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Big news out of Cupertino this evening. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple has acquired indoor mobile location positioning firm WiFiSLAM, in a deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million.

Apple has confirmed the acquisition of the company, which possesses proprietary technology that allows mobile apps to detect a smartphone user’s location inside of buildings using preexisting ambient Wi-Fi signals…

The Wall Street Journal‘s Jessica Lessin reports:

“Apple has acquired indoor-GPS company WifiSLAM, a sign that the war over indoor mobile location services is heating up. Apple paid around $20 million for the Silicon Valley-based company, according to a person familiar with the matter who said the deal closed recently.

The two-year-old startup has developed ways for mobile apps to detect a phone user’s location in a building using Wi-Fi signals. It has been offering the technology to application developers for indoor mapping and new types of retail and social networking apps.”

WiFiSLAM has just a handful of employees, made up of a mix of former Google software engineers and Stanford graduates. It’s raised an unknown amount of money from angel investors, including Google’s Don Dodge.

Here’s co-founder Joseph Huang speaking about WiFiSLAM at GeoMeetup late last year.

Apple’s acquisition of the indoor positioning firm makes sense, considering that it’s trying to compete with Google in the mapping space. Google Maps currently supports indoor maps for a number of popular venues.

A company spokesman confirmed the buyout with The Journal, saying that Apple “buys smaller technology companies from time to time,” but generally doesn’t discuss its plans. And he declined to comment any further.

He’s right though, Apple has acquired a number of smaller companies in the last few years—particularly those with mapping technologies. In 2009 they acquired Placebase, and later added Poly9 and C3 Technologies.

Apple released its in-house Maps app last fall alongside iOS 6. It initially received a copious amount of criticism over the service due to data inaccuracies, but it has made a number of improvements within the last 6 months.

  • Timothy

    It amazes me how much heat Apple got from Maps because they didn’t work as well as Google Maps, when Google’s maps system has been in existence for years, and had problems of its own when it began.

    Also, Apple probably wouldn’t have dropped Google’s mapping service as a stock app if Google had played nice and let them utilize voice guidance and turn-by-turn direction. In reality, it’s Google’s doings that forced Apple to adopt their own in order to keep up with the basic features offered by mapping services.

    I hope this will help enhance Apple Maps in new ways, and maybe take some of the heat off. Maybe we’ll even see an indoor flyover-like feature come to Maps with iOS 7 or 8.

    • And in the end, when Google released it’s Maps app on the App Store, voice guidance and turn-by-turn directions were added anyways. I’ve used Apple’s Maps for turn-by-turn, and in the beginning, I would take Google just because I was nervous I would get lost with Apple’s Maps. But I’ve used Apple Maps to navigate in the past few weeks, and I must say, I do feel much more comfortable with it.

      • apple maps os smoother and nicer but its search feature is very very bad to the point that i use google maps to search then tomtom to navigate and apple maps is never touched at all

  • Appletiser

    just another step closer to potentially bombarding you with advertisements as you walk around inside a department store

  • seyss

    sounds like Wifi Islam

  • Could this be used for navigation on a SMART iWatch?

    Poor signal due to indoor locations would no longer be an issue..

    • Interesting theory…