Here acquires Micello to add indoor mapping as part of its IoT business unit

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Here Technologies, the mapping company valued at around $3 billion that counts a consortium of car makers, Intel and others among its shareholder/owners, today announced a move that underscores its intention to focus on more than just the outdoor navigation business. The company has acquired Micello, a startup that offers a database of indoor maps and provides a platform for businesses to build and use these maps and corresponding datasets across a variety of applications.

Micello was early in identifying the opportunity of making maps for more spaces beyond the great outdoors. It was once described to us as the “Google Maps inside a building” (years before Google itself made any moves indoors).

Here plans to use the company’s tech to provide indoor mapping services to businesses both for B2B and B2C use, as part of Here’s Internet of Things business unit. Applications will include tracking movements in a factory, optimizing workspaces, mapping and navigation in large transit centers and last-mile guidance for vehicles.

“The acquisition of Micello is an important strategic investment for us to rapidly grow our ecosystem of partners and accelerate our growth in indoor mapping. I’m excited to welcome the global Micello team into the Here family,” Leon van de Pas, SVP, Internet of Things at HERE Technologies, said in a statement.

Financial terms of the deal — which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018 — have not been disclosed. Micello was founded in 2007 out of Santa Clara, CA, and had raised an undisclosed amount of funding, with the only named investor being Plug and Play, the incubator/VC that has backed the likes of PayPal and Dropbox. 

The deal is notable for two reasons. The first is that it’s somewhat of a departure for Here, and the primary focus it has had for the last several years since being divested by Nokia and getting snapped up by the car consortium that included Audio, BMW and Daimler. Since that change in ownership, it has been launching a number of services, acquiring startups and inking deals all with an eye on navigation outdoors, and specifically on streets. The idea has been not only to align with the company’s existing business with carmakers, but to secure a position in a future world, where navigation data will form a central part of how in-car mapping systems will work both for human drivers and autonomous vehicles.

Looking at enhancing indoor expertise and datasets speaks to the other kinds of customers that Here has and also to offer continuity to users (and in the case of businesses, objects) that may initiate journeys in vehicles but complete them indoors.

The second is that it shows Here playing catch-up to a number of other rivals in the world of mapping that have been steadily building out their indoor navigation businesses.

Apple has acquired at least three companies — WiFiSlam, Indoor.io, and FlyBy Media — and made some key hires, to build out its indoor mapping expertise. It’s also been steadily updating maps with more coverage, such as the addition of 30 airports last month.

Google has also been adding more to its indoor mapping strategy over the last several years, not only enhancing its dataset but also creating tools to make more indoor maps, and Microsoft has also been producing new apps to also throw its hat into the space of indoor navigation.

Part of the interest for these companies is not simply navigation, but because mapping interior spaces will also make them more usable in a number of applications. These include B2B services, retail solutions and virtual and augmented reality applications. 

Here is not an entirely new player in the interior mapping space. The company already has data for 15,000 venues in more than 80 countries, it tells me, covering 89,000 buildings. Two weeks ago it also announced a new deal with Baidu to power Baidu Maps with indoor map data for outside of China. “There might be some overlap with the 25,000 venues Micello has mapped,” a spokesperson said, “but Here and Micello are very complimentary.”

Micello has built out a “Marketplace” of 75 applications that businesses can use based on indoor maps. These include IoT services, public safety implementations and facility management. It is also not exactly a walled garden of solutions: it provides ways for businesses to integrate into the likes of Apple Maps, TomTom and others — just about everyone other than Google, as CEO and founder Ankit Agarwal described it –should they choose to create an app or service that works with it.

Micello also has customers: they include North American Fortune 500 companies as well as organizations across Europe, Asia and Australia, including several of Here’s existing shareholders (which may have been one of the factors that led to a sale).

“This is an exciting opportunity for Micello and our team,” said Agarwal in a separate statement. “Here’s investment in indoor maps will also significantly benefit our customers and Marketplace partners. We look forward to joining Here, growing our Marketplace of partners and realizing our mission of mapping everything indoors.”

There are around 47 employees at the startup and it looks like they will all be joining Here.

Updated with more details about Here’s existing business.