Apple Acquires Local Data Outfit Locationary
Last September, Grant Ritchie, CEO of crowdsourced location data company Locationary, penned an article for TechCrunch describing five challenges Apple faces as it builds out its new mapping service. Ten months later, he has become part of the effort to overcome them.
Apple has acquired the Toronto-based Locationary, a small Canadian startup, backed by Extreme Venture Partners and Plazacorp Ventures. Multiple sources familiar with the deal tell AllThingsD it closed recently and includes Locationary’s technology and team, both. The price of the acquisition couldn’t immediately be learned.
Apple spokesman Steve Dowling confirmed the deal with the statement the company typically releases when news of one of its acquisitions surfaces: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
Apple’s plans in this case are fairly obvious: Beef up its new mapping service. The troubled launch of Apple’s home-brewed mapping software last year sparked a world-wide consumer backlash capped by a rare apology from CEO Tim Cook. Since that time, Apple has been working hard behind the scenes to improve the service. “We’re putting all of our energy into making it right,” Cook said last December.
And this acquisition will undoubtedly figure prominently in that effort. Locationary is a sort of Wikipedia for local business listings. It uses crowdsourcing and a federated data exchange platform called Saturn to collect, merge and continuously verify a massive database of information on local businesses and points of interest around the world, solving one of location’s biggest problems: Out-of-date information.
Not only does Locationary ensure that business listing data is positionally accurate (i.e., the restaurant I searched for is where Apple said it would be), it ensures that it is temporally accurate as well (i.e., the restaurant I searched for is still open for business and not closed for renovation or shuttered entirely). And that sort of clean location data could go a long way toward improving Apple Maps and distinguishing it from rivals getting their business-location data from regional Yellow Pages directories and the like.