Apple acquires indoor mapping startup WifiSLAM
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has purchased indoor GPS services firm WifiSLAM, a move that likely signals an expansion of its Apple Maps platform.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the WifiSLAM acquisition, with sources stating Apple paid around $20 million. An Apple spokesperson confirmed the deal, telling Reuters the company "buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."
WifiSLAM technology pinpoints a consumer's location within 2.5 meters, using only ambient Wi-Fi signals that are already present in buildings. Its mobile applications span from step-by-step indoor navigation to product-level retail customer engagement to proximity-based social networking.
Apple likely will leverage WifiSLAM's software to boost Apple Maps, launched last year in association with its iOS 6 operating system update as a replacement for preloaded Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps services. Consumers have been harshly critical of Apple Maps, identifying dozens of inaccuracies, and the outcry even prompted a public apology from Apple CEO Tim Cook, who later said the company is "putting all of our energy into making [Maps] right." Recent improvements include enhanced location information for Apple Stores, businesses, movie theaters, restaurants, airports and transit stops.
Google Maps for mobile added indoor mapping tools in late 2011, supplying contextual data helping users determine where they are within a building, which floor they're on and where they might wish to go next. Google Maps now includes indoor maps for more than 10,000 locations in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Japan and Switzerland, including airports, shopping malls, museums and casinos.
Last summer, 22 companies including Nokia (NYSE:NOK), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), Samsung Electronics and Sony Mobile joined forces to create the In-Location Alliance, an effort to improve and expand indoor positioning and related mobile services. The group focuses on both consumer and enterprise services including real-time navigation inside buildings, directions to personalized products and promotions inside retail stores and malls, asset/employee location, customer identification and security solutions. Primary solutions will leverage Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi standards. Neither Apple nor Google has signed on with the In-Location Alliance, which is slated to roll out handset-based consumer applications later this year.
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