Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Apple 3D mapping quest

Online and mobile mapping apps is one area where, to date, Apple’s presence is practically non existent. So far the company is relying on mapping tools and technologies provided by competitors, such as Google. However, with the acquisition of a third company with mapping related IP over a period of 24 months, Apple seems to be determined to change this situation sooner rather than later.

Mapping and GIS capabilities are an integral part of any location based service (LBS) solution and underpin a plethora of mobile applications. The company needs its own set of mapping and GIS tools to further extend its success with the mobile devices, such as iPhone and iPad. It is therefore inevitable that Apple will become a formidable player in this field at some stage.

The acquisition of C3 Technologies, a Swedish company spun out of top secret military related capabilities developed by SAAB, has been kept under wraps for almost 3 months and only now some details emerged as to the buyer. In 2009, Apple bought Placebase, which specialized in customization and layering information on maps, and just last year Poly9 with a Google Earth-like application.

The attractiveness of the newly acquired by Apple technology is best illustrated with the following video.

It is not the first of its kind on the market but definitely the most attractive due to a very high resolution of processed 3D objects. I believe Yell was the first to create a browser based application to supplement its 2D online maps. Ordnance Survey has also declared its intention to create Map of the Future using a similar approach. And Microsoft’s Photosynth offers a “consumer grade” version of the technology that anyone can play with. Let’s see what Apple can do with it…

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