Apple Maps sources decoded


With the launch of Apple’s latest version of iOS, the iOS6, Apple will no longer use Google Maps for its mapping needs. Instead of Google Maps, the Cupertino based technological giant will be using its own Apple Maps.

Apple Maps will boast voice guided turn by turn navigation and 3D maps. Besides these, there are plenty more features that will be coming to iOS 6 in the Maps area. With the news of Apple adding 3D maps to Apple Maps, Google has also added this capability to Google Maps recently. As of now, Google offers virtual models in few cities including Los Angeles, Rome, Geneva, San Francisco, and Boston, but the company is planning to make that list longer in the weeks to come. iOS 6 maps is currently under beta, so Google Maps is the only place where you can view 3D maps, and you can get it on iOS devices too.

So far, Apple iOS 6 Maps app includes “flyover” mode for only few places and cities including Las Vegas, Chicago, LA, Copenhagen, Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Montreal, Melbourne, Sydney, and Sacramento and Apple may not update the list until final release.

Apple isn’t launching its map service without any help. Apple of course relies on various sources to get its service up and running. Back in June, few leaked screenshots from iOS6 developer beta running on an iPhone 4S suggested that TomTom, a Dutch manufacturer of automotive navigation systems, was the main data provider for Apple Maps. It was later confirmed by TomTom that it had indeed signed a global agreement with Apple for maps and various other information service. It should be noted that TomTom is not a stranger to iOS, in fact it has been providing its own navigation app and car kit for iOS devices since 2009. The screen shot mentioned “data from TomTom, others” which indicates that there are other companies behind iOS 6 Apple Maps too. Let’s take a look at all the other providers of Apple Maps and their roles which will give birth to a revolutionary way of viewing maps.

TomTom is the main provider for this new service. Apple Maps depends on maps from TomTom in order to get the user from one point to another. TomTom can be found on Nike+ SportWatch GPS and other items too. As of now, you cannot purchase voice packs like Wallace and Gromit that can be found on TomTom devices as an option.

Urban Mapping for Neighborhoods
Neighborhood information in Apple Maps is delivered by Urban Mapping. Urban Mapping uses Smart Boundary Technology, a patent pending technology which can capture the ambiguous space that is situated where neighborhood boundaries meet, overlap or create gaps, balancing user needs and technical requirements.
Urban Mapping says, “The ZIP code 10014 has little meaning for most people. But say SoHo, and you will evoke reactions based on cultural, social and historical references.”

With this data, users can find places quickly with better accuracy. It should be noted that Urban Mapping also provides Mass Transit information which Apple didn’t opt for. The service includes information such as
• Locations of system, line, station and individual entrances/exits
• accessibility notes, escalators, elevators
• operating hours, attendant booths and hours
• bike lockers
• restrooms
• parking (hours, number of spaces, cost)
• shelter information
• retail amenities
• station cafes and much more.

Apple may add Mass Transit information to Apple Maps soon, but for now, it doesn’t exist. With Mass Transit information, users can stay alert if the train or bus is running on schedule or not. Recently, Nokia added the capability to Nokia Maps and is called as Nokia Transport. The service gives walk directions in order to help the user reach the next stop and from the last stop to his destination. Timetable information of over 86 cities is also available. The feature received a lot of attention and was launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

WAZE Social Mapping
Waze is a popular GPS and traffic app which is available free of cost for iOS and Android devices. Waze is basically a community based GPS traffic and navigational app that relies on muscle of the crowd to fetch tips on the quickest way to reach the destination. Waze lets its users to report traffic accidents, traffic jams and other issues that may slow down your journey and re-routes you through the quickest possible route.
Apple will be using Waze’s data, but Apple says that it is using only “Map data” from Waze, hence it’s unlikely that the social component will make it to iOS 6 Apple Maps. As of now, Apple Maps doesn’t include any kind of neighborhood service similar to Waze, but it does let you to report problems. It would be nice if Apple integrated social reports of traffic, speed traps and other road hazards into Apple Maps for iOS 6, nevertheless, Waze is free and will still be available for iOS, so if you wish to have such features, you can opt to use Waze separately.

Localeze and Acxiom
Apple seems to be taking help from Localeze and Acxiom for finding local businesses. Localeze and Acxiom will be responsible for delivering information on phone numbers, addresses and various other details on businesses.

Nasa provides mapping information to Google Maps as well. It’s safe to say that NASA will be providing satellite imagery and topographical data for Apple Maps. Back in 2009, NASA collected 1.3 million images using a Japanese instrument onboard the spacecraft, which allowed the space agency to create topographic map that covers 99 percent of the entire globe in a giant grid of measurements. If you are interested, you can download the map in a 26 MB TIFF format from here.

Yelp for Reviews is a social networking, user review, and local search web site. As of January 2012, the website receives over 71 million monthly unique visitors. Apple has integrated Yelp reviews in its new Apple Maps for iOS 6. When the user searches for restaurant, a Yelp rating star is displayed. It also allows to view Yelp reviews and photos. On Apple Maps, viewing Yelp profile is just piece of cake.

Apple also includes data from various other sources. Full list of sources can be found here. A lot has been said about iOS 6 already. Apple claims to have stuffed over 200 new features in iOS 6. Apple Maps will arrive with iOS 6 on iPhone 5, and the device launch is just round the corner. It is rumored that the production of next generation of iPhone has already commenced and a device was supposedly even smuggled out of the factory line. Apple currently rules 34% of the smartphone market, which is also highest by a single manufacturer, and that number is expected to be on fire once iPhone 5 launches. The smartphone war is all set to get interesting. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know using the comment form below.

One Reply to “Apple Maps sources decoded”

  1. TomTom’s role is actually much bigger. Map data, traffic information, speed camera’s and routing algorithms. Basically the whole gps package. It’s like Apple just bought their entire app. And put 3D layers on top of that plus some design alterations.

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