Apple Buys Locationary
July 19, 2013

Apple Buys Locationary And Looks To Resolve Map App Issues

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

Apple is apparently hoping to find its way back to consumer trust in the world of maps by acquiring the crowdsourced location data company Locationary. This could be a turn in the right direction for Apple, following last fall's mapping debacle.

Last September, Apple CEO Tim Cook went so far as to apologize for the latest version of Maps in iOS6 after millions of users found errors in the software.

"With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better," said Cook in a statement at the time.

The problem got worse before getting better, as the Apple Maps app made headlines when it left people stranded in Australia. Police down under even warned drivers not to rely on the mapping app.

And it wasn't just the police that were offering advice about the use of the Apple Maps. In an article for TechCrunch last fall, CEO and founder of Locationary Grant Ritchie, pointed out the five big map app issues that Apple needed to solve and suggested some fixes. Apparently, someone at Apple must have liked what Ritchie wrote because this week Apple confirmed the acquisition of the Canadian startup.

This follows rival Google's acquisition of crowdsourced geodata company Waze. However, while Waze focuses on traffic data, Locationary reportedly targets local business listings and utilizes crowdsourced data via a platform called Saturn. This compiles the information from users and keeps the data up to date, which can be daunting for any mapping service.

Locationary, which has been designed as a "Wikipedia for local business listings" is reportedly backed by Extreme Venture Partners and Plazacorp Ventures. The big data firm works to ensure that business listing data is positionally accurate - as in where the map says it is - and that the information about whether the business is actually open is also as up to date as possible.

What exactly Apple plans to do with Locationary or how it will integrate its technology into its operations has not yet been made public.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," spokesperson Steve Dowling told AllThingsD on Friday.

However, numerous sources including AllThingsD suggest that the most obvious turn for Apple is to beef up its own mapping service. This certainly does sound like it addresses Ritchie's commentary, which noted that Apple needed to fix its data aggregation, while standardizing that data as well, and finally merging all that data into a composite database. Ritchie noted that merging data into such a database is an entire business in itself.

"To generate the information that users see in the app, Apple would need to select and merge the best data from the various sources into a composite profile for each real place," Ritchie noted in the TechCrunch post. "To do this, Apple would need to figure out which source has the best data for each field. Sources collected by crawling the Internet frequently have call-tracking numbers (that expire or are redirected to other companies) instead of the business' true phone number. "