Apple Acquires Indoor Map Startup WifiSLAM

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Apple Maps’ indoor mapping to be improved by $20m acqusition of WifiSLAM

Apple has acquired indoor-GPS company WifiSLAM for a reported $20 million as it looks to improve the indoor mapping capabilities of Apple Maps.

WifiSLAM, whose co-founders include former Google software engineering intern Joseph Huang, is one of a number of companies trying to create technology to detect a smartphone user’s location inside buildings where traditional GPS technology doesn’t work.

Its method involves detecting a user’s location using Wi-Fi signals that already exist inside the building. Potential uses include the ability to provide directions to airport gates and audio tours in museums, but the technology could potentially unlock a lucrative market for in-store retail advertising.

Apple WifiSLAM acquisition

Apple iOS Maps Dublin AirportThe information gathered from such technology would be hugely valuable to retailers who would have the ability to only be charged for advertising when it leads directly to an in-store purchase.

The more immediate benefit to Apple would be to catch up with Google Maps, which it ditched as the default mapping provider to iOS last year, and improve the reputation of its poorly received Apple Maps. The service debuted with iOS 6, but was widely panned by users who reported numerous inaccuracies and comical mistakes.

Google has added indoor maps for a number of shopping malls and airports to Google Maps, with a user’s approximate location indicated with a blue dot. This is determined by using GPS, cell towers and Wi-Fi hubs for data which is then communicated with Google’s location servers. Google must get permission to include maps of buildings, but still added more in time for last Christmas, while a number of UK locations, such as stations, museums, large shops and airports, are also featured.

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