Apple buys WifiSLAM for $20 million, report says
Recognizing the mobile commerce potential of indoor location technology, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has purchased WifiSLAM, a startup providing indoor location information via mobile phones, for $20 million, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.
The newspaper said that Apple confirmed that it had acquired WifiSLAM but declined to provide additional details.
On its website, WifiSLAM said it develops location-based mobile apps that "engage with users at the scale that personal interaction actually takes place." Applications range from indoor navigation to product-level retail customer engagement and proximity-based social networking.
The startup taps into the Wi-Fi signals to provide the user's location rather than the GPS satellite signal, which is very weak indoors.
Apple is trying to catch up with Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which has been developing its own Indoor Google Maps initiative. Indoor Google Maps enables Android smartphone users to view and navigate the floor plans of commercial buildings, such as airports, malls and large stores.
Mobile commerce applications of mobile indoor location apps include store and product locations, walking directions, and even product availability and coupon delivery.
Last year, Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Samsung and 20 other firms formed the In-Location Alliance to provide indoor location technology and services.
The alliance "will focus on creating solutions offering high accuracy, low power consumption, mobility, implementability and usability. It will create an ecosystem that stimulates innovation, enhances service delivery, and accelerates the adoption of solutions and technologies that optimize the mobile experience," the group said in its announcement.
Members are encouraged to test their "most promising services and use cases" as well as promoting open interfaces and a standards-based approach.
In addition, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) recently made a move into the mobile indoor location market by teaming with Qualcomm Atheros to provide Wi-Fi indoor location capabilities to retail stores, hotels, and other commercial outlets, enabling them to provide location-based information to customer smartphones.