Aruba buys Meridian in latest indoor-positioning land grab

Highlighting the growing excitement surrounding technologies for positioning people and assets inside of buildings, Wi-Fi gear provider Aruba Networks has acquired indoor-location system developer Meridian Apps.

Aruba says the acquisition will enable it to offer a platform that enables Wi-Fi based hyper-local services including "wayfinding" as well as context-aware advertising and marketing for use by enterprise customers, including casinos, hospitals, malls, stores, transport hubs, convention centers, museums and campuses.

Aruba intends to create what it calls 'indoor GPS' using its Wi-Fi infrastructure and Meridian's wayfinding platform.

"The addition of Meridian will enable enterprises to tap into a wealth of network-driven information so that they can better engage their customers with more personalized services. This is a clear opportunity for Wi-Fi to become not only an enabling platform for BYOD, but now across industries, a revenue-producing, customer engagement platform for the business," said Keerti Melkote, Aruba's founder and CTO.

Since its launch in March 2011, Portland, Ore.-based Meridian's software platform has powered apps for finding exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago, poker tables at the Bellagio and menswear at Macy's, according to a blog post from Nick Farina, CTO and co-founder of Meridian.

Meridian's system helps save smartphone battery life by making a Wi-Fi network's access points do the job of analyzing a handset's Wi-Fi signals to determine its location. "When you want to find your location, our app asks the network to figure it out and send it back," said Farina.

Providing indoor directions and hyper-local content is increasingly becoming a big money game. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) this year forked over a reported $20 million to acquire indoor-positioning app developer WifiSLAM in an effort to improve its mapping capabilities as it battles Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which already offers indoor mapping for locations such as airports, shopping malls, casinos, sports venues and even museums through its crowdsourced Indoor Maps project.

However, the rush to develop this market has prompted growing scrutiny. For example, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) recently sent a letter to Euclid, asking detailed questions about privacy practices surrounding its Wi-Fi-generated shopper analytics.

For more:
- see this Aruba release
- see this Farina blog entry
- see this GigaOM article
- see this ZDNet article

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