Apple has acquired WifiSLAM, a Silicon Valley company that provides indoor mapping services. WifiSLAM allows users to triangulate their positions in buildings by detecting the Wi-Fi signals being broadcast inside and then calculating the user's distance from a router.
Reportedly, the company cost Apple around $20 million. Cupertino confirmed the purchase to the Wall Street Journal, but remained mum on the price of the acquisition, saying only, "[Apple] buys smaller technology companies from time to time."
Mapping services that work inside of buildings are becoming increasingly popular as people continue getting lost indoors. Two Finnish firms called Walkbase and IndoorAtlas already offer similar services and Nokia runs a service called Destination Maps.
According to the Guardian, WifiSLAM was cofounded by Joseph Huang, a former Googler, and it has venture funding from somebody named Dan Dodge — apparently also a former Google employee, as well as a Microsoft alum.
This purchase makes a lot of sense for Apple, since its current Maps app is one of the most epic fails the company's ever committed. Scott Forstall was infamously booted out of Cupertino for refusing to apologize for the offering. Tim Cook subsequently issued his own pathetic apology.
The SLAM part of WifiSLAM stands for "simultaneous localization and mapping." Speaking at GeoMeetup event in 2012, Huang explained the concept:
"It turns out there's a way to do this with no reporting [of data] at all. As long as you have enough trajectories through an entire space, eventually some of their WiFi sequences will match up. If we can, piece by piece, like a puzzle, re-overlap these sequences, you can do something ... where you can start to fold these paths back on top of each other."
We don't really get it, either.