Google already offers indoor mapping for some busy hot spots like shopping centres and airports but at the moment this is an Android exclusive. As part of its vendetta against Google, Apple scrapped built in Google Maps on its latest iPhone. That would seem to be the reason Apple picked up WifiSLAM – a start-up which is trying to get around the problem of precise user location indoors when GPS comes up short.
As discussed in our chat with Bosch Sensortec, much of the hardware technology is already out there for indoor mapping and now the question is mostly one of software. At the moment, the necessary infrastructure for accurate mapping isn’t in place in many areas where it would be useful, but it is just a matter of time.
An Apple spokesperson confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that Cupertino had bought the company, although no further details were provided. However, an analyst from Opus Research said that for retailers, indoor mapping could help make the most of consumer footfall, as well as for in store merchandising. This could be a boon for retailers struggling to seduce consumer interest, at least here in the UK – provided potential customers make the trip to the high street or shopping centre in the first place.
While we can’t speak of WifiSLAM, Apple’s recent record in mapping without Google hasn’t exactly been exemplary, with the most recent OS on the iPhone 5 recommending drivers take shortcuts off the nearest bridge. At the moment, it needs all the non-Google help it can get.