It looks like Apple may be jumping back into the Maps business, and in order to do so, it has acquired the indoor-GPS startup, WifiSLAM. The company was a startup that came to fruition about two years ago with the help of one of its co-founders, ex-Google software engineer intern, Joseph Huang. Before it was acquired by Apple, the company helped app developers add indoor mapping features to their retail and social networking apps.
Sources stated that Apple purchased the small startup for $20 million. The news was later confirmed by an Apple spokesman who said that Apple "buys smaller technology companies from time to time." Google has already jumped into the indoor-mapping game and it currently offers indoor mapping services for several locations, including certain airports, retail venues, and sports venues.
WifiSLAM works by allowing mobile apps to detect the user's locations using the WiFi signals in the building. The service says that by only using ambient WiFi signals, your smartphone can pinpoint you to 2.5m accuracy. Not only is the startup used to help with indoor navigation, but it is also used to help create proximity-based social networking apps, and improve retail customer engagement.
Apple will most likely use the startup to add an indoor-mapping feature to its Maps app, but there are also many other possibilities that the startup can offer. Apple may also have a difficult time convincing customers to use its Maps app again. The app was notorious for giving bad directions, something that several people in Australia can account for. But of course, it's Apple, so I'm sure the company will find some way to convince consumers to give Maps a second chance.
[via The Wall Street Journal]