Ruckus Wireless has discovered another application for its Wi-Fi technology beyond just delivering fast connections to the web. Drawing on the help of YFind, a location services startup based in Singapore, Ruckus utilizes Wi-Fi signals to triangulate a smartphone’s position indoors, an environment that GPS signals typically can’t penetrate.
Ruckus revealed on Wednesday that it purchased YFind for an undisclosed amount. Wi-Fi location is becoming a hot market now that most of the world has been mapped, marked and recreated in a wide variety of navigation and location-based services apps. The problem with using GPS in buildings is that our usual tools that we depend on to determine location — like GPS satellites and mobile network towers — aren’t strong enough or accurate enough to deliver a precise interior location.
When discussing a building’s interior, location data needs to be within a few meters, otherwise the app will display a position in the wrong room or floor. GPS signals can’t pass through most roofs or floors and cell tower triangulation just doesn’t have that level of accuracy.
But the big the big dogs like Google and Qualcomm, and even smaller niche companies like Wifarer, Walkbase, and WifiSlam (which was just purchased by Apple, are attempting to solve that problem by converting 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 position within a few meters.
The first Wi-Fi location companies began by working independently of the Wi-Fi equipment manufacturers producing the signals — and usually independently of the businesses that owned the networks. However, the big Wi-Fi vendors are starting to get involved. The large enterprise-level wireless-LAN supplier Aruba Networks purchased Meridian earlier this year, and now Ruckus has acquired 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. Ruckus is most likely looking to use YFind as a teaser to gain more enterprise Wi-Fi customers (right now the majority of Ruckus’s 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 businesses that buy them.