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Like Indoor GPS, Altoona Company Promises To Help You Find Your Way

Jennifer Szweda Jordan
For 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh student Chuck Ward pointed at a map inside the Cathedral of Learning. Classroom G8, where his Dustin Hoffman film class planned to meet to watch a movie, eluded him.

“Where’s Bellefield, do you know?” he asked a stranger. Then another. Then one more. 

Students and visitors at Pitt’s iconic Cathedral of Learning have been baffled by its layout since the building first opened more than 80 years ago.

Altoona-based software company Rivendell Technologies is selling a technological solution.

CEO Phil Farabaugh looks at the same map Ward consulted. The traditional, static guide is cumbersome, he said. To translate directions on a wall into three dimensions as you walk away, “It’s not really likely,” he said. 

“If this was a kiosk with our software (instead of a map) ... they could have those directions sent to their phone," he said. "They could walk away and know turn-by-turn, go 20 feet, make a left, go up the stairs, turn right. They would be able to take that image and directions with them on the go.”

Launched in 2014, Wayfinding Pro promises that non-programmers can create and maintain indoor, digital wayfinders that guide guests through multi-floor room systems as complex as hospitals, mass transit lines and malls. The technologies proponents predict information booths and floor layouts will fall away just as directional navigation systems (GPS) once replaced maps.

But systems programmed by individual, in-house experts are expensive, Farabaugh said. Wayfinding Pro is among the first "over-the-counter" solution billed as customizable as it is quick and easy to use. 

"It’s tough to maintain and build something like that constantly," he said. "There’s no off-the-shelf product you can just buy and insert to any building because of the customization that’s required. We’re the only standalone application.”

Digital signage is especially helpful when guiding people with disabilities, he said.

“There have been some institutions that I won’t mention that have had fines and challenges based on not having ADA-compliant routing available,” Farabaugh said. “It can be a big cost if they’re trying to not only make themselves compliant, but then to be able to communicate the mapping.” 

Farabaugh cited Temple University as a recent convert. Wayfinding Pro has become something of a recruiting tool, he said.

"(Colleges) need to find ways to engage better with (their) student body," he said. "We need to find ways to help them from a technological standpoint. And this is a simple yet efficient way to launch something where they can help students find where they’re trying to go.”

As for the Cathedral of Learning, you’ll have to rely on the wall map and your memory.

In this week's Tech Report calendar:

  • PittMesh hosts the first in a series of discussions on the basics of wifi Wednesday night at the co-working space WorkHardPgh in Allentown.
  • And CyLab, Carnegie Mellon University’s cybersecurity research and education institute, is being re-launched with an event on Dec. 15. A panel discussion will explore CyLab’s new role as a university-wide presence in security and privacy research.