Samsung, Nokia, Sony and others are to work together on standardising indoor location services across the mobile industry.
The companies, which also include British chip designer CSR, unveiled the In-Location Alliance on Thursday, saying the group would "drive innovation and market adoption of high accuracy indoor positioning and related services".
"The aim of the In-Location Alliance is to act as a pioneer opening up new business streams for indoor environments," the group said in a statement. "Indoor positioning is the next frontier of mobile services, offering great opportunities to enhance consumer experiences. For the benefit of enterprises, the Alliance will drive a world-wide indoor positioning system for use in major venues."
Location-based services constitute one of the biggest innovations on mobile devices, but technologies such as GPS are of limited use indoors, where line-of-sight cannot be established with the satellites.
Bluetooth pioneer CSR told ZDNet in May that it was in talks with mobile manufacturers about integrating indoor location technology into their devices. We have asked the company whether its technology is being favoured by the Alliance, but had not received a response at the time of writing.
Bluetooth + Wi-Fi
What the Alliance did say in its statement was that its "primary solutions" would be based on enhanced Bluetooth 4.0 low-energy technology, along with Wi-Fi — both technologies that are already widely deployed in mobile handsets.
The use cases are not hard to see. Consumers can use indoor location services to navigate around malls and even within shops, while store owners can benefit from what the Alliance calls "increased local customer identification".
Pilots will begin this year, and "2013 is expected to bring mobile handset-based implementation enabling the first consumer applications in the indoor mobile environment".
The founding members of the In-Location Alliance are: Broadcom, CSR, Dialog Semiconductor, Eptisa, Geomobile, Genasys, Indra, Insiteo, Nokia, Nomadic Solutions, Nordic Semiconductor, Nordic Technology Group, NowOn, Primax Electronics, Qualcomm, RapidBlue Solutions, Samsung Electronics, Seolane Innovation, Sony Mobile Communications, TamperSeal AB, Team Action Zone and Visioglobe.