Baidu Invests in Finnish Software Developer IndoorAtlas

Baidu Invests in Finnish Software Developer IndoorAtlas

HELSINKI—IndoorAtlas says China’s leading search engine Baidu Inc. has invested $10 million in the Finnish software developer, whose indoor mapping platform can help retailers track their customers’ movements inside buildings.

IndoorAtlas was founded in 2012 by a group of research scientists at the University of Oulu in Finland. The company, which has offices in Oulu and in Mountain View, Calif.,raised $4.5 million from various investors in June.

IndoorAtlas’s software platform helps people navigate and locate themselves inside buildings to an accuracy of two meters, according to the company, similar to how the Global Positioning System (GPS) enables navigation outdoors.

However, IndoorAtlas’s technology doesn’t rely on signals received from satellites like the GPS does. Instead, IndoorAtlas’s software platform uses the Earth’s geomagnetic field to pinpoint a smartphone’s location inside a building.

In developing its product IndoorAtlas has drawn inspiration from animals such as pigeons and lobsters, which use magnetic fields for navigation, Chief Executive and Co-Founder Janne Haverinen said in a recent interview for a Finnish magazine.

IndoorAtlas’s software is patented and available as a mobile application for iOS and Android devices. When the application is switched on in a smartphone, it generates data that retailers can use to track the movements of a person carrying the smartphone.

Retailers can then send alerts about special offers, for example, as the customer carrying the smartphone approaches specific locations inside a store.

The funding deal, announced in a news release, also grants Baidu exclusive access to IndoorAtlas’s platform in China. The agreement means that IndoorAtlas won’t make its platform available through any other distribution channel, said Monika Raj, strategic marketing adviser for IndoorAtlas.

“IndoorAtlas’s accuracy and scalability is second to none and clearly complements Baidu’s existing mobile Location Based Services and maps offering,” said Baidu Vice President Liu Jun, who leads the company’s LBS business unit.

Baidu’s investment in IndoorAtlas is at least the second time within the past six months when a Chinese investor has put money into a Finnish startup. In March, China’s IDG Capital Partners joined a funding round for the Finnish mobile game developer Next Games.