More evidence that Apple is building a killer Maps app for iOS

Thu, Jun 23, 2011


The Maps app in iOS 5 will still make use of Google’s backend, a point officially relayed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt during an interview at AllThingsD 9. “We just renewed our Map and Search agreements with Apple,” Schmidt said, “and we hope those continue for a long time.”

But if you know anything about Apple, you know that they hate having to rely on third party technology if they can come up with their own solution. To that end, Apple has made a number of interesting map-based acquisitions over the past year or two and recently discovered language in a new legal section in iOS 5 titled “Map Data” suggests that Apple’s own mapping solution may be very close to becoming a reality.

Under the new section, Apple lists out a number of third parties from which it licenses mapping technology, and long story short, Apple’s not playing around.

MacRumors breaks it down:

• CoreLogic offers Parcel data which marks boundaries for of properties to provide positional accuracy in location-based solutions.
• Getchee provides location and market data on China, India and Southeast Asia.
• Increment P Corp provides location and traffic data for Japan.
• Localeze provides local business listings.
• MapData Sciences Pty Ltd. Inc provides mapping data for Australia and New Zealand.
• DMTI provides postal code data for Canada.
• TomTom offers global TeleAtlas mapping data which is also licensed by Google for their map solution.
• Urban Mapping provides in-depth neighborhood data such as crime, demographics, school performance, economic indicators and more.
• Waze offers real-time maps and traffic information based on crowd sourced data.

If Urban Mapping sounds familiar, it’s because it’s awfully similar to Placbase, a mapping company Apple purchased back in July 2009. Placebase’s former CEO Jaron Waldman now works on Apple’s Geo Team – whose very existence was news to us at the time. Much like Urban Mapping, Placebase’s technology is heavy on map customizations and aggregation options, such as overlaying crime and traffic data over corresponding map locations.

As for Waze, it currently has an iOS navigation app that provides users with “real-time road reports from drivers nearby” to decrease commuting time. Their app description reads in part:

Waze is as interactive as you want it to be – by simply driving with the app open on your phone, you passively contribute traffic and other road data that waze incorporates to keep the map 100% live, but you can also take a more active role by sharing road reports on accidents, police traps, or any other hazards along the way, helping to give other users in the area a ‘heads-up’ about what’s to come. And the first time you receive a “speedtrap ahead” alert that was reported by another wazer, you’ll understand the advantages of drivers working together for the common good.

This type of traffic-based crowd sourcing may very well be what Apple was referring to when it touched on the topic in the wake of the “scandal” surrounding Apple’s use of iOS location data. In addressing the issue, Apple released a Q&A that contained the following:

What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?

Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

It’s also worth pointing out that an Apple job posting from November 2009 was looking for an iPhone Software Engineer to join the company’s newly formed Map team. The job description read in part:

We want to take Maps to the next level, rethink how users use Maps and change the way people find things. We want to do this in a seamless, highly interactive and enjoyable way. We’ve only just started.

All told, while we may not see any significant mapping changes in iOS 5, it seems abundantly clear that Apple is working hard to deliver its own mapping solution to kick Google Maps off of the iOS homescreen.


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