An indoor mapping project at Apple has filled the halls of its Cupertino headquarters with autonomous cartographer droids.
Sources tell 9to5Mac that "the company has let loose autonomous robots with iBeacon sensors, similar in size to iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaners, to collect data for its indoor mapping project."
While military-funded researchers in the US have developed a backpack system in 2010 which could be carried around indoors to generate a map of the spaces it moved through, it is unlikely these mapping bots are attempting to develop a three-dimensional model of Cupertino.
As the droids are mainly working within a well-documented and recently erected building, it is more likely the mapping project is establishing how iBeacon sensors can more effectively exploit Location Services for commercial opportunities, either through data-hoovering or targeted advertising, rather than assessing how best to help the likes of Carlos Pedro.
The commercial applications for the indoor mapping revolve around the iBeacon snooping system, which produces what the fruity folk describe as a "whole new level of micro-location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum, or product displays in stores" allowing marketers to target their advertisements to ever-more specific situational sales opportunities.
Apple has previously acquired companies such as WiFiSLAM to assist with the development of its indoor mapping projects, though mapping is a generous description of the owner-tracking service.
Explaining the iBeacon system, Apple notes: "Your iOS device can alert apps when you approach or leave a location with an iBeacon. In addition to monitoring location, an app can estimate your proximity to an iBeacon (for example, a display or checkout counter in a retail store)."
Concerns persist that the iBeacon system will mainly support Apple's advertising platform, iAd, which suggests it is there to "help businesses find the right people and create the kind of advertising that captures attention and drives results".
Any innovations to follow from this mapping exercise are unlikely to be part of the iOS 9 roll-out. 9to5Mac suggests, however, that transit services will be finally launched with iOS 9, letting fanbois use Apple Maps to find their way around public transport networks. ®