Apple, Foursquare Chatting About Local Mapping Data: Report

Foursquare manages tons of location data as part of its services.

Apple is looking into whether it can pull mapping data from Foursquare Labs into its iOS Maps app, according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal.

Negotiations over the data apparently involved Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue, who has taken over efforts to improve the company’s mapping technology. “The discussions with New York-based Foursquare come as Apple has been talking to a number of companies that collect local data to improve its new mapping product,” the Journal reported.

Foursquare offers a mobile app that lets users “check in” from various geographical locations, alerting friends in the process. It’s popular, with more than 25 million users worldwide, which means it handles a massive amounts of personal and geographical data every day. In order to handle that load, Foursquare stores live site data in MongoDB; it also imports data to a Hadoop cluster in order to perform offline data analysis. (In addition, Foursquare engineers have built some custom MapReduce jobs for certain tasks.)

Such data could prove invaluable to Apple as it tries to make its maps more comprehensive and relevant. While the company once relied on Google mapping data for iOS, it decided to pursue its own cartographical path with iOS 6, the latest version of its mobile operating system, which marked the debut of the revamped Maps app. Unfortunately for Apple, its homegrown maps sparked criticism from users who complained of everything from missing landmarks to inaccurate directions.

That criticism reached such a pitch that Apple CEO Tim Cook had to post an apology on the company’s Website. “At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers,” he wrote. “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”

According to a November report from Bloomberg, which drew its information from unnamed sources, Eddy Cue is also “seeking advice from outside map-technology experts” as well as “prodding maps provider TomTomNV (TOM2) to fix landmark and navigation data it shares with Apple.” In addition, Cue reportedly fired the senior manager overseeing the Maps app.

Meanwhile, Google has introduced a standalone Google Maps app for iPhones and iPads, complete with live traffic information, turn-by-turn directions, and the ability to see inside some 100,000 businesses worldwide. While that came as a relief to many iPhone and iPad owners, it pressures Apple to improve its own Maps offering.


Image: Foursquare