Apple acquires mapping visualisation startup Mapsense

Apple has bought a US company that helps developers visualise large sets of location data on maps.

Apple is fuelling its efforts to rival Google Maps with the acquisition of a US startup which makes technology to search and visualise large sets of location data.

According to Recode, which first reported the acquisition, Apple paid in the vicinity of $30m for Mapsense and its 12 staff.

Mapsense was established in 2013 by founder and CEO Erez Cohen. The company landed $2.5m in funding earlier this year to support the launch of an open source cloud-based system to help developers make sense of large volumes of location data.

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According to TechCrunch, the funding was used for the launch of a set of tools that allows developers to quickly visualise public data sets from Open Street Maps, Twitter, and the US Census, as well as urban crime data. The company offered developers free access to its JavaScript vector mapping library and public datasets as long as those developers agreed to share that data with other developers.

Through its beta program, developers applied Mapsense's tech to credit card fraud detection and behavioural analysis, real-time location apps, mobile advertising, city planning, and policing.

Prior to founding Mapsense, Cohen had a stint as an engineer at the Silicon Valley analytics firm Palantir Technologies, which gained early funding from the CIA's investment arm In-Q-Tel.

ZDNet has asked Apple for a comment on the story.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," Apple told Recode.

Apple has acquired a number of mapping and location in recent years to bolster its own mapping technology, including its purchase earlier this year of precision GPS firm, Coherent Navigation. Its previous acquisitions in the area include Locationary, PlaceBase, Poly9, HopStop, Embark, and BroadMap.

Earlier this year, Apple unveiled dedicated mapping vehicles that are travelling across various locations in Europe and the US, collecting data to improve Apple Maps.

Detailed map data of the type Apple is collecting is seen as a key component for the development of autonomous vehicles, which was one of the chief motivations for Audi, BMW, and Daimler acquiring Nokia's Here mapping business for €2.8bn. The push by the auto industry for better mapping technology comes amid ongoing speculation that Apple is working on developing its own driverless vehicle.

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