Apple’s M7 coprocessor might bring big improvements to its mapping abilities

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If you paid close attention to Apple’s iPhone announcement on Tuesday, you probably heard about the new M7 motion coprocessor in the iPhone 5s. It continuously measures motion data (via accelerometer, compass and gyroscope), and Apple claims it could usher in a whole new generation of more advanced health and fitness apps. But that might not be the only benefit. 9to5Mac is reporting that Apple plans to put its M7 chip to work on bring some big improvements to its mapping abilities.

First a bit on how the M7 chip works: Without needing to tap into your phone’s primary A7 processor, the M7 chip can sense when you’re walking, running or driving. And if, for instance, it senses you’re driving, it will stop looking for Wi-Fi networks, which can help save battery life. That’s pretty impressive, and it makes sense to carry features like this over into mapping.

It’s no secret that Apple’s Maps app didn’t take off. Even Apple put alternatives for it front and center in the App Store. But according to 9to5Mac, an updated Maps app can use the M7 processor to do things like help you find your car. The processor can sense when you are no longer driving and prompt the phone to record your location. Then, when you’re looking for you car later, it can provide turn-by-turn directions to help you find it.

Additionally, the report claims that Apple is working on other mapping features, like indoor mapping and public transportation. This makes sense, given Apple’s recent acquisition of companies like WifiSLAM and Hopstop.

These potential improvements tie in with other newly announced features like iBeacons. Apple also announced iBeacons on Tuesday, though much more quietly. The iBeacons use Bluetooth Low Energy to create a “beacon” around connected areas, and an app on your phone can sense when you enter them. Technology like this could be appealing to businesses such as department stores, which could use iBeacons to distribute coupons to nearby shoppers. They can even be used to help you find your way from one part of the store to the next.

It looks like Apple may have finally found its way when it comes to mapping. Hopefully we’ll see some of these improvements reach the Maps app before iOS 8.

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