Oulu-based Indoor Atlas, the indoor positioning startup, announced yesterday that it had raised €3.3 million in funding from Mobility Ventures and KoppiCatch, as well as Vera Ventures, Finnvera and Tekes. Indoor Atlas is one of the hotter startups in Finland thanks to their unique technology which allows for the down-to-the-dot positioning of a phone by picking up the magnetic signals of the building or earth unique to where the phone is. Current solutions, like GPS (and assisted by WiFi), are about as accurate as you can throw your phone.
With the funding the company says they plan to soon start hitting the US market, already testing out their app with an unnamed American retailer. Indoor Atlas now has offices in Oulu, Finland, and Mountain View, California.
We've seen plenty of indoor positioning startups popping up here, such as Turku, Finland's Walkbase, which raised €3 million in November, or Qubulus, which filed for bankruptcy about a year ago after blaming their investors.
With these big funding rounds and marketing speak coming out of these indoor positing companies, you might think the era of super-accurate positioning of phones is here, allowing developers to create brand new types of apps. While that's true to some extent - industries like retail, warehousing, mining, and construction are already excited, don't expect any pulp consumer "for anyone anywhere" innovations to blow your mind anytime soon.
What made GPS location-based apps like Foursquare great is that they just worked. Even with magnetic signatures the great indoors needs to be charted and mapped before it knows where a phone is. Bluetooth beacons or magnetic signatures will kick off this new era, but let's hope that an even wider-spread solution comes along as well. Until then, let's think how crazy it is that our phone's compass is accurate enough to pick up the magnetic anomalies coming from the steel and wiring in our buildings.