Ruckus Wireless has found another use for its Wi-Fi technology beyond providing fast connections to the internet. With the help of YFind, a Singapore-based location services startup, Ruckus is using Wi-Fi signals to triangulate a smartphone’s position indoors where GPS signals often can’t penetrate.
Ruckus announced on Wednesday that it has bought YFind for an undisclosed sum. Wi-Fi location is becoming a hot space now that much of the outdoor world has been mapped, marked and recreated in any number of navigation and location-based services apps. The problem with buildings is that the tools we typically depend on to determine location — the GPS satellite constellation and mobile network towers — aren’t powerful enough or precise enough to render an accurate location inside.
When you’re talking about a building’s interior, you need location data within a few meters, otherwise your app can place you in the wrong room or floor. GPS signals can’t penetrate most roofs, to say nothing of entire floors, while cellular triangulation simply doesn’t have that type of accuracy.
But the big companies like Google and Qualcomm, as well as smaller specialists like Walkbase, Wifarer and WifiSlam (which was just acquired by Apple, are trying to tackle to solve that problem by turning Wi-Fi networks into miniature GPS constellations. Every Wi-Fi access point has a unique identifier, and by measuring the strength and direction of a building’s access points, these companies can determine a device’s location within a few meters.
The first batch of Wi-Fi location companies started out working independently of the Wi-Fi equipment makers producing the signals — and often independently of the businesses that owned the networks. But we’re starting to see the big Wi-Fi vendors get involved. Big enterprise wireless-LAN supplier Aruba Networks bought Meridian earlier this year, and now Ruckus has bought YFind.
Ruckus said it would begin offering up a suite of location services such as indoor navigation, geo-targeted advertising and “footfall analytics” to customers. But my bet is Ruckus looking to use YFind as a enticement to gain more enterprise Wi-Fi customers (right now Ruckus’s biggest business is in outdoor Wi-Fi). By layering location data on top of access, Ruckus’s indoor access points become all the more useful to the business that buy them.