Navigable Map Database Suppliers.
The data supplier of most importance to Apple is TomTom, a company providing the navigation database provided by Tele Atlas, which TomTom acquired in 2008. It is my sense that Tele Atlas has not prospered under TomTom ownership. TomTom’s fortunes declined as the market for PNDs unexpectedly, at least to TomTom, dropped shortly after the acquisition. Besides limiting the company’s expenditures on improving the quality and coverage of TomTom’s date, the drop in the amount of PND’s sold decreased the update data available to Tele Atlas for map compilation purposes from TomTom’s excellent Map Share product. Put another way, this is the company Google dumped because it was unhappy with the quality of the data delivered.
While TomTom through Map Share had the promise of revolutionizing the navigation map industry, the progress has not met the promise. Tele Atlas has lost many of its key employees and it is my impression that its data quality has declined since 2008. I question the use of Tele Atlas data as the backbone for the Apple mapping service. It may be that Apple felt that TomTom was the only viable alternative, since they had already ruled out the use of Google and Navteq is tied up with Nokia, although I suspect that association may soon change. Apple may learn the hard way that choosing data suppliers based on brand strategy and not data quality does not result in the best possible solution.
In coverage areas where TomTom does not have the appropriate data, it appears that Apple will turn to other suppliers such as DMTI, a company that does provide relatively high-quality data for Canada, or Map Data Sciences, a company providing quality data for Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately other map data suppliers involved, in my opinion, do not meet these same standards and I would expect Apple’s map data for much of the rest of the world to be lacking in detail, coverage and currentness.
I suspect TomTom will be responsive to making changes, as it needs the business. As most of you know, there is no organization behind crowd-sourced systems that can guarantee that a map error will be researched, recompiled and pushed to live in a specific amount of time. Of course, one of the things Apple has not revealed is how its database correction procedures will be implemented. Passing vectors to be rendered on the user device may portend a “live” mapping database behind the scenes at Apple Central, but as of now, this is conjecture on my part.
Business Listing Suppliers
Apple seems to plan on using business listing data from Acxiom and Localeze (a division of Neustar), supplemented by reviews from Yelp. I suspect that Apple does not yet understand what a headache it will be to integrate the information from these three disparate sources. Hopefully they will need to employ the readers of this blog to solve this problem, because it is one that can destroy the efficacy of their business strategy for mapping.
While Apple is not generating any new problems by trying to fuse business listings data, they have stumbled into a problem that suffers from different approaches to localization, lack of postal address standards, lack of location address standards and general incompetence in rationalizing data sources. But, hey, this is one area where having billions in the bank might help, at least it might help if you had some idea of what you were doing. As you may have gleaned from the tone of this blog I am not sure Apple understands the mess it is creating, at least at this stage of the development.