Apple positioned to enter the indoors with mapping solution

Apple announced its own mapping solution at its worldwide developer’s conference on Monday, June 9, 2012, ending its partnership with Google.


Apple announced its own mapping solution at its worldwide developer’s conference on Monday, June 9, 2012, ending its partnership with Google; a far cry from the collaborative relationship once found between these two companies in the early days of the iPhone. The focus has been on the 3D maps in Apple and Google’s recent mapping-related announcements, however, the indoors is also likely to emerge as key in future developments. A recent report from IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., covering the area of indoor positioning, including mapping, forecasts that almost 120,000 indoor venue maps will be available to the consumer in 2016.

“The announcement of Apple providing its own mapping solution comes as no surprise, with rumors of this circulating for some time, as a result of the firm’s previous acquisitions in the area,” said Alex West, research director of IMS Research’s Connectivity and Location group. “Apple has been trying to wean itself off of its dependence on Google, the release of Siri with the iPhone 4S represented a different way to search the internet, bypassing Google entirely, and its recent iPhoto application utilized OpenStreetMap data.”

These announcements may have wider implications as competition in this area begins to increase, with the two major mobile platform giants going head-to-head. In creating their mapping solution, Apple acquired Placebase, Poly9 and C3 Technologies, whilst also making use of data from TomTom and potentially others. With 3D maps and turn-by-turn navigation appearing to have been included in the new iOS Maps application, the indoors may represent the next challenge.

Both Google and Microsoft have already begun mapping venues such as shopping malls and airports, with this being included in Microsoft’s Bing Maps in December 2010 and Google Maps in November 2011. Companies such as Micello, Aisle 411 and Point Inside all have significant indoor map databases, with Micello by far the market leader. However, with the levels of competition and current difficulties in generating sufficient revenues from maps alone, some companies have begun to move from map production to app and service development.

Indoor mapping companies such as Micello may become prime acquisition targets with companies, such as Apple, looking to quickly build up their portfolio of indoor maps, to compete or differentiate from Google in the mapping space. With the touted advertising revenue generation potential offered through indoor positioning and the impending improvements to indoor location technology on the horizon, Google, Microsoft and Apple are expected to become the dominant providers of indoor maps. Despite this, opportunities will remain for “independent” suppliers, with some venues looking to retain ownership of their map information instead of passing valuable information to the data hungry mobile platform providers.

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