Apple reportedly hiring dozens of new mapping experts and engineers

According to a CNBC report, Apple is on a hiring spree. The company is seeking to add scores of mapping experts and engineers. According to the report:
More than 70 job listings went live in the past month on the company’s site relating to its maps team, or requiring skills around things like: “geospatial information services,” “navigational aids” and “fleet management.”
Apple Maps, which has quietly been improving over time, still suffers from a less-than-stellar reputation from its botched launch in 2012. However, the new hires will be supporting initiatives around augmented reality and “autonomous systems.”
Here’s what Apple CEO Tim Cook said about both topics during this week’s earnings call.
On augmented reality: 

One of the most exciting and most promising announcements from WWDC was the introduction of ARKit, a new set of tools for developers to create augmented reality apps. It’s still early in the beta period, but it’s clear that ARKit has captured the imagination of our developer community .

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Apple now has public place pages — but what exactly are they for?

Apple is apparently now publishing public place pages for selected landmarks, according to a post on 9to5Mac. Below is an example (via Allan Miller):

If you’ve got the latest MacOS update “Sierra” installed you can access these pages from the Safari toolbar. On “El Capitan” a smaller drop-down page without a URL shows up for similar kinds of queries.

In all likelihood these URLs, which Andrew Shotland identified as “Apple Maps ID + Lat/Long + Name,” are intended for sharing, especially with users of non-Apple devices and platforms. They may also be for indexing on Google and Bing.
Presumably these pages can and ultimately will be indexed. Currently they don’t show up in search results. Shotland said today in the Local Search Workshop in advance of SMX East that he thought these pages could rank well if they were indexed.
The story in 9to5Mac characterized the pages as being for “landmarks and some points of interest.” In my mind it makes

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Apple Maps becomes a platform with new extensions for third-party apps

Apple is opening up Apple Maps to third-party developers with new “extensions.” This is parallel to announcements made during today’s WWDC keynote for Messages and Siri .
In addition to a forthcoming “beautiful redesign,” developers can integrate their apps directly into Maps:
Now open to developers with new extensions, apps like OpenTable can integrate bookings right into Maps, and services like Uber and Lyft can make it easier for users to book a ride, without ever leaving the Maps app. Maps is even smarter with new intelligence that proactively delivers directions to where you most likely want to go next, based on your routine or appointments on your calendar. Once a route is planned, Maps can search along the route for gas stations, restaurants, coffee shops and more and provides an estimate of how the stop impacts the length of your trip.
Apple’s Eddy Cue suggested a scenario where a user can search for and book a restaurant, call a ride

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Google Maps Rolls Out Upgrades For iOS: Gas Prices, Busy Times, Offline Navigation

Google has updated Maps on iOS so that its features are more in line with its Android sibling. The updated features, some of which have already been announced and rolled out, include offline maps and navigation, busiest venue/store hours and gas prices.
While other mobile apps have offered gas prices in the past, this small update adds convenience and utility, enabling users to locate stations and simultaneously compare prices.

Another small but useful addition to Maps for iOS, previously only on Android, is store traffic graphs. These visually illustrate when the venue or business location is likely to be busiest. This is like Google car traffic data, but for foot traffic. The company captures the data from “anonymized and aggregated visits to places from Google users who have opted-in to sharing location data.”

The most significant of the three recent upgrades to Google Maps on iOS is offline maps and navigation. This feature, pre-announced at Google’s developer conference, started to

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Foursquare Joins Apple Maps Data Sources As Company Builds Out Ecosystem

Apple continues to improve its mapping product by adding new features and content, albeit often under the radar. Last year, reviews and content from and TripAdvisor began to show for locations and travel destinations, especially outside the US. In June of this year, the company introduced public transit routing as part of iOS 9 Apple Maps upgrades.
Today, Andrew Shotland noticed that Foursquare had been officially added as a business listings provider to Apple Maps’ acknowledgements and copyright page. It should be noted that not all the providers on that page are equally used or weighted. It’s never been entirely clear which sources Apple leans on more heavily. However, Apple clearly sees value in Foursquare’s data, even though some of it will likely be duplicative of existing data sources.
In October this year, Apple’s Dan Servos spoke at the SIINDA conference in Prague, with Bruno Berthezene of Solocal Group. This was the first time, to my knowledge, that

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Apple Devices Driving More Search Than Android In US — [comScore]

