The Cartogram SMS Chatbot

November 2, 2018

Davis Johnson

Blog, Uncategorized

This blog post is going to discuss Cartogram’s patent-pending SMS Chatbot service. This is just one way to access Cartogram’s wayfinding and indoor/outdoor navigation services. We’ll discuss what the chatbot does, what it doesn’t do, and several defining features of it including its semantic agnosticism, why it doesn’t require an app, how it will give you directions, and when it will send you links to the app.
What is a chatbot, anyway? A chatbot is a kind of automated robot that works in a chatroom or text interface. You text message it like you would text with a person, and the chatbot sends you messages back.

Chatbots range in complexity from very simple (for an example of a very simple chatbot, go to our homepage at . The pop-up Cartobot in the bottom right corner is a chatbot too – it is limited to asking you for your name, email, and phone number, and then letting us know you need help. This kind of chatbot is very simple and very common. Other chatbots can be very complex – many them have gotten very close to convincing people that they were also people (this is called passing the Turing Test, click this link to learn more about this topic).

The Cartogram Chatbot falls in between these two extreme examples. It’s smart enough to help you find your way around a large venue, but it isn’t smart enough to discuss the latest best seller mystery novel. So how does it work?

What the Cartogram Chatbot Does

The chatbot we’ve built can help users find out information about the building they’re in. This information includes written information about locations within the building, the ability to use their browsers to see the same information, give them directions from point A to point B, and talk about the latest mystery novel they read.
Just joking on the mystery novel.
The chatbot helps users who have their devices read out loud to them to access the information in our mobile app by giving them text directions. This is only one of the many ways that we’ve thought through accessibility while developing Cartogram.
It’s also helpful to those who are in a hurry. In a rush, you might have simply forgotten which floor the maternity ward is on and you don’t want to take the time to open the app to retrieve that information when you could send a text message.

Semantic Agnostic

Semantics basically means language. When talking about bots, semantics mean the language that you are required to use to interact. You may remember text-based computer games that required the player to type out specific instructions likes “Look under rock” or “Walk east” in order to complete an action. Cartogram on the other hand is semantic agnostic. Here, the word agnostic means that there isn’t one specific way that language needs to be entered into the chatbot in order for it to work.
When you ask the Cartogram Chatbot to give you directions, you can ask in the following ways and get an answer:

  • “Radiology”
  • “Directions from the Cafeteria to Radiology”
  • “Directions from Cartocode 335073 to Radiology”

Each of these entries will return the same directions to the user.

No App Required

Just like our customers, here at Cartogram we’re concerned with accessibility. We want everyone to be able to use our product! That includes those people who don’t own smartphones, those who aren’t able to focus on the tiny graphics of the Cartogram app, those who plain don’t want to download another app just to get around a building, and those who might be in a hurry.

Your gran is probably more technically savvy than mine, but mine would have a difficult time accessing the app store to get a new app and figure out how to use it just to get directions to the radiology department. The chatbot is a great solution for her and all the other people like her who need to access directions without


The easiest way to ask the Cartogram Chatbot for directions is to simply text it the name of the location you need to get to, like this:
And you’ll get the response, “We are looking up your indoor location search request and will get back to you in just a moment. Typical response time less than 15 seconds.”
Three seconds later, I receive the following response, “The Radiology room is located on floor 1, near the Film Pick-Up and Radiology Check-In Waiting Room. provided by Cartogram.”

If you need more detailed directions than this, or if you would like to see the directions instead of just the description of the location, you can click the link.

Links to the App & Server

The links that the chatbot send back to users (like in the above example,) come with a link. These links send users to the browser version of the Cartogram app, a webapp. This browser version of Cartogram is more limited in its functionality versus the mobile app. So, what can it do?

  1. Show you the location you asked for on a map,
  2. Show you the indoor maps of your location, including all the different floors,
  3. Give you directions from one location in the building to another location, and
  4. Give you outdoor-to-indoor locations with certain third-party integrations.

SMS Chatbot in action. The chatbot can give users a map image or a link to an interactive map.

Unfortunately, no mainstream browser can scan for a Bluetooth signal. We wish that they did, because we would have our browser version use that functionality! To access Cartogram’s blue dot wayfinding functionality, users will need to use the app on their smartphone or another mobile device.
Another option for giving blue dot wayfinding to visitors is to preload the Cartogram app on tablets owned by the venue and to give them to visitors at kiosks or information desks near entrances and to collect them when they leave.


To wrap up, we’ve talked about what the chatbot does and doesn’t do (it’s no book club), how it is semantics agnostic, that it doesn’t require an app, and that it will give directions in the following ways:

  1. Show you a location in a building,
  2. Show you maps of the building
  3. Give you directions from A to B, and
  4. Provide links to the browser version of Cartogram

We also discussed how, due to universal browser limitations, it won’t give you blue dot wayfinding or outside-to-inside directions. For those you’ll need to use the mobile app.
Now you should have an understanding of this awesome service that Cartogram provides! If you’re ready to learn more about how Cartogram can help you with your specific use case or you’d like to see our software in action, click here to schedule a demo.
Still have questions? Please drop us a line through our contact form and we’ll get back to you with an answer asap.