The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple has acquired indoor-location company WiFiSLAM. Apple reportedly paid about $20 million for the Silicon Valley-based company. Apple has confirmed the purchase to MacRumors, but offered no details on its plans for the acquisition.
Analysts say this is a sign that the war over indoor mobile location services is heating up.
Apple’s acquisition of WiFiSLAM illustrates how 2013 will be a breakout year for indoor location as initial trials shift to technology deployments, application development, and revenues, according to ABI Research.
Two-year-old start-up WiFiSLAM has developed ways for mobile apps to detect a phone user’s location in a building using Wi-Fi signals, according to the Wall Street Journal. It has been offering the technology to application developers for indoor mapping and new types of retail and social networking apps. The company has only a few employees. Co-founders include former Google software engineering intern Joseph Huang.
“The move comes as Apple continues to build its arsenal against Google in mapping,” according to Wall Street Journal blogger Jessica E. Lessin. “It debuted its own mapping service last year to poor reviews and user complaints about inaccurate data. Apple chief executive Tim Cook apologized for the quality of the product, and Apple has continued to improve it.
“Google already offers indoor mapping in certain locations like airports, shopping centers and sports venues,” Lessin said.
ABI Research’s latest report “Indoor Location in Retail: Where Is the Money?” provides an overview of all major technologies, revenue opportunities and competitive environment. “Analyzing across 10 retail sectors, we are seeing a lot of cross pollination as companies combine handset and infrastructure based Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and sensor location technologies. The emergence of public venue small cells and carrier Wi-Fi will also create a new wave of opportunity,” commented Patrick Connolly, senior analyst. “As a result, we expect to see a flurry of acquisitions and partnerships in 2013, as major players start to make their moves.”
In support of these technologies, ABI Research is also forecasting smartphone retail apps to break 1 billion downloads, while indoor maps will break 1 million buildings, over the forecast period.