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WSJ: Apple buys 'indoor GPS' firm WiFiSLAM for $20 million

updated 11:47 pm EDT, Sat March 23, 2013

Technology uses Wi-Fi signals for positioning when GPS absent

Apple has purchased a small Silicon Valley startup, WiFiSLAM, that specializes in extending location data and positioning to indoor locations using Wi-Fi triangulation when GPS information is not available, according to the Wall Street Journal. The deal, worth $20 million, is expected to supplement Apple's Maps application and compete with Google's crowdsourced "Indoor Maps" project. Currently, the "Indoor Maps" project is limited to large-crowd locations such as airports, stadiums and shopping centers.

WiFiSLAM boasted that its technology could locate users (and their friends) to within 2.5 meters (about eight feet) and offered "step-by-step" indoor navigation and proximity-based social networking. Apple confirmed the deal but said little about it, noting that the company "buys smaller technology companies from time to time." WiFiSLAM had originally intended for its technology to be leveraged by developers, social networks and advertisers -- for example notifying a user who walks into a grocery store what specials or coupons were available.

The company is described as having a "handful" of employees, but includes former Google employee Joseph Huang and former Google engineer Darin Tay, along with Nav Patel of The Shared Web. Investors include Earthlink founder Sky Dayton and angel investor Don Dodge, also formerly with Google. Apple has focused heavily on improving its Maps program since its debut last fall, and the program recently beat both Google Maps and a crowdsourced map program called Waze in a driving-based test conducted by PC Magazine.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Inkling

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 07-25-06

    What's new?

    Other than the claims of accuracy, I fail to see how this new technology is different from the ability of existing Macs and iOS devices to use GPS data for locations. And since that mapping is done using car patrolling our streets, I have trouble imagining how this more precise mapping can be done without sending people into our homes and businesses.

    Using WiFi a a location beacon might make more sense. GPS can drain a cell phone's battery quickly. It'd be better to base location on WiFi beacons. Enter a Wall Mart, and your iPhone would remind you to pick up some milk. Enter your workplace, and it'd put you iPhone into work mode. Get home and it'd send a message that starts up the air-conditioning. That sort of thing.

    Most of the time we don't need an always-on GPS to tell us where we are. We simply need a system clever enough to know that we're at certain, specific places. As we enter that WalMart, we tell our iPhone, "Remember this place and it's WiFi as WalMart."

    Actually, I'd love to see our tech gurus develop a location system based on the arrival timing of high-powered digital TV signals. Someone I know who teaches taxi driver certification classes warns them that they can't depend on GPS for directions in the concrete canyons of downtown. TV signals easily penetrate those areas.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by InklingView Post

    Other than the claims of accuracy, I fail to see how this new technology is different from the ability of existing Macs and iOS devices to use GPS data for locations.

    So, apart from the entire point, you don't see the point?

    Apps being able to tell you exactly which painting you're looking at, or tell you that the organic chicken is two aisles over from where you are now, or Passbook knowing exactly when you're at the counter, or Find My iPhone not just pointing you to a fifteen-story high-rise apartment building, but to apartment 406a...
    Or "Find My Friends" allowing you to actually find your friends at a large concert venue.

  1. drbenru

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-20-07

    I'd love to find my wife

    Anytime we get near the electronics I have a tendency to loose my wife in the Wal-mart. She has no patience to wait for me to oogle over X-box and PS3 games I have no time to play so she just moves on. I'd love for find my friends to be accurate indoors, that way I could catch up to her when she gets to the bakery and get my muffins :D

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