Apple has acquired the indoor mapping specialist company WiFiSlam in a bid to improve their mapping services. The current Maps app, developed to replace Google Maps on iOS 6 Apple devices has been highly criticised by users for omissions and errors. Many have chosen to continue their use of competing apps, rather than use Apple’s version.
The Maps app often displayed shops and restaurants streets away from their true location, important sites including some train stations are missing, and the search function appears unable to understand simple requests. Industry observers at the time suggested the misstep was the most serious made by Apple for many years.
Regardless of previous errors, this is a clear move in the right direction for Apple to reduce the use and influence of competing technology on their products. This new acquisition could give Apple the ability to offer mapping within building to an accuracy of 2.5 metres.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple paid £13 million for WiFiSlam. It has tried to play down speculation of its plans with this acquisition, releasing a statement saying: “Apple acquires smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
According to their website, the WiFiSlam technology works by using smartphones to pinpoint its location (and the location of others) in real time, as well as drawing data from nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and signal towers. This pinpoints locations in a way which is more accurate than satellite positioning.
Indoor coverage is seen as the next important area of expansion for mapping technology, and Apple’s competitors are certainly ensuring that they keep up to date. For example, Google has invested time and money in accepting more than 10,000 floor plans from businesses who want to be featured. Microsoft has also acquired up to 3,000 indoor locations for Bing Maps, and Nokia’s Destination Maps has more than 4,000 locations in 38 countries.