Apple buys 'indoor GPS' company WifiSLAM for $20M

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple recently closed a deal worth about $20 million to acquire WifiSLAM, a Silicon Valley firm focused on building technology that affords users positioning data while indoors.

WifiSLAM
WifiSLAM's positioning data in action. | Source: WifiSLAM


The Wall Street Journal was able to confirm the acquisition with an Apple spokesman, though the company did not give details of the deal or what it plans to do with WifiSLAM's "indoor GPS" technology.

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

In the report, the publication cited people familiar with the acquisition as saying Apple paid some $20 million in the recently closed deal.

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. 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.

Apple could implement the positioning assets into its much maligned iOS Maps app as an answer to Google's Indoor Maps initiative, which leverages crowdsourcing to deliver indoor location information for a number of sites worldwide.

While Apple's first-party mapping service has seen improvements since stumbling out of the gates in September 2012, many users still prefer to use the Google Maps iOS app, which offers features like Street View and a more robust set of satellite imagery.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 82
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,218moderator
    This would be cool for hospitals, airports and universities. It's easy to get lost in those places. Shopping centres too where they have a layout of where the shops and toilets are.
  • Reply 2 of 82
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,215member
    This could be a great thing as much of their mall etc data is way off. As it could also improve iOS accessibility functions. Imagine Siri being able to not only guide someone to a building but also to an actual store or office.
  • Reply 3 of 82
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post



    This would be cool for hospitals, airports and universities. It's easy to get lost in those places. Shopping centres too where they have a layout of where the shops and toilets are.


    Google indoor maps seems to be a work in progress. They have mapped a limited number of buildings. I'm not sure what criteria they use in deciding which locations to map but based on the link in this article I tried this one:


     


    Go to Google Maps (I'm on my iMac using the desktop version) search for "Chicago O'Hare International Airport" then zoom in to the maximum level centered on the terminal. There are several toilets indicated by purple circles with male and female symbols. 

  • Reply 4 of 82
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    Interesting!
  • Reply 5 of 82


    There is a good discussion over at Asymco that centers around Apple's iTunes -- and it's possible e tension to include offerings for both physical and virtual stores.


     


    http://www.asymco.com/2013/03/22/so-long-break-even/#disqus_thread


     


    When I saw this story on 925mac -- the first thing that came to mind was the social aspect of shopping -- and I posted this:


     


     


     


     


    Quote:


    Here's an interesting link that may indicate Apple plans to exploit the social aspect of mapping -- and, more on topic, the social aspect of physical shopping integrated with virtual online 


     



     


    One thing that is often overlooked in physical and virtual store design is the social aspect -- where your friends are, what they are looking at... buying...


     


    AIR, Apple already has, or has applied for, several patents related to this.


     



     

  • Reply 6 of 82

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post


    There is a good discussion over at Asymco that centers around Apple's iTunes -- and it's possible e tension to include offerings for both physical and virtual stores.


     


    http://www.asymco.com/2013/03/22/so-long-break-even/#disqus_thread


     


    When I saw this story on 925mac -- the first thing that came to mind was the social aspect of shopping -- and I posted this:


     


     


     


     


     




    I can really appreciate the potential for this; I can also see a lot of reasons to be leery of how it could be abused. Part of that may be the generation gap in my case; I'm just not "social enough" to want to know what my friends are doing or where they're at at any given time.


     


    I'd rather see this being adapted for use as other people have mentioned - mapping hospitals, malls, museums, etc. But, I'm realistic enough to know that things will develop in so many ways I can't even begin to predict or imagine. Time will tell whether or not they're good directions or not.

  • Reply 7 of 82

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Dave MacLachlan View Post




    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post


    There is a good discussion over at Asymco that centers around Apple's iTunes -- and it's possible e tension to include offerings for both physical and virtual stores.


     


    http://www.asymco.com/2013/03/22/so-long-break-even/#disqus_thread


     


    When I saw this story on 925mac -- the first thing that came to mind was the social aspect of shopping -- and I posted this:


     


     


     


     


     




    I can really appreciate the potential for this; I can also see a lot of reasons to be leery of how it could be abused. Part of that may be the generation gap in my case; I'm just not "social enough" to want to know what my friends are doing or where they're at at any given time.


     


    I'd rather see this being adapted for use as other people have mentioned - mapping hospitals, malls, museums, etc. But, I'm realistic enough to know that things will develop in so many ways I can't even begin to predict or imagine. Time will tell whether or not they're good directions or not.



     


    It may not be a generational thing…


     


    Many sellers have offered online grocery shopping with competitive pricing  & free delivery... Over the years.  None have been really successful, and, AIR, studies were made to determine why.


     


    One, obvious reason is that the housewife wanted to squeeze the tomatoes and tap/smell the cantalopes.


     


    A very prominent finding was unexpected -- the housewife wanted to get out of the house and sociaalize with her friends (I often see them, leaning on their carts, walking side-by-side, blocking the aisles).


     


    Also, a single friend found the supermarket an excellent place to pick up girls.


