In August we reported that the race for indoor location services was heating up with Apple on the prowl with a key acquisition and new patent filings. New research from ABI this week noted that Apple, eBay, Google, and others are all making definite moves on indoor location in 2013, with a view towards a $4 billion plus market in 2018.
ABI Research measured the uptake of indoor location technologies, mapping and new companies entering the space. The overall market of technology installations is forecast to break the 25,000 mark in 2014, while handsets capable of supporting indoor location will be in the hundreds of millions within two years. As a result, the major companies will start to make their moves.
Senior ABI analyst Patrick Connolly commented that "Apple's new A7 co-processor coupled with the acquisition of WifiSLAM highlights indoor as a priority. Both Apple and eBay have announced support for dedicated BLE beacons, a technology that is set for a huge 2014 uptick as major IC and device OEMs make it widely available.
According to tech guru Steve Cheney, "Apple's push into iBeacon could enable it to run away in this market while still standardizing on a completely open platform and developer environment." Cheney also notes that iBeacon is currently in every single iPhone dating back two years.
Practice Director at ABI, Dominique Bonte added that "Apple hasn't made a big marketing deal on indoor with the new iPhone 5s, largely because the ecosystem isn't in place yet. But under the shiny, spotted hood, is a hardware platform that is now well placed to support "always-on" indoor location, sensor fusion, and ambient intelligence."
Apple competitor Google is continuing to expand on indoor mapping, and has openly discussed some of its indoor location plans at their latest I/O developer conference. On the Wi-Fi side, four major AP providers (Cisco, Motorola, Aruba, and Ruckus) have now acquired a company in this space.
At the end of the day, Apple might not have indoor location services on their future iPhones first, but we can be relatively assured that they'll get it right so as to make up for their failure in Maps.
As a useable service, I think that in many ways indoor mapping will be far more popular an application than Maps alone. For now, ABI and others see Apple as potentially being one of the leaders in the emerging indoor location services market that's about to explode onto the scene over the next two years.