the need for indoor positioning, thereby removing the need for beacons, which are expensive to install and maintain. Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation allows healthcare systems to capitalize on the opportunities afforded by offering an app-less mobile wayfinding solution, dramatically increasing the likelihood of usage and adoption. Instead of only appealing to those users who have taken the time and attention to download an app (likely a tiny percentage of all visitors), you can now offer mobile wayfinding to any visitor with a smartphone. Eyedog’s technology is unique in that it is complex behind the scenes, but incredibly simple for healthcare systems and their patients, making it manageable and maintainable for everyone involved.
By scanning conveniently placed QR Code signage, users can easily access Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation at any point in their journey. Eyedog utilizes familiar smartphone technology to present its intuitive directions; users are familiar with swiping or scrolling on their devices. Because of its familiar user interface, Eyedog is able to meet users at a familiar point, thereby reducing their feelings of stress and uncertainty around accessing directions. Amidst the uncertainty of visiting a healthcare facility, Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation provides a comforting and familiar experience.
And, we can’t forget that Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation is designed to be an addition to traditional wayfinding methods. Effective indoor wayfinding is multifaceted; Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation presents directions that use digital technology, but also leans on effective signage, healthcare design, volunteer & staff participation, and community engagement to successfully improve indoor wayfinding woes.
Put simply, Eyedog’s Photo Landmark Navigation alleviates the challenges often associated with indoor digital navigation, while spotlighting the unique and beautiful design of a healthcare facility, saving on costs, and improving the patient experience. A creative twist on the driving navigation we all know, love, and rely on, Photo Landmark Navigation is the simple, easy-to-follow, intuitive solution for navigating within complex healthcare facilities. Together with signage, design, and digital wayfinding, healthcare systems can take their digital transformation and patient engagement strategies to the next level, promising an improved experience.
Eyedog offers the world’s leading indoor and campus-based pedestrian wayfinding solution. Using photo landmark navigation technologies, we offer a human-centered wayfinding approach that promises to reduce anxiety associated with navigating a complex campus. Learn more at www.eyedog.us.