Apple has acquired the staff and assets of a young startup called Locationary, a Toronto-based firm. This is an interesting development in the ongoing competition for users in navigation apps on smartphones against Google and others.
Locationary isn't your typical navigation/location startup. Instead of being a consumer-facing product, the company is more concerned about the backchannels in location apps and is specifically aimed at improving the accuracy of location-based data on businesses and other ventures. The company essentially works with a number of different partners to ensure that when a company is listed as being at a particular location on a map, this location accurately reflects the company's real address and that the company is still in operation.
It's immediately evident that Apple, which bought the company up lock, stock, and precisely geo-located barrel, is planning on using Locationary's systems to ensure its maps service on iOS (and soon on OS X) contains accurate geo data. As well as being important for purely navigational reasons, this information is critical to discovery systems like Siri. Asking Siri for a great nearby Indian restaurant is only useful if the restaurants in the database are accurately positioned in Apple's mapping database and if they're open for business. Such location-based services are likely to play a huge role in future shopping and payment tech, which may leverage other discovery and mobile payment that rely on absolute geolocation for data and security. This is interesting considering fresh Apple rumors about mobile pay tech in the iPhone using NFC.
Apple's Maps app was, when it launched, a clear attempt to reclaim users to Apple services from Google's Maps app on iOS. But Apple's system, though innovative, instantly came under severe criticism due to its inaccuracies in terms of road layouts and destination addresses which were worse in some places than others. The affair became so prominent that CEO Tim Cook felt compelled to issue an uncharacteristic Apple apology and it likely played a role in the realignment of Apple's executive team in late 2012, which resulted in two responsible executives being ditched.
[Image: By Flickr user Elliott Brown]