In March 2013 we reported on Apple acquiring an impressive indoor location startup called WifiSLAM. Later in April 2013 we posted a report about a patent pending invention of Apple's regarding finding a vehicle in an indoor location. In 2015 we posted a patent report covering an invention allowing users to find friends or family in a building like a mall. In Apple's latest indoor mapping invention we see more of Apple's work-in-progress in the creation of an indoor mapping application. Last May TechCrunch discovered that one of the co-founders of Wifarer had left to work with Apple. Apple's latest patent pending indoor mapping invention lists the former co-founder of Wifarer Philip Stranger as one of the leading inventors.
Apple's Patent Background
Some mobile devices have features for determining a geographic location. For example, a mobile device can include a receiver for receiving signals from a global satellite system (e.g., global positioning system or GPS). The mobile device can determine a geographic location, including latitude and longitude, using the received GPS signals. The mobile device can then display the geographic location on a virtual map on a display screen. The virtual map can be stored in various data formats. The mobile device may visit a venue that includes indoor space. Data formats that are suitable for outdoor maps may not be suitable for storing maps representing the indoor space.
Apple's Invention: Indoor Mapping of Venues
Apple notes that compared to conventional map data formats, the techniques described in their patent application are more suitable for representing indoor features. Information related to indoor space, e.g., companies located on each floor of a building, can be integrated in the nested data object representation. Such representations can be easier for a mobile device to handle than, for example, data generated using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Maps generated using the nested data objects can be used by a mobile device to display a location of the mobile device in the venue.
Apple's invention relates to techniques for storing information representing a venue. A system can represent a venue as a set of one or more nested data objects.
A top layer of the nested data objects can include a venue data object that stores coarse information of the venue, including an identifier, a name, and geometry of the venue.
A second layer of data objects that are nested in the venue data object can include one or more building data objects that have finer granularity than the venue data object.
Each building data object can store information on a building located at the venue, including name of the building, address of the building, and a geometry of the building.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 noted below is a diagram illustrating an exemplary system providing venue services. Note below that 'LFP' stands for Location Fingerprint.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted below is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary structure of a file storing venue data; FIG. 3A illustrates an exemplary user interface for selecting a building to perform location survey using data representing one or more venues; FIG. 3B illustrates an exemplary user interface for starting a location survey at a venue; and FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary user interface for displaying an estimated location of a user device in a venue.
With indoor Apple Maps, visitors will be able to spend less time searching for building directories and more time discovering new points of interest, quickly find accessibility routes, perhaps enjoy a turn-by-turn-like feature using Sir as your guide and quickly find that food fair when you're really hungry. Apple's indoor maps will be appreciated. If you've never seen what an indoor mapping app looks like or what it could do, then you could always check out Google's indoor maps marketing here or Wifarer indoor maps here.
Apple notes that their patent application was filed in May 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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