     


    Many malls are social hangouts -- offering everything you could want to connect with friends in a safe, convenient, temperature-controlled environment,

  • Reply 8 of 82
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Gatorguy's slipping. You'd think he would have already posted his wholly off-topic mention of Google doing "indoor GPS" first.

  • Reply 9 of 82
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,031member
    I was trying to program an app a few years ago that would provide exact location information for an iOS device with the ultimate goal of changing a profile within the iOS device depending on where the device was currently located. Apple didn't have the capability for a non-Apple app to do this. Maybe this indoor GPS capability will provide the necessary api's to let me finish the app. This app would be useful for those companies allowing BYOD iPhones. Once the phones are within a restricted area/building (as determined by the company's MDM system), a custom profile would be activated that shuts certain features down making the phone secure enough to operate within that area/building. If you have to ask why this would be beneficial, you don't understand the type of area/building I'm talking about.

    In this instance I am worried about knowing exactly where these phones are when they are anywhere near where I would be monitoring them. Because of where these phones would be used, the owner of the phone has already given up all right to privacy.
  • Reply 10 of 82
    bushman4bushman4 Posts: 802member


    Useful for find my I phone, 

  • Reply 11 of 82
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

    Once the phones are within a restricted area/building (as determined by the company's MDM system), a custom profile would be activated that shuts certain features down making the phone secure enough to operate within that area/building.


     


    Ooh. Ooh. Not to want to put you out of business, but I hope Apple does this (for the purpose of ground-up integration). This would be of great benefit to both themselves and to almost any company.

  • Reply 12 of 82
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    Ooh. Ooh. Not to want to put you out of business, but I hope Apple does this (for the purpose of ground-up integration). This would be of great benefit to both themselves and to almost any company.

    I suspect "Situationally Aware Settings" be a key feature of iOS 7. This would eliminate several reasons to jailbreak that I have seen discussed often and Apple iOS major releases have demonstrated a pattern of developing features that customers desire and reduce the desire to jailbreak. An API wouldn't surprise me either.
  • Reply 13 of 82
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    It seems if you want to be bought out by Apple, don't so much develop a product as a useful technology.
  • Reply 14 of 82

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by charlituna View Post



    This could be a great thing as much of their mall etc data is way off. As it could also improve iOS accessibility functions. Imagine Siri being able to not only guide someone to a building but also to an actual store or office.


     


    Yeap.  I think that's the general ideal.

  • Reply 15 of 82
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member

    Quote:

    It could also be a very interesting acquisition target for the likes of Google or Microsoft, which have big mapping businesses.


     


    Lost In The Mall? This Startup Wants To Help


     


     


     


    Wrong on both counts. Smart buy by Apple but I hope the technology is already more advanced than using WI-FI alone.

  • Reply 16 of 82
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member


    I wish AI hadn't repeated the nonsensical "Indoor GPS" headline that some other blogs used.  It doesn't use satellites, therefore it is not a "GPS" method, no matter how much some non-techies want the term to be generic for any locating method.


     


    "Combinational input indoor locating" would be a far more accurate description.


     


    --


     


    SLAM = Simultaneous Localization and Mapping, which is usually associated with autonomous robots.   Basically it's combining various inputs to build up a map from user movements (or update a known map with data points), while also keeping track of the user.   


     


    In this case, they use a combination of WiFi hotspot transmit-to-receive timing (not levels, which could change if an office door opens), accelerometer output for dead reckoning (especially to detect sharp turns), magnetometer area level mapping, and even camera / brightness recognition.  Pretty fascinating.


     


    Takes effort and experimentation to combine these things in a meaningful way, which is no doubt why Apple figured it was quicker and cheaper just to buy the group.

  • Reply 17 of 82


    ^ It's explained quite clearly that GPS signals don't work indoors and it relies in WiFi. They put indoor-GPS in quotes which to me suggests they're not being literal.


     


    Is that all you have to complain about?

  • Reply 18 of 82
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post


    Is that all you have to complain about?



     


     


    At least I used my pet peeve about the misuse of "GPS" as a jumping off point to give everyone more detail on what it actually was about, and how it worked using much more input than just the possible existence of WiFi hotspots... this being important information that was missing from the article, and a reason to buy the company over all the usual indoor locating firms.

  • Reply 19 of 82

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post




    Quote:

    It could also be a very interesting acquisition target for the likes of Google or Microsoft, which have big mapping businesses.


     


    Lost In The Mall? This Startup Wants To Help


     


     


     


    Wrong on both counts. Smart buy by Apple but I hope the technology is already more advanced than using WI-FI alone.



     


    From reading the articles, and a little research, I don't believe they use the WIFi networks -- a security/access nightmare.  Rather, I think they somehow use the existence of the WiFi networks in an area to determine location... Likely with assisted GPS.  Don't know how it works, but this could be a breakthrough.

  • Reply 20 of 82
    adamcadamc Posts: 572member


    " many users still prefer to use the Google Maps iOS app, which offers features like Street View and a more robust set of satellite imagery."


     


    Is this a fact or you guys are paid to write this.


     


    Using goog maps because of street view and a more robust.... you guys are joking here. right?


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