Apple Acquires Mapsense Mapping Visualization Startup: Reports

Reports of the acquisition come just days after Apple plans the shuttering of its HopStop transit directions app as it continues to plot its future in mapping.

Mapsense, Apple Maps, mapping technology, transit directions, transit maps, HopStop app

Apple is spending up to $30 million to acquire Mapsense, a mapping visualization startup, to bolster its mapping assets as it continues to develop better map tools in iOS 9 and other Apple products.

The Mapsense deal, which will bring the company's 12-person team together with Apple, was reported Sept. 17 in an article by The deal is reported to be between $25 million to $30 million in value.

On its Website, Mapsense says it works to help customers create data-driven maps for a wide range of business uses.

"There are over 10 billion devices on the planet streaming location data on a daily basis," the company says on its site. "While collecting location data has become mainstream, the traditional tools to visualize, understand, and harness it have been hampered by the speed and scale of this massive and complex new data source. Mapsense's platform and developer tools help organizations quickly ingest and analyze billions of rows of location data to make more intelligent, locally targeted business decisions across the organization."

Mapsense offers mapping visualization tools and services to developers and enterprises.

Apple has been struggling with mobile mapping services in the last several years, especially compared with Google Maps and its offerings.

Earlier this week, Apple's HopStop public transit and mapping app revealed that it is being shut down in October, according to a recent eWEEK report. Apple bought HopStop in 2013 but is now apparently moving to integrate transit and mapping services for customers into its latest iOS 9 mobile operating system for iPhones and iPads. The iOS 9 software was released on Sept. 16.

The closing of HopStop comes as Apple works to improve its own mapping services. The news of the pending closure was also posted on the HopStop Website with a banner that says, "HopStop will no longer be available starting October 2015." The iPhone and iPad apps for the service are also no longer available in the App Store. HopStop services are available in some 300 cities around the world.

In May, Apple announced that it would finally be bringing transit mapping services to its iPhones and iPads by the time it releases iOS 9, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The rollout will be slow, however, with transit directions for only six cities around the world to start. Expected to be included in the first round are New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Paris and Berlin, according to reports. Some cities in China could also be included.

Apple has been lagging behind in providing mass transit directions in its Apple Maps app for almost three years. Google has been offering transit directions for Android users in that time and formerly provided such information to Apple iPhone and iPad users until Apple replaced Google Maps with its own new Apple Maps app in September 2012 as part of the then-new iOS 6, according to earlier eWEEK reports. Google Maps had been included in every previous version of iOS since the arrival of the iPhone in 2007. Apple removed Google Maps after a five-year agreement with Google expired.

But with the launch of Apple Maps in 2012 came a tidal wave of complaints from frustrated Apple users. Among the loudest complaints were incorrect maps, the new app's inability to display points of interest and a total lack of transit directions for mass transit systems in large cities. Apple CEO Tim Cook even followed a week of user complaints with a five-paragraph public apology about the problems with the then-new service. Cook even pointed out several mapping alternatives that Apple users could install to regain the mapping functions they had when Google Maps was part of the previous versions of iOS.

Apple said at the time that it would be adding transit maps later, but the three-year mark will arrive in September and they are still not here.

One theory for Apple moving to create its own maps app back then was that Apple wanted to include voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions, which was lacking in the previous Google Maps version for iOS, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Others said the change was due to a growing competitive friction between Apple and Google as they began battling more directly in the mobile marketplace.

For iOS users, especially those who live in large cities and would benefit from integrated mass transit directions and maps, the missing Apple Maps transit directions have been a challenge.