APPLE has been shopping this week, and with it has declared a new battleground in the tussle over the smartphone market.
The iPhone maker shelled out $20 million to buy up WiFiSLAM, developer of indoor positioning solutions, to set down a marker in an emerging market for mapping Apps – finding your way around indoor locations.
When you are in a substantial public indoor space, like a shopping centre or airport, GPS is unlikely to help you find your way around. Add the complexity of a third dimension, which floor you are on, as in asking your phone to direct you to the kitchenware section of a department store from its front door, and GPS has no chance.
However, Google has been investing in another approach, triangulating a phone’s position from the proliferation of WiFi signals available. It has also bought a heap of building floor plans. As a result, it has been able to launch Google Indoor Maps as a phone App, covering 10,000 locations worldwide (see maps.google.com/help/maps/indoormaps).
Outdoor mapping with Google Maps Navigation is already seen as far superior to Apple Maps and is one of the keys reasons why Android phones outsell iPhones. Add in this lead on Indoor Mapping and Apple had reason for concern.
So, it has bought a company that was also marketing an Android based Indoor Mapping solution.
Within a day, Apple had removed that from sale completely, no doubt to move the technology to iPhones. The contest for control of handheld Mapping had intensified.
Hopefully, the next step will be a solution for locating your car in a multi-storey when you forget where you parked it.