Mobile mapping start-up WifiSLAM has reportedly been acquired by Apple for $20m.
The Wall Street Journal made the claim in a blog post today, citing “a person familiar with the matter” as its source.
WifiSLAM is based in Palo Alto in California and was founded by Stanford graduate students and ex-employees of Google. Its technology enables smartphones to identify a user’s position indoors – something GPS has always struggled to do – using Wi-Fi signals, enabling indoor mapping.
Apple wouldn’t confirm the deal but hinted at having invested in WifiSLAM, which already has a number of backers, including Boingo co-founder Sky Dayton.
A statement from the company said: "Apple invests in smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purpose or plans."
Apple’s own map application had a bumpy beginning when it launched in 2012, replacing Google Maps as the default app on the iPhone 5. Users reported numerous faults in the system and wrong information, causing negative publicity around the launch.
In November 2012, Apple went so far as to sack Richard Williamson, the executive in charge of Apple Maps, following months of embarrassment for the company surrounding the app’s performance.
If it has bought WifiSLAM, it would give Apple the opportunity to compete with Google’s own indoor mapping technology that enables users to navigate indoors, from department stores to museums.