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Apple buys WiFiSlam, maker of tech for locating phones indoors

The startup's product lets smartphones pinpoint their location using ambient Wi-Fi signals already present in buildings.

Apple has acquired WiFiSlam, a company that makes an app that lets smartphones locate themselves indoors using ambient Wi-Fi signals that already exist in buildings.

The deal was reported by The Wall Street Journal's Digits blog, which said Apple confirmed the acquisition but had no further comment other than to say that Apple "buys smaller technology companies from time to time." Digits said Apple paid $20 million for WiFiSlam.

The WiFiSlam page on AngelList describes the company's product like so:

Allow your smartphone to pinpoint its location (and the location of your friends) in real-time to 2.5m accuracy using only ambient Wi-Fi 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.

Digits notes that Google currently offers indoor mapping in airports, shopping centers, sports stadiums, and other locations. It's not known if WiFiSlam's technology will somehow be incorporated into Apple's Maps app.

Apple, of course, tossed Google Maps as the default mapping service in iOS and launched its own mapping app, which, on its debut last September, was lambasted for its shortcomings.

Since then, Apple has stayed relatively quiet on improvements to its Maps app. When asked about progress on the software during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts in January, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company had already made "a number of improvements" including improved satellite and flyover imagery as well as local information for businesses.

Google released its own, standalone maps app for iOS in December. That software was updated for the first time in early March, with a quick search tool and integration with Google's contacts service.

WiFiSlam was co-founded by a former Google software engineering intern, Joseph Huang, Digits noted.