Reported earlier by AllThingsD, Apple has acquired Toronto-based location-data management startup Locationary. Apple was seeking both the company’s data management capabilities and the expertise of CEO Grant Ritchie and his team.
The application of the technology is relatively straightforward: it’s an investment in making Apple Maps and its local data much better.
In my experience, Apple Maps has not been as “bad” as the criticism. Indeed, I’ve found a number of errors in Google Maps recently, which I tend to use more often than Apple Maps on my iPhone.
Locationary and its “Saturn” platform was conceived of as a kind of hub for location data, where various sources (e.g., yellow pages, data vendors and local search sites) could be cleaned, merged, enhanced and redistributed. Selling “good” and enhanced data back to publishers and developers was the model.
On Locationary’s Saturn homepage the following are the stated benefits to publishers:
- Eliminate duplicate profiles and fix errors
- Blend data sources into high quality composites
- Easily manage different formats
Apple is working with a wide range of location data vendors and providers in its mapping product. However the company initially did a poor job of figuring out which sources had the best information and merging all the different datasets and feeds. Locationary’s tech and expertise will make that process much better and should help create better maps for Apple.
There are now so many different sources of location data a service like Locationary’s Saturn is almost required if you’re a big mapping player. Google does the data merging and cleaning on its own and has developed elaborate systems to manage the process.
One of the other interesting things Locationary brings to Apple is data crowdsourcing. The company had been using game mechanics to get people in the world to correct and update location information and business listings. Presumably some of that will be deployed by Apple once Locationary is integrated.
Postscript: This afternoon Bloomberg reported that Apple has made another maps-related acquisition: HopStop. Over a period of several years HopStop has evolved into a local search app/site. Yet its core content and appeal reside in its public transit information for more than 140 cities and towns in the US and abroad.
Public transit has been a key area of differentiation for Google Maps. This acquisition will close that gap somewhat.