Apple Maps: Tech giant snaps up indoor location firm WiFiSLAM for $20m

wifislamApple’s map-related woes were talk of the tech town for some time following its disastrous launch back in September. Headline writers everywhere were beside themselves with glee at the gift of an opportunity to create eye-catching titles claiming Apple had ‘lost its way’, ‘taken a wrong turn’, or was simply ‘heading in the wrong direction’. As you’ll most likely recall, it culminated in Apple boss Tim Cook composing a letter of apology to, well, everyone with an Apple device. And that’s a lot of people.

Since then, the Cupertino company has been working quietly but diligently on removing airports from farms, taking cities out of oceans and so on, and generally improving the overall Apple Maps experience for users who’d rather not use Google Maps.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, it’s also been hunting around for other outfits that may be able to help bolster the features offered with its Maps app. The Journal reported that the tech giant recently acquired indoor location firm WiFiSLAM, indicating Apple’s intention to at some point roll out some indoor-mapping functionality to compete with Google Maps and its indoor mapping features.

The Journal said that an Apple spokesperson – nameless, naturally – had confirmed the deal, which is said to have cost the company somewhere in the region of $20 million.

Silicon Valley-based WiFiSLAM says on its website it has the technology to enable a smartphone to pinpoint its location in real-time to 2.5-meter accuracy using only ambient WiFi signals that are already present in buildings. The two-year-old startup says it is working to create the next generation of location-based mobile apps – ranging from step-by-step indoor navigation, to product-level retail customer engagement, to proximity-based social networking – that “for the first time, engage with users at the scale that personal interaction actually takes place.”

Of course, Apple has some way to go before it has any hope of catching Google in the indoor mapping race – the Mountain View company has for a while now been offering indoor maps for a range of locations such as airports, hotels and shopping malls, and actively encourages business owners to upload their own floor plans to help improve the service.