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Apple buys WiFiSlam, will find your phone indoors

Apple Maps could be about to add step-by-step indoor navigation skills to its features.

Apple has bought another company to add to its growing portfolio of acquisitions. This one is called WiFiSlam, and makes an app that lets you find your phone indoors using the building's Wi-Fi signals, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Cupertino company shelled out around $20 million (£13 million), according to a person familiar with the matter. When asked, Apple confirmed the deal, but wouldn't comment further, apart from saying it "buys smaller technology companies from time to time."

WiFiSlam promises to find your phone within 2.5m using the Wi-Fi signal from whichever building you're in -- which is easier than ringing your mobile from another phone and hoping it's not on silent, I suppose. What's more exciting is the potential for apps that zero in on your exact location indoors.

The company says it's "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."

Apple could implement this technology in its retail stores too. Maybe it could be used as a fancy way of telling you to stop stroking that 27-inch iMac you've had your eye on for months and get to the Genius Bar, it's time for your appointment.

It could also come into its own if combined with Apple's Maps app, bringing navigation down to the macro level -- "turn left at the printer", or similar. Apple Maps was a disaster when it launched, so it needs any edge it can get over the competition.

Would you like to see step-by-step indoor navigation? Or is the very idea ridiculous? Let me know what you reckon in the comments, or hotfoot it over to our Facebook page.