Apple was awarded a patent on Tuesday for a technology that should allow for much more accurate indoor location detection and mapping, even in the absence of GPS. The new patent, which was picked up by Apple Insider, uses a combination of Wi-Fi access points, location databases and other data to determine proximity to what the patent called “presence areas.” It then analyzes various data such as Wi-Fi signal strength and building architecture to determine a more precise location.
GPS often fails to provide accurate location data for when your are indoors, so this patent could help alleviate that problem.
Apple has also shown interest in improved indoor mapping in the past. With iOS 7, it added support for iBeacons, which use Bluetooth LE to accurately determine location. Apple recently began using iBeacons in its own retail stores to send notifications to shoppers.
Apple has also made a couple of acquisitions related to indoor mapping. In March 2013, it acquired WiFiSLAM for $20 million, which uses technology that sounds similar to this new Apple patent in order to determine location using Wi-Fi signals.
Then this past November, Apple bought PrimeSense for $360 million. While PrimeSense is best known for making the sensors in the Kinect, Apple likely purchased it for its mapping technology. This makes sense, as indoor location tech could become a $4 billion industry.