The uproar caused by glitches in turn-by-turn and other features from Apple’s new Maps feature has forced CEO Tim Cook to make a public apology. It also has made some in the industry wonder why Apple decided to drop Google Maps in the first place — though many say it was the smart thing to do in the long run. In the meantime, indoor positioning technology and markets seem to be shaping, if not slowly, for serious commercial success in the near future. Some still have concerns about indoor positioning’s technical limitations, privacy concerns and consumer acceptance.
Apple recently told its customers to try competing map services while it improves its new mapping program. A recent uproar by iPhone users, who found that Apple’s new mobile maps gave them wrong directions right after the release of iPhone 5, has been dubbed “mapplegate” by some bloggers.
In a letter to customers, Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive officer, said that iPhone customers try mapping services from Bing, MapQuest, Google and Waze through its apps store.
Cook, in his letter, apologized for the frustration caused by its mapping platform. He said that more than 100 million iOS devices use the new Apple Maps.
“We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps, including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up,” Cook said. “Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.”
TomTom, which provides the map data for the new application, has been tight-lipped about the fiasco. In addition, the move to TomTom has some questioning Apple’s move away from Google Maps.
One thing is for sure in this whole mess: the importance of location and mapping to consumers, something pundits have downplayed in recent years. A recent New York Times article said the Maps outcry “shows how map services, which Apple treated as an afterthought when it built the first iPhone, have become critical tools for millions of people.”
The Times article goes as far as saying that Apple executives were surprised by the popularity of the map function, but began to concern the brass there about how much iPhone behavior data was flowing back to Google.
Between this recent glitch and its decision not to join standards consortiums for indoor positioning, one wonders if Apple, or Google for that matter, really believes in the power and promise of location technology.
Aisle411 Says It Has 10,000 Indoor Maps
The mainstream media is touting indoor location as the next big thing for consumers. One company, aisle411, now with 10,000 indoor maps, says the future is now. The “so what” for consumers is the ability to easily search for products, says Kris Kolodziej, new aisle411 vice president of location services.
“Consumers want less stress when shopping; they want to be informed, and also have fun [and] be engaged,” said Kolodziej, who most recently was associate director at Verizon Wireless.
Aisle411′s product enables product search, indoor/store map, indoor location (around 5 meter/aisle level) and product recommendation through an ad engine. “Users can search for products. We then display the products on a store map, down to the aisle level,” Kolodziej said. “We also recommend products based on search and indoor location by displaying coupons and offers.”
Kolodziej says, as part of its 10,000 indoor maps, all 8,000 Walgreens stores are mapped. “You can find these maps inside the Walgreens app and inside the aisle411 app. Even Google does not have this,” he said.
Like all new technology, including GPS, standardization of maps and technology help to grow new markets. Some believe it is the Wild West for indoor positioning, which Kolodziej contends may be overblown. “Aisle411 figured out the technical issues related to scaling indoor maps and indoor location. Aisle411 generates the indoor maps and offers them in an XML format via our SDK and APIs,” he said. “Developers can access the product data and store maps via our SDK and APIs.
Big box retailers and other chains are showing big interest in indoor positioning, but the concern is will privacy and other issues slow it? “This Walgreens deployment is helping to educate the market, and other retailers, that this technology is what consumers want. Specific to indoor location, consumers are more open to sharing their location with their store/retailer vs. Google or anyone else,” Kolodziej said. “Since the store already knows you are there to shop, users are not afraid to share their location inside the store.”
Aisle411 recently purchased WiLocate’s technology assets — and a few patents pending as part of the deal. WiLocate’s positioning product, which allows access to mobile devices, leverages existing Wi-Fi infrastructure and sensor information, along with gyroscope and compass.
Google continues to be a dominant player in indoor mapping. It recently said that Galeries Lafeyette and supermarket chain Carrefour in Paris are now mapped. This includes information about ATMs, escalators, restrooms, what products are in different aisles, and walking directions.
Google has been mapping airports, museums and malls for some time. In addition to France, the company brought indoor maps to the United Kingdom and Switzerland last summer. In the United States, Google has mapped such places as Atlanta Hartsfield — Jackson International Airport; San Francisco International Airport; Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota; Caesars Entertainment, Bally’s Las Vegas; MGM Resorts, Monte Carlo Resort & Casino, Las Vegas; and Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino, California.
Google has also mapped such big-box stores as Home Depot, IKEA, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s — though it remains to be seen when a Wal-Mart or Target will be included.
Analysts contend that the big indoor positioning players are Google, Microsoft, Research in Motion, Nokia and Qualcomm.