This week at SMX East I moderated a session called The New Search Landscape, which asked what the near term future of search will look like. It was a very lively and interesting discussion. For a full overview of the session read Casie Gillette’s recap.
At the outset, however, comScore’s Eli Goodman presented some overview data. It was predominantly about the impact of mobile devices on search activity. The several charts below are from his presentation.
Desktop search is flat or declining. Even though there is some “time-spent” growth on desktop or laptop computers, search appears to have peaked; query volume growth is now all mobile (including tablets).
Search queries coming from tablets are showing the highest growth but that’s because they are growing from a smaller base. As a matter of absolute query volume, there’s more search happening on smartphones.

What’s interesting in the following chart is that comScore says there are still more queries coming from PCs than mobile

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Apple Brings Public Transit, New Search Capabilities To Maps

As anticipated, at its WWDC conference today, Apple introduced public transit routing as part of iOS 9 Apple Maps upgrades. It also introduced new local search capabilities, which are part of a broader search initiative that we discuss separately.
The company did not announce anything new regarding indoor mapping however. Enhanced indoor location capabilities and content were among the rumored upgrades to Apple Maps.
Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi began his discussion of the new mapping features with two stats:

5 billion map user requests per week
Apple Maps is used 3.5X more than the “next most-used mapping app” (which is Google)

He then introduced public transit information, which can be accessed manually and via Siri query. Google of course has had this information in its mapping product for several years.
Initially public transit information in Apple Maps will only be available for 10 cities outside of China.

By comparison Apple is providing public transit information for more than 300

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Report: Apple Using Camera-Equipped Minivans To Capture Map Data

It’s a very safe bet that Google has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Google Maps and Street View. While many people regard Street View as eye candy, it has actually served a more important function: capturing real-world geo-data for Google Maps.
Now Apple appears to following in Google’s tire tracks.
According to an article in 9to5 Mac the mystery of the earlier Apple minivan sightings has been solved. Speculation at the time was that these vans were either capturing Street View-like images or that this was part of Apple’s nascent effort to build a self-driving vehicle. The answer is neither, says 9to5 Mac, although Street View imagery is potentially part of the equation.

The 9t05 Mac article asserts these vans are helping Apple “develop[ ] its first entirely in-house mapping database to reduce its reliance on TomTom” and that a Street View-like body of images will potentially be a byproduct of the process. This is all part of a broad set of Apple Maps upgrades

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Report: Apple May Launch Google Now Competitor At June WWDC Event

According to an extensive report in 9to5 Mac Apple is about to bring to market a Google Now and potential search competitor, with comparable “predictive search” functionality. Microsoft’s Cortana also features predictive capabilities that Apple’s Siri lacks.
The new capability, allegedly codenamed “Proactive,” is built partly on Apple’s acquisition of personal virtual assistant Cue (founded as Greplin), in late 2013 for an estimated $35 million to $45 million. Like Google Now and Cortana, Cue used emails, contacts other on-device content to present an overview of to-dos, upcoming meetings and other information such as flight reservations.
According to 9to5 Mac, Proactive will provide time-sensitive and relevant contextual information and become a successor to Spotlight search (although chances are the Spotlight name will be retained; Proactive is too close to acne medication Proactiv).
Beyond the above, the new capabilities will include augmented reality content in Apple Maps:
Like Google Now, Proactive will automatically provide timely information based on the user’s data and device usage patterns, but

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Uber Teams Up With Baidu For HERE Maps, Apple Buys More Coherent Navigation

When Nokia announced HERE Maps was for sale it sought to generate interest from multiple buyers to drive the price up. That now appears to be happening.
Bloomberg is reporting that Uber and Baidu have teamed up, as multiple parties are now bidding for the mapping unit:
Uber Technologies Inc. is teaming up with Baidu Technologies Inc. and Apax Partners to pursue Nokia Oyj’s maps business, people with knowledge of the matter said, as a bidding war for the unit intensifies.
Another group, comprising China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd., NavInfo Co. and Swedish buyout firm EQT Partners AB, is also bidding for the unit, which may fetch as much as $4 billion, three of the people said, asking not to be identified because negotiations are private.
Microsoft Corp. has offered to buy a minority stake, while three U.S. private-equity firms — Hellman & Friedman, Silver Lake Management and Thoma Bravo — are also in the running, the people said.
Previously it was reported

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