Apple steps up fight against Google Maps with indoor directions

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It might not quite be Harry Potter's Marauder's Map, but it's getting there. Photo: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando
It might not quite be Harry Potter's Marauder's Map, but it's getting there. Photo: Universal Studios Orlando

Apple is attempting to push its Apple Maps software to the next level, courtesy of indoor mapping capabilities, according to a new patent application uncovered by Cult of Mac today.

Filed in April this year, the application describes a method of seamlessly transitioning from a map displaying exterior elements like roads and buildings to one that shows indoor elements, like stores and restaurants.

This technology is designed to work with iBeacons, Apple’s Bluetooth Low Energy emitters designed to make iDevices location aware indoors.

As described, Apple Maps would seamlessly transition from outdoor to indoor views.
As described, Apple Maps would seamlessly transition from outdoor to indoor views.

An example of the patent application in action could be searching for an car parking space. Using its outdoor-to-indoor mapping technology, Apple Maps would first direct users to a car garage, then to a specific parking spot once inside.

Users would be able to specific specific criteria for their search, which would then be automatically initiated at some point in the journey, such as when the user comes within a predetermined distance of the designated destination.

Indoor mapping information would vary based on the type of building. For instance, if the indoor structure happens to be a mall, the supplemental information may include the location and name of each store, special sales, discount coupons, the shows and showtimes of an in-mall theater, and restaurant menus.

An example of the type of search criteria specified in Apple's patent application.
An example of the type of search criteria specified in Apple’s patent application.

Since its disastrous debut back in 2012, Apple Maps has come a long way in its efforts to compete with rivals. Earlier this year it was reported that Apple is updating its Maps data every single day, while new locations for features like Flyover are frequently added.

With new technology like iBeacon — and some other fascinating developments in the works — Apple has a shot at finally taking its place next alongside Google Maps when it comes to functionality.

Earlier this year, a report claimed that more than 60 million iBeacons and other Bluetooth LE beacons will likely have invaded the U.S. market, being used for everything from enterprise, to hospital management, to smart homes.

Google has also explored the subject of indoor maps and mapping.

  • josephz2va

    They have yet to go back to Apple Maps to fix the fiasco. Now they are adding indoors?

    90% of the cities have no 3D buildings and Google Maps has them all. Only select metropolitan areas have a house 3D mapped in aerial view.

    If you type in your own address, there’s no 3D building if you’re outside the metropolitan area. But Google Maps has a 3D building. And in satellite aerial view like looking at the Washington Monument, it’s still flat. Not even 3D dimensioned.

    • Carter

      I admit I use both as I find Google Maps better at times and Apple Maps better at times for direction As for this idea of inside view I think it’s stupid. That said, 3D view …… who cares! I can look at a picture if I want to see the real city scape. When looking at a map I’m looking for direction and a 3D view is the last thing I need.

    • D R

      it’s not just this 3-d stuff. it’s basic things like old aerial photos [some are still from when maps first came out], not having newer residential area’s [also years old], not fixing problems with maps [directions to turn where there never has been an exit].

      I see google maps still sends out their cars doing these new area’s as well as ‘redoing’ older area’s for any changes.

  • AAPL_@_$101_Is_A_Done_Deal_:)

    I’d prefer Apple having its own Street View like both Google Maps and Bing. Apple should spend some of that cash hoard on things other than buybacks. Someone mentioned Apple might invest in low-orbit satellite tech. Apple could certainly afford to launch more satellites than most any company on the planet. Apple could try some things to excite investors and stop analysts from saying it’s a dead-end company.

  • William D

    There’s a difference between a patent and actually doing it. Google is, yet again, way ahead. They’re not just “exploring” the idea – they’re all over the place in airports, universities etc.

    The reality is that Apple will never be at the forefront. Google employ thousands and thousands of people for Maps/Earth projects. Apple cant, several years in, offer a proper public transport solution. For me it’s a huge let down on iPhone.

    • Grunt_at_the_Point

      Google Maps went live in 2005. Apple Maps 2012. One should expect Google Maps to be more advanced and ahead of Apple Maps at this point.

      • William D

        Of course, though if you’re going to try and compete you need to catch up. Not lag.

        For example if you released the iPhone 5 years after a blackberry and just used the timegap as an excuse there’s not much point in trying to sell it.

        The reality, as i see it, is that Apple will never catch up unless they invest significantly in technical expertise and resources – if only they had some money sitting in Ireland .. They should also provide much more powerful tools for crowdsourcing edits, like Google’s MapMakers.

      • Grunt_at_the_Point

        Actually, Apple is doing exactly what you are suggesting with these acquisitions: http://wp.me/p1xtr9-1gSf -http://wp.me/p1xtr9-1nb3 – http://wp.me/p1FaB8-3Dhp.

      • josephz2va

        Nah. One (would) expect Google Maps to be more advanced.

  • mj

    Doesn’t the Here Maps app do this already in iOS? I know the Windows Phone version does it based on zoom level.

    Based on the latest news iOS and Android Apps are the focus for Nokia now instead of Windows Phone.

  • Christopher Morris

    Umm…This was a session at this year’s WWDC. It’s called “Taking Core Location Indoors” and it was a great session since I was there to see it.

    Move along, nothing new here.

  • Matilija

    Apple Maps main problem is it still loads WAY to slow on mobile devices compared to Google Maps. I am tired of looking at a grid for 10-15 seconds every time I open Apple Maps.

    Apple should just buy ESRI, since they know map data and databases inside out. Plus Apple would get all those nice map edit tools they could add to the Apple Maps interface. It would be a pricy pick-up, but it would put them in front of Google Maps and Google Earth. And it would advance Apple Maps out in front as a business tool(GIS).

    The bottom line is it is taking Apple WAY TO LONG to get their maps up to par.

    I wanted Apple to buy GoPro but they past them up and blew creating a camera monopoly. There is still hope they can get their maps into a functional powerful business tool, but to do this they will need real expert help.

    http://www.esri.com/about-esri/vision