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7/19/2013
02:47 PM
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What Apple Maps Gains from Locationary

With Locationary's crowdsourced business listings, Apple hopes to make local data on its maps more accurate and timely.

Apple iOS 7's Dramatic Design: Visual Tour
Apple iOS 7's Dramatic Design: Visual Tour
(click image for slideshow)
Apple reportedly has acquired Locationary, a Toronto-based provider of local business data, as part of its ongoing effort to improve its Maps service.

Apple and Locationary did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Apple confirmed the deal to All Things Digital in a statement. No price was disclosed.

With the launch of iOS 6 last fall, Apple dropped Google as the provider of data for Apple's iOS Maps app, a relationship that dated back to the launch of the iPhone. Apple decided that Maps mean enough to its mobile platform that it has to control the maps back end.

The transition did not go well. Apple's Maps app faced so much criticism over inaccuracies that company executives were ousted and CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology in which he committed the company to "keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to [Apple's] incredibly high standard."

[ Want the latest on Google's ad health? Read Google Misses Earnings As Ad Business Morphs. ]

Apple knew it had work to do even before Cook's contrition. The company was trying to fill numerous iOS Maps positions a week before Cook weighed in. The recruiting effort escalated in February with more Maps-related job postings.

Meanwhile, Apple continues to improve Maps the way it created the product -- through acquisitions. The company prepared to part ways with Google by acquiring Placebase (2009), Poly9 (2010) and C3 Technologies (2011). In March, Apple bought WiFiSlam in order to provide indoor location services. And now the company has absorbed Locationary.

Locationary offers a service called Saturn, a federated data management and exchange platform that helps assure the timeliness and accuracy of local business data through crowdsourcing.

Inaccurate data turns out to be one of the most vexing issues for map services. As Locationary founder and CEO Grant Ritchie explained in a post on TechCrunch last year, maps require data aggregated from many different sources and the formatting or quality of the data isn't standardized. As a result, formatting and correcting and presenting map data, particularly in real-time, represents a huge challenge.

Apple is addressing this challenge in part through capital expenditures, expected to reach $10 billion this year, to build facilities and infrastructure to support online services that meet its "high standard," in addition to bolstering its hardware manufacturing capabilities.

Though its Maps service remains a work-in-progress, Apple clearly sees it as a major platform asset, so much so that it has committed to integrating Maps into the forthcoming version of its desktop operating system, OS X Mavericks.

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