11/25/2014 01:47 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A New App that Tells You How to Get Where You Want to Go Using Pictures


Interior GPS is a new app that tells you by using pictures how to get where you want to go inside large buildings.

"When I took my wife to the hospital a year ago to see a doctor, we had a lot of trouble finding the doctor's office," Jules White, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Vanderbilt University says. "Afterwards, I thought about the difficulty I had had locating rooms at conventions, at the football stadium, and the airport. Why not develop a GPS for inside buildings--one that shows you in pictures how to get where you're going? I asked myself."

White's app is already in use at the 1.2 million square foot new convention center in Nashville, Tennessee. He's now working on a pilot for a large hospital group and is getting inquiries about his app every day from as far away as Australia.

To find a location, you download the app which knows where you are in a building. After selecting where you want to go (from a displayed list), the app shows you picture by picture how to get there. "Pictures work a lot better than just a list of directions," White adds. He mentions using the app in large shopping centers as well.

"There are other applications," White adds. "One makes it possible for anyone going into a grocery or a drug store--or any store--to find the product they are looking for immediately. You don't have to hunt for something or ask where it is."

"It struck me as the next logical step in finding out where you're going inside a structure, or how to find what you want to buy quickly," White says.

White was educated at Brown University and Vanderbilt and previously taught at Virginia Tech University. Two years ago he had a one man art exhibit at the Gregory Way Gallery in Beverly Hills.

His new company, Ziiio, Inc., is located in Nashvillle.

"We can save people a lot of time and frustration when they're trying to find where to go inside," White says. "It'll save money as well."

When I first learned about White's Interior GIS app, the context that came to mind was not a large convention center or airport, but a large forest. What if the app could help a farmer find medicinal plants? What if it could help you detect wild varieties of agricultural crops?

While White's concept for interior GIS started when he was looking for the doctor's office, it could help with navigation within large, complex environments where picture-based navigation would be far more useful than written directions.

When I asked White about the possibility of extending the use of the app in this way, he said, "We are used to maps always being the best form of directions, but pictures can work a lot better sometimes. As long as the pictures are recent, they give you confidence that you are going in the right direction, even if it is in a forest or other area that we don't normally need to get around in."

While it may not have been the original intent, this is an app which could have global relevance in parts of the world where people rely heavily on finding forest plants and biodiversity for their daily sustenance.