Apple buys indoor location company WifiSlam

Apple(s AAPL) is still working to improve its outdoor mapping capabilities, and meanwhile looks to be getting into indoor navigation too. The company has acquired an indoor GPS service called WifiSlam.

Apple confirmed the acquisition, and the Wall Street Journal reports that it paid around $20 million “recently” for Palo Alto, Calif. company. Indoor mapping is the next phase of mobile location services; Google already offers indoor maps in a dozen countries. Most of its indoor navigation is limited to public buildings like airports, malls, train stations, sports stadiums and museums. It’s likely Apple is looking to beef up its own location services in a similar manner.

WifiSlam’s service claims it can locate a mobile device with up to 2.5 meters of accuracy using just Wi-Fi signal nearby.

The company is only two years old and it’s fairly small, with four founders — which is pretty much in line with the kind of small acquisitions Apple makes every year. What is less usual for Apple is the acquired company’s close connection to its archrival Google: one of the WifiSlam founders, Darin Tay, is a former Google(s GOOG) engineer, and one of its investors, Don Dodge, is a current Googler.