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Apple Acquires HopStop and Locationary
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Apple Acquires HopStop and Locationary

In an apparent bid to bolster iOS Maps, Apple confirmed late last week that it has acquired the startups Locationary and HopStop. The terms of the deals weren’t disclosed.

- How the Apple Maps Fail is a Win for Crowdsourcing

Locationary is a Toronto-based startup that uses crowdsourcing for local business listings. The company built the federated data exchange platform Saturn, which helps companies “exchange information on local businesses with each other” in real time. It collects information like location, hours of operation, daily deals, and job postings.

HopStop is a New York-based public transit application that’s been around since 2005. It has roughly two million monthly active users and recently launched a crowdsourced HopStop Live! feature that lets individuals report delays and other information to peers.

When the company launched the feature in April, CEO Joe Meyer made the point that HopStop’s large userbase gave it a distinct advantage when it comes to crowdsourcing information:

The real-time public transportation space has attracted so much attention over the past twelve months with a countless number of new transit apps all professing to have the answer to real-time. The problem with the vast majority of these is that as impressive and headline-grabbing as their goals or claims may be – they all lack the critical ingredient for any crowd-sourced service to be useful – a big enough crowd of endemic users. Over the past nine years, HopStop has grown to be the biggest independent player in the transit routing market, and today’s launch of HopStop Live! will leverage our large user base and strong commitment to product excellence to define the future of real-time public transportation information.

While it's true that the company's userbase gives it an advantage over its competitors, the Live! feature doesn't seem to be getting much use yet, at least in the New York area. HopStop is strongest in public transportation directions, which Apple Maps does not (yet) support, making it rather futile in urban areas.

The acquisitions are yet another validation of the power of crowdsourcing for mapping applications. The leader in this space is Waze, which was recently acquired by Google for a billion dollars; Apple and Facebook were also reported to have been interested in purchasing the Israeli startup.

As one of our prescient correspondents wrote back in October, the debacle surrounding the Apple Maps launch was a good sign for crowdsourced map startups, as it showed that when “embarking on one of the great distributed knowledge projects of our age, it's okay to ask for a little help from the crowd.”

It seems that, with their latest acquisitions, Apple and Google are beginning to cozy up to the thought of crowdsourcing as a way to ensure information is accurate and up-to-date. 

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