IndoorAtlas, created by a Finland-based company, lets users see and navigate the interiors of buildings like shops, restaurants and even museums.

According to an article in The New York Times, the app works using the earth’s magnetic field; the software reads the signature created by each building’s construction (which is created by the distortion the steel makes in the magnetic field) and uses it to figure out where things inside the building are within six feet. It can also determine how far something is from the ground, allowing the software to know what floor an office occupies in a multi-storey building. Because it doesn’t use sometimes unreliable cell towers, it’s more reliable than GPS, which often uses wireless connectivity.

Buildings participating in the program get scanned by IndoorAtlas, which allows the software to figure out that building’s particular signature. Once that’s done, anyone with a smartphone can pull up the interior of that building and virtually roam around it. Data are stored in the cloud, meaning that any changes inside a building are updated quickly. IndoorAtlas will scan and store the information for any building free, but if anyone wants their interior information private, it will cost $99 per month per building to keep that data private.

Just like X-ray vision

Digital connectivity has changed how people spend their time and explore their surroundings. More people have mobile phones and they’re using them to do more as technology advances.

There’s no shortage of apps and tools that help people navigate through venues, around popular tourist spots and attractions and their cities for activities to participate in on the spur of the moment .

These networks allow users to find ways to give back to their community, find lost pets or simply figure out which restaurant or bar they’d most prefer to visit.

The IndoorAtlas presents unique opportunities, as it will let users explore buildings and venues without the need to physically be present, but it also poses privacy issues for businesses that would rather focus on in-person custom. Perhaps these sneak previews of what these places have to offer could be highlighted so as to encourage foot traffic. Finland’s retail market could potentially capitalise on a boost like this, especially since Mintel’s Global Market Navigator (GMN) shows slight growth in the Finnish department store market: 2013 saw a 3.1% increase while 2014 is expected to see a further 3% growth.