Apple could be on the verge of releasing its first dedicated indoor positioning app for iPhone, as a seemingly legitimate, albeit non-operational, first party app called "Indoor Survey" was spotted in the iOS App Store on Sunday.
According to Indoor Survey's iOS App Store page, spotted by developer Steve Troughton-Smith, the Apple-branded software enables indoor positioning within a venue by using radio frequency signals and an iPhone's onboard sensors.
"By dropping 'points' on a map within the Survey App, you indicate your position within the venue as you walk through," reads the app description. "As you do so, the indoor Survey App measures the radio frequency (RF) signal data and combines it with an iPhone's sensor data. The end result is indoor positioning without the need to install special hardware."
While not an exact match, the described system smacks of technology pioneered by indoor positioning startup WiFiSLAM, a Silicon Valley firm Apple snapped up for $20 million in 2013. Dubbed "indoor GPS," WiFiSLAM's tech analyzes and tracks RF signals from Wi-Fi access points to accurately determine a user's location. Apple also filed a number of patent applications covering indoor navigation and positioning.
Apple is quietly building out an indoor mapping solution for iOS, as evidenced by assets in the company's Core Location developer tools. On its Maps for Developers webpage, for example, Apple offers sample code called Footprint, which demonstrates how to convert between a geographic coordinate system (latitude/longitude) to a flat floorplan and MapKit.
As for consumer-facing products, Apple currently markets location-aware iBeacons, a method of close proximity communications between iOS devices and semi-permanent beacon fixtures. Based on a Bluetooth Low Energy communication backbone, iBeacons let developers build in interactive location-based features. Apple's own retail stores use iBeacons to provide customers with product information, specials, Genius Bar reservations and more.
Indoor Survey is only accessible by direct link and does not appear in the App Store's search tool. Now at version 1.0, the title was last updated on Oct. 27, is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices running iOS 9 or later, and comes with English, Chinese and Japanese language support.