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Apple buys indoor mapper WiFiSLAM

Oh joy: your iPhone will know where you've shopped

A screengrab of greyed-out wifi button on iOS6, credit Jong186 on Apple forums

Apple has acquired mapping company WiFiSLAM, in a move one hopes can only improve the quality of its inaccurate and oft-derided maps service.

Terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed, by the sum of $US20m is getting plenty of airtime. So is the acquired company's ability to help Apple create indoor maps, as an AngelList profile of the company (wifislam.com doesn't work at the time of writing) says its technology can do the following:

“Allow your smartphone to pinpoint its location (and the location of your friends) in real-time to 2.5m accuracy using only ambient WiFi signals that are already present in buildings. We are building the next generation of location-based mobile apps that, for the first time, engage with users at the scale that personal interaction actually takes place. Applications range from step-by-step indoor navigation, to product-level retail customer engagement, to proximity-based social networking.”

All of which sounds like it has the potential to add indoor maps to Apple's app, which will mean it's on par with Google. Either that or WiFiSLAM may turn Apple into a monster that assists retailers to track your every step through a store so that some kind of misnamed Big Data rig can figure out that you visit the [insert the gender you're not] underwear section of a nearby department store and then post an embarrassing suggestion for a new purchase to Facebook.

$20m is back-of-the-sofa money for Apple, but almost certainly a sum causing a fair bit of whooping down WiFiSLAM way, as the company seems to be in startup mode. It's now in “what on earth happens when you're acquired by Apple” mode. ®

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