Apple Buys Indoor Location Company WiFiSlam for $20 Million

NEW YORK | Sunday, March 24th, 2013 2:30am EDT

Apple has confirmed it purchased WiFiSlam, a startup that specializes in WiFi-assisted indoor-GPS functionality for phone apps.

Apple Buys Indoor Location Company WiFiSlam 01

Apple Inc. has acquired indoor-GPS company WifiSLAM, a sign that the war over indoor mobile location services is heating up. Photo: WiFiSlam

Apple has acquired WiFiSlam, a company that makes an app that lets smartphones locate themselves indoors using ambient Wi-Fi signals that already exist in buildings

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.

An Apple spokesman confirmed the deal saying the company “buys smaller technology companies from time to time” and generally doesn’t discuss its plans. He declined to comment further. WifiSLAM could not immediately be reached for comment.

“[Apple] buys smaller technology companies from time to time,” the spokesman said, declining further comment.

WifiSLAM is a developer of indoor positioning technologies, which extends location data to the inside of buildings and other structures using Wi-Fi signals. The data can be used by third-party apps to accurately grant handset users positioning data where GPS signals are absent.

The indoor positioning startup is two years old and has already raised funding from angel investors, though the exact amount is unknown.

The WiFiSlam page on AngelList describes the company’s product like so:

“Allow your smartphone to pinpoint its location (and the location of your friends) in real-time to 2.5m accuracy using only ambient Wi-Fi signals that are already present in buildings.

“We are building the next generation of location-based mobile apps that, for the first time, engage with users at the scale that personal interaction actually takes place.

Applications range from step-by-step indoor navigation, to product-level retail customer engagement, to proximity-based social networking.”

WifiSLAM has a number of ties to Google, including the company’s co-founder Joseph Huang, who was a software engineering intern at the search giant. Current Google employee Don Dodge is also listed as an angel investor.

Further, a quick Google search confirms that any WiFiSlam-related apps that may have been on Google Play are all but dead links now.

Apple, of course, tossed Google Maps as the default mapping service in iOS and launched its own mapping app, which, on its debut last September, was lambasted for its shortcomings.

Since then, Apple has stayed relatively quiet on improvements to its Maps app. When asked about progress on the software during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts in January, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company had already made “a number of improvements” including improved satellite and flyover imagery as well as local information for businesses.

Google already offers indoor mapping in certain locations like airports, shopping centers and sports venues.

Google released its own, standalone maps app for iOS in December. That software was updated for the first time in early March, with a quick search tool and integration with Google’s contacts service.

WifiSLAM has raised an unknown amount of money from a handful of angel investors including Google employee Don Dodge, according to investor site AngelList.

While there’s no actual telling whether this means that there’ll be indoor mapping on iOS maps at any point, it’s hard not to imagine it now that Apple’s made the purchase.

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