Apple Acquires Indoor Nav Company WiFiSLAM for $20 Million

Screen Shot 2013 03 23 at 5 25 53 PM

This afternoon the WSJ reports Apple has snapped up indoor-GPS company WiFiSLAM for $20 million dollars, with the deal confirmed by Apple:

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.

WiFiSLAM is a startup just two years old and was co-founded by a former Google intern Joseph Huang and engineer Darin Tay, along with Jessica Tsoong and Dave Millman. According to AngleList the company is described as the following:

Allow your smartphone to pinpoint its location (and the location of your friends) in real-time to 2.5m accuracy using only ambient WiFi 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.

So essentially WiFiSLAM will allow users to track a user’s location inside an environment relying on existing Wi-Fi signals. The following video demonstrates the startup’s technology, mapping the indoor positioning of a venue on an Android phone in 90 seconds:

WiFiSLAM’s technology can be taken even further, as its location engine can work using only inertial sensors, as shown below. This means no Wi-Fi, no cell or network connection and no GPS, yet it can still determine location in a ballpark area.

The blue dot within the ellipse is where WiFiSLAM thinks it is and the arrow indicates where the app thinks you’re heading, while the white bulls-eye is the real location of the smartphone. Impressive stuff.

This move by Apple could signal the company is looking to further improve Apple Maps to reach up to Google Maps standards, as the latter already has similar technology in its app Google Maps Floor Plan Marker, launched last April.

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