Apple buys big data firm Locationary in mapping effort push

In efforts to reach 'mapping heaven,' the iPhone and iPad maker acquires another mapping firm, paving the way for heightened competition with its former map-serving master.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 08.26.14
Apple Maps
Image: CNET

Apple has acquired Canadian big data startup Locationary for an undisclosed sum, a report confirmed on Friday.

The news, which was first reported by AllThingsD, now pegs in as the fourth acquisition Apple has made in recent years — Placebase, C3 Technologies, and Poly9 — in a bid to bolster its mapping service. The buyout has already closed, according to the report, which includes assets and staff.

Though Locationary is a big data firm, which owns a platform for merging and simplifying business listing data, the name of the startup above all else gives the game away.

Apple wants to bolster its maps — which in itself is not that surprising, if you've taken a look at the mapping app any time recently.

After Apple ripped out Google Maps from its latest iteration of its mobile operating system, the iPhone and iPad maker came crawling back after its own mapping service flunked and floundered. Apple chief executive Tim Cook's mea culpa took the customer's heat off the company for a while, and Google Maps stormed through the app store charts with its own third-party, offering for the platform.

One of the key problems with Apple Maps during its first incarnation was not the visual problems or the flaws overlaying aerial photos. Nothing was where it should have been. Oceans were in the wrong place, and major landmarks were inaccurately placed.

Locationary is a find, splice and merge listing service that crowdsources information and plugs it into its federated data exchange platform named Saturn. This in turn validates the data continually to ensure that not only is the data accurate, but it's also in a format that is consistent across the board.

The data collected and sorted by Locationary's Saturn platform accurately pinpoints the geolocation but also other dynamic data, such as opening times.

What next? It's likely Locationary will help with Apple's bid to take on Google Maps, its main rival in the mapping space (which itself pushed on users as an alternative when it admitted its own Maps was less than ideal). Apple Maps will continue to nibble at Google's feet, but it may be some time until Apple users begin to trust the in-house mapping service as their primary source for navigation and location searching.

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