A project designed to help visually impaired people get around council buildings has been given a new lease on life as a smart city system.
The project also had a profound influence on the business that started the whole project.
The company from Bielsko-Biala was re-established last year as Ifinity and is known as one of Poland's successful startups, something the company owes to a project that went wrong in the past.
"We have been active in the market for a very long time developing applications," Adam Jesionkiewicz, the CEO and co-founder of the company, said. "At one point, we won a tender for a project for a large shopping mall to develop an application that would help people navigate through the building and find certain shops."
Unfortunately for Jesionkiewicz, that project ended in failure. "Technologically, it turned out to be impossible. Since it is an indoor mall, we could not use GPS to pinpoint the user's location."
Other techniques, like triangulation based on 3G antennas or wi-fi hotspots, were not accurate enough. "They have an error of about 50 metres. In order to make location work indoors, the error has to be no more than two metres."
For Jesionkiewicz, there was an epiphany when Apple announced its iBeacon project. "That same day, we started to draft ideas on how to use beacons combined with Bluetooth Low Energy for indoor navigation," he says.
Now, Ifinity sells a service to install and maintain those beacons, which communicate with smartphone apps via Bluetooth.