Mapsco books and huge paper maps are a thing of the past. Now, we have our mobile devices equipped with GPS that can give us verbal directions while we drive.

We can get directions to practically anywhere with the swipe of our finger. However, once you get to that location, do you know how to get around? Will your smartphone GPS guide you to the nearest restroom? Can you find the store you need in a shopping mall, or even a specific item within the store?

With the abundance of technology in today's world, you would think there would be a way to guide people once they're inside a building. However, indoor mapping technology has been a thing of the future — until now.

Because of the issues bringing GPS indoors, researchers and developers turned their attention to the natural instincts of animals instead of creating a new technology.

"A large variety of animals possess a magnetic sense," according to research from Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group. "Migratory birds use magnetic clues to find their way south in fall and north in spring. Salamanders, frogs use the magnetic field for orientation when they have to find the direction of the nearest shore quickly, e.g., when they sense danger."

A Finnish-based company was one of the first companies to take cues from these wild animals by creating an indoor positioning system (IPS) based on magnetic-field mapping for indoor spaces. Known as IndoorAtlas, this IPS technology will bring major changes to all indoor establishments, especially large retail stores and museums.

What is IndoorAtlas?

IndoorAtlas was founded by Professor Janne Haverinen as a spin-off from the University of Oulu, Finland in 2012. IndoorAtlas recently established a second headquarters in Mountain View, California, because of the large market in the United States.

It was in California that IndoorAtlas launched its first beta test.

"The IndoorAtlas core technology is based on magnetic positioning, which means that the solution is independent from external infrastructures such as radio access points," according to the IndoorAtlas website. "The magnetic-positioning core offers developers unprecedented scale and freedom when building location-based apps. IndoorAtlas can also integrate Wi-Fi and Bluetooth location information for optimized positioning performance."

How will this affect retailers and other establishments?

With IndoorAtlas and IPS technology, users have location assistance once inside an establishment. This assistance can be useful for not only users, though. Retailers and business owners can take advantage as well.

IndoorAtlas technology can assist patrons to a bathroom, a food court, even a specific product. Consumers can enter exactly what they came for, such as "women's tennis shoes" or "Clinique makeup." IndoorAtlas will then give step-by-step walking instructions to that item.

And, since one of the most common questions at a mall or large establishment is, "Where is the bathroom?" this technology will be a hit for many consumers. In addition, IndoorAtlas also provides a Buddy Finder. This allows you to find the location of friends with their permission, of course.

How will this benefit retailers?

The location accuracy of IndoorAtlas is "between 10 centimeters and two meters, depending on the building. That's the difference between, say, knowing a shopper is in the freezer section versus knowing he is standing in front of the ice cream. It also does not require a building to have any special equipment," according to MIT Technology Review.

With this technology and ability, retailers are able to target customers and provide deals to them based on where they are and where they have been. This gives retailers another platform to advertise and attract new customers when they are right in front of you.

IndoorAtlas can be especially useful now with the recent shopping trends of teens and adults alike. According to an article on Yahoo News, "Teens are shopping like their parents ... and that's putting a lot of pressure on retailers to change the way they market to them. Gone are the spending sprees, starting weeks before school bells ring. More teens are thrifty nowadays, a habit picked up from their recession-scarred parents."

With the ability to track consumers in this way, retailers can target location-based advertisements and deals to consumers that will show them the great deals they are looking for and want.

From shopping trends and technology to fashion trends and styles, retailers must adapt to change and change is happening quickly. IndoorAtlas and IPS technology can help retailers make these adjustments with ease.

The ability to track consumers is becoming more accurate and precise, giving retailers the ability to use this information to increase profitability, attract new customers and maintain previous customers.