Apple acquires local business data startup Locationary

Apple may not have said much about the issues with iOS’s Maps at last month’s Worldwide Developers Conference, but the company is clearly still working on improving the service. Case in point: its recent acquisition of Toronto-based Locationary, which the company confirmed to AllThingsD on Friday. Both the startup’s team and the technology are reportedly part of the deal.

Locationary is a startup that’s focused on improving data about local businsesses. It pulls location information from a variety of sources, then aggregates and reconciles it, ensuring that the data provided to users is complete and up-to-date. That way, you don’t drive an hour out of your way to hit that great restaurant that actually closed six months ago.

An infographic from Locationary explaining their system.

That’s of particular importance to Apple, whose mapping service continues to suffer from incomplete or inaccurate local data. (As an anecdotal point, this week I spent fifteen minutes wandering around a nearby town trying to find a doctor’s office that was most assuredly not where Apple Maps claimed it was.)

Interestingly, Locationary CEO and founder Grant Ritchie penned a piece at TechCrunch last fall, detailing “5 Big Map App Issues Apple Must Solve.” The article focused on the difficulty of handling point-of-interest information, including the challenges and complications that arise from non-standard information, merging data sources, and aggregating local data—all issues that Locationary purports to solve. It’s certainly not outside of the realm of possibility that this article came to the attention of folks in Cupertino.

This is far from the first mapping company that Apple has picked up in the past few years. In March, the company acquired WiFiSlam, a service that allows for indoor mapping. (Google this week updated its own Maps program for iOS with indoor maps for some locations.) Prior to launching Apple Maps, the company picked up a handful of location-related firms, including Placebase, Poly9, and C3 Technologies.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has apologized for the company’s lackluster mapping solution, and promised that Apple is working to improve it. But Apple has been surprisingly quiet about those improvements—the announced changes to iOS 7 mentioned nothing new on the Maps front; indeed, the only mention of Maps at all in June’s keynote was that the app is arriving on OS X in the forthcoming Mavericks. Given the extremely public nature of Maps’s failings, Apple may need to spend some more time talking about what it’s done to beef up the service, especially if it wants to sway users from competitors like Google Maps.

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