Apple joins race for indoor mapping technology

Indoo.rs in action.

Indoor mapping uses Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even sensors within smartphones to help you you're your way inside a building. It can also help marketers find you.

"There's been a secret, quiet but really furious research and development war going on behind the scenes," says Erik Bovee, V.P. of business development of Indoo.rs, an indoor navigation tech company. He says Microsoft, Google, Apple -- even cell phone manufacturers like Samsung and HTC -- are all trying to gobble up indoor mapping technology. It kind of makes sense.

"People spend 80 percent of their time indoors," says Bovee.

And there are times when having a map inside a giant airport or store could be handy for a consumer.

"You know, you're in a really large Ikea, very maze-like, and you're looking for a certain kind of pillow," Bovee says. "Well, there will be an Ikea app with navigation capability."

But it's not just about navigation, it's about marketing. Imagine you're looking for that pillow in a department store. Siri can say, "The pillow is on the second floor. Go up the stairs and turn right. While you're at it, why don't you get a new sweater?. I'm just saying. I actually feel bad for you because your sweater is so terrible. Here's a 10 percent coupon."

That's not totally far-fetched.

"There's also the analytics component," say Tony Costa, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

Retailers are willing to pay to know where customers go, where they linger so they can target ads for example.

"They could measure when somebody got an offer when say they're leaving for lunch," Costa says. "And they could track that person coming into the store and seeing the success rate of that offer."

He says we have early examples -- Walmart has an app to help you find what's on your grocery list and an interactive map that tells you what's on sale.

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.

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