Apple and WiFiSLAM: The Start of an Accurate Mapping System

by Istvan Fekete on March 26, 2013

During the Goldman Sachs Technology Conference, Tim Cook said that Apple acquires companies “every other month,” and this month is was the turn of WiFiSLAM, an indoor location start-up.

With the start-up’s website having been offline since the acquisition, there is little info about what was so good about WiFiSLAM as to trigger this move. Fortunately, there is a video of a detailed presentation at a Geo Meetup, which gives a hint to some hidden features the next-generation iOS will reportedly have.

With iOS 6, Apple launched its own Maps application, parting ways with Google. This meant Google Maps and YouTube were ousted from iOS 6, and the search giant needed to submit them to the App Store as separate third-party apps instead of coming as built-in applications as before.

To cut a long story short, Apple Maps wasn’t one of the Cupertino company’s best moves, due to its inaccuracy and other issues. They focused on Flyover and 3D buildings, instead of creating accurate mapping, and the users reacted in an uproar.

Turns out Apple had been working on its own mapping system since 2009, and it has been gathering location data based on trilateration or triangulation of WiFi and cellular signals for some time — remember the location database mini-debacle in 2011?

This is where WiFiSLAM comes into the picture: The typical accuracy of GPS is roughly 10 meters, which is okay when you travel on the road, but becomes an issue when this means 10 meters vertically, as we start to talk about a difference of four floors.

And this is exactly where WiFiSLAM excels: It uses a combination of various methods to get better indoor locations. The start-up’s goal was to try to make indoor location as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to try it.

The magic behind creating amazingly accurate mapping of both indoor and outdoor locations is to make use of all sensors included in the device. And as you may already know, the iPhone has a built-in gyroscope, magnetometer and accelerometer. And the WiFiSLAM technology does an amazing job by using all of these in creating accurate indoor location mapping.

With WiFiSLAM technology implemented in iOS 7, Apple could gain an instant army of remote mapping drones, as iPhone owners would be creating at least passive maps of their locations. This is a good way to start competing with the beloved Google Maps.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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