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Apple pushes Maps Indoor service to venue owners, limited to high-traffic spots

Apple's Maps site is promoting Maps Indoor. Screenshot via AppleInsider reader Branch.

Joined by a new dedicated indoor mapping app, Apple has also begun encouraging large venue owners to sign up for its "Maps Indoor" service, potentially laying the groundwork for advanced indoor step-by-step directions in future iPhone updates.

Maps Connect members signing into the website are greeted with a banner at the bottom of the screen promoting the Indoor initiative, including the same icon as Apple's hidden "Indoor Survey App." The promotion for Maps Indoor was first spotted by AppleInsider reader Branch.

For now, Maps Indoor venues must be open to the public and attract more than a million visitors per year.

While Apple is pushing its indoor mapping initiative, the program remains limited to large, public venues. Prior to signing up, Apple warns venue owners that the company has "received an overwhelming response on this service."

For now, Apple is focusing its efforts on a handful of venues that meet specific criteria. These requirements include:

  • The venue must be accessible to the general public
  • Only locations that draw more than a million visitors per year
  • Apple requires "complete, accurate, and scaled reference maps" for consideration
  • The venue must have Wi-Fi throughout, and an official app available on the App Store

In the short term, Apple's indoor positioning efforts help its proximity-based iBeacons, allowing developers to build interactive features that respond based on a user's location. For example, a shopper in a store might get alerts about special deals in a specific department as they walk through it.

In the longer term, Apple's indoor mapping program will help the company offer indoor navigation and positioning. This could be used to give iPhone owners detailed step-by-step directions inside places where GPS is not available, such as in a shopping center or an underground subway station.

While the Maps Indoor initiative has been around since iOS 8, Apple expanded it with public transit in Maps with this year's iOS 9 update. Specifically, iOS Maps include subway station underground layouts, complete with specific entry points, when using transit.

And while iOS Maps do not yet offer pinpointed locations while indoors, the inclusion of the mapping data itself lays the groundwork for future technology.

Apple acquired "indoor GPS" company WiFiSLAM for $20 million in 2013. The company has also filed numerous indoor navigation-related patents.