Smartphone users are accustomed to using maps from Google, Apple, Yahoo and Microsoft to get around. Now Apple wants to take its maps indoors, using beacon tracking technology to get more granular location data within buildings and malls.
A recently-discovered patent application provides details about the function. And as beacons multiply in commercial spaces, Apple and potentially other map apps could have access to more pinpoint location data.
Apple’s indoor mapping would allow users to enter a destination and get details about the location in addition to indoor and outdoor directions to the location. The feature would transition from showing the usual outdoor maps to showing indoor directions. For example, if a user were going to a mall, the map would direct them to the mall and then to the particular store for which they were looking.
The indoor mapping feature may also include various details about indoor destinations, such as sales and coupons for stores, shows and showtimes for theaters and menus for restaurants. The feature is intended to work with Apple’s iBeacon technology, which allows users to receive details about their surroundings via Bluetooth signals.
Apple’s biggest hurdle with indoor mapping is being sure to not make the same mistakes it did when it debuted outdoor mapping with Apple Maps in 2012. Apple announced the app as its answer to Google Maps, but early iterations were full of design flaws and misdirections.
"Apple has learned from its mistakes from the initial launch of map services and won't repeat with launch of indoor mapping," Roman Foeckl, CEO of the iBeacon analytics company Onyx Beacon, told Business Insider.
If Apple does implement indoor mapping, it would be its first step ahead of Google maps. Though the iBeacon feature remains unknown to many smartphone users, there are reportedly already over 60 million iBeacons on the market, many used by commercial establishments such as Starbucks to send iPhone users messages about sales, the nearest locations and other nuggets of information.