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Apple has acquired crowdsourced location data company Locationary, according to AllThingsD, in an effort to improve its Maps Service, which has been a thorn in Apple’s side resulting in firings at the company and a public apology by CEO Tim Cook.  Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Locationary, a small Canadian startup, which is backed by Extreme Venture Partners and Plazacorp Ventures, is a Wikipedia-like tool for local business listings.  Through crowdsourcing and an exchange platform called Saturn, Locationary collects and verifies data on local businesses around the world, essentially updating information about business that are frequently inaccurate or out-of-date.

Ironically, Grant Richie, the CEO of Locationary, wrote an article last September for Techcrunch describing five challenges that Apple faces as it builds out its new mapping service.   He said that aggregating location data is difficult and that Apple would have to bring in two or three databases for each country.  He also said that aggregating vertical business data is even harder.

“In addition to core data, Apple would need specialized databases on specific verticals,” Richie said in the TechCrunch article.  “For example, Yelp for restaurants and retail locations and Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, HotelsCombined for hotels and lodging. Apple would also need retailer-specific data from Wal-mart, Starbucks, and other large national chains. When you build an app like Apple Maps, you need dozens of separate sources. It’s not uncommon for a large publisher or search engine to use more than 100 different data sources.”

Richie said that along with standardizing all the information that’s gathered on a businesses, merging data sources is a an entire business in itself.  Enter Locationary, which does exactly that.  Richie summed it up in the TechCrunch article by hammering out how complicated the process is:

“Data integration is a complicated but crucial process for local search, mapping, and directory apps. It’s also something that most people don’t think about or notice until it goes wrong. It’s clear that data integration is already difficult with only basic details like name, address, telephone, and location.  This is why the industry will need proper platforms and tools to address these challenges and to progress into the real-time world that we all anticipate: where products, inventory, menus, deals, events, and job postings are synchronized across every mobile device and users can instantly transact regardless of app or device.”

Locationary is probably a good first step for Apple to gather accurate location data, which could help distinguish it from popular rival Google Maps.


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