Apple buys indoor-mapping company Wifislam

Apple Maps on an iPhone Apple Maps, launched last year, attracted a lot of criticism from users, forcing an apology

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Apple has bought indoor-mapping specialist Wifislam as it looks to expand its maps product to compete with Google.

The acquisition, confirmed to the BBC by Apple, could allow the company to offer maps within buildings with an accuracy of 8ft (2.5m).

Rival Google has stepped up its efforts to add indoor locations to its already huge Street View product.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple paid $20m (£13m) for Wifislam.

In a statement, the iPad-maker batted away speculation about its plans, saying: "Apple invests in smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purpose or plans."

Pinpointing

Indoor coverage is seen as the next battleground for mapping technology.

Google, which leads the pack, has invested time and money in accepting more than 10,000 floor plans from businesses who want to be featured.

Its service also draws data from nearby wifi hotspots and signal towers to pinpoint location in a way which is more accurate than satellite positioning.

According to its website, Wifislam's technology works by using smartphones 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".

Elsewhere in the market, Microsoft's Bing maps has acquired up to 3,000 indoor locations, while Nokia's Destination Maps product has more than 4,000 locations in 38 countries.

Apple's map product was strongly criticised by much of the technology community when it launched last year, forcing chief executive Tim Cook to apologise to users.

Complaints centred on missing or moved locations as well as confusing, irrelevant search results.

In his apology, Mr Cook said: "With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment.

"We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better."

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