Apple acquires indoor location startup WiFiSLAM

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Apple suffered a critical backlash in September when it decided to replace the pre-installed Google Maps on iOS 6 in favor of its own -- admittedly lacking -- mapping solution. They’ve been busy working on improving accuracy ever since, with updated data and new imagery. But even though the furor over the botched launch has long died down, it might take more than this type of updates for people to give Apple Maps a second chance.

Hinting at things to come today the company revealed it has acquired indoor GPS company WiFiSLAM. The two-year-old startup developed a way for mobile apps to detect a phone user’s location inside a building in real time to 2.5 meters accuracy using nearby Wi-Fi signals. This information could be used to get walking directions inside places like shopping malls, hotels, airports and subway stations, for example.

WiFiSLAM has been offering the technology to application developers through an Android SDK, which has since been pulled, while the iOS counterpart was discontinued after Apple disabled Wi-Fi scanning in iOS 5.

An Apple spokesman confirmed the deal saying the company “buys smaller technology companies from time to time” but declined to comment further on its plans. Of course one obvious possibility is implementing the technology natively on Apple Maps in an effort to catch up with a similar feature from Google.

Its Mountain View rival currently provides about 10,000 floor plans for select locations in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, the UK, and the US. But these are only available through Google Maps on Android or directly through the web-based version of Google’s mapping service.

According to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Apple paid around $20 million for the company.

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