Apple Maps News: Transit, 5B Users Requests per Week

Apple announced yesterday at their worldwide developer conference that its Maps app is now getting 5 billion users requests per week, being “3.5 times more used than the nearest mapping app“ (likely Google Maps).

Apple is also slowy but surely improving this app. They finally announced they will offer transit information in 10 major cities in Europe and America as well as more than 300 cities in China in the next version of its mobile map application – available in iOS 9 to be launched this Fall.

Baltimore, Berlin, Chicago, London, Mexico City, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington D.C are the first cities in Europe and North America where transit data will be available.

While there is not much innovation in adding transit data (everybody around from Google to Here to many startups have done that), Apple has put a lot of attention in displaying map details of train and metro stations, particularly the entrance and elevators to these stations and the underground footprint of these.

Some of the new transit features will also be extended to the Apple Watch, for example time left until the next train.

On a side note, Apple Maps will also indicate in its POI cards whether if Apple Pay is accepted: 1 million locations in the United States by the end of the month, and 250,000 locations in the United Kingdom when it launches next month.

BLE Beacons Use Cases for Disabled People

Micro-location use cases with Bluetooth beacons are lot limited to the retail environment and to marketing targets. Two use cases in United Kingdom and Romania are demonstrating the versatility of presence and micro location in scenario such as banking or transport.

Speaking this week at a LBS conference in London, Kathryn Townsend, responsible for the accessibility program at the British bank Barclays, highlighted their use of iBeacon technology to help their customers with special need.

First trialled at Barclays Sheffield branch six months ago, the Beacon service called Barclays Access, notifies staff when a customer with an accessibility need (with sight, hearing, speech disabilities) enters the branch.

Visitors are able to opt-in to the service by supplying information about their requirements via an iPhone app without needing to state their requirements again and again when they do some banking interaction.

Barclays Access also allows customers to upload a photo, allowing staff to identify them as soon as they enter the premises which makes the customers interact easily with the staff if they find any difficulties.

Bucharest transport system

A few days ago an initial fleet of 40 buses and trolleybuses circulating in Bucharest, Romania have been fitted with bluetooth beacons as part of a total roll out of 500 beacons expected later this summer.

These beacons will guide people with visual disabilities to independently use the Bucharest public transport network.

The use case is built along the following steps. The user leaves from home after setting the mobile application (Android or iOS) to follow the bus lines that are covering the route he wants to move on.

Then the bus (equipped with a uniquely identified iBeacon) approaches the station where the user is already waiting. The iBeacon installed on the bus continuously emits a radio signal, at a steady standard frequency.

When the vehicle is approaching at a distance of 50â€?60 meters (depending on the surroundings), the user’s mobile phone receives a notification saying that the wanted bus is coming. The notification is delivered with a specific audio signal and the voiceâ€?over application on the phone reads the notification’s text to the user.

When the bus arrives in the station, a buzzer, located in the iBeacon enclosure, will repeatedly broadcast a Beep signal, knowing from the mobile application and the cloud platform that a passenger interested in that bus line is in the station. Thus, the user can precisely identify the desired bus, if more vehicles arrive simultaneously in the same station.

After the user goes on the bus, notifications and buzzer sound signals will automatically stop. The process repeats when the person reaches another bus station and notifies the application that he expects a vehicle from another transit line.


Google Closes Down Map Editing Tool Temporarily

After experiencing several pranks from contributors on its Maps, Google has announced this week to have temporarily closed down Google Map Maker, its map editing tool for consumers.

“As some of you know already, we have been experiencing escalated attacks to spam Google Maps over the past few months. The most recent incident was particularly troubling and unfortunate – a strong user in our community chose to go and create a large scale prank on the Map. As a consequence, we suspended auto-approval and user moderation across the globe, till we figured out ways to add more intelligent mechanisms to prevent such incidents,“ the company stated in a blog post.

One of the most recent pranks was the addition on the map of an “Edwards Snow Den,“ in one of the aisle of the U.S. President White House.

This demonstrates the limit of using an automated review system for consumer-made map edits when you are a company such as Google. But this does not mean consumer-made map edits are low quality by nature.

Openstreetmap (OSM), which is fully ran by volunteers (more than 2 million members), is not much subject to pranks and malicious edits. There are several reasons to that.

First, unlike Google, OSM public profile is very low, so there is not much interest to make fun out of OSM.

Second, OSM has a very strong community with many hands at play. Unlike Google which wants – for obvious cost reason – to reduce as much as possible human interaction to validate map edits, an entity such as OSM does not have this kind of problem. Power users in the community are keeping under watch possible mistakes from beginners. Just like Wikipedia, the community is moderating itself

Third, OSM is a not-for-profit, which means map editors are much more concerned by what they do compared to edits made on a commercial map.

The problem of Google in this matter is that is has been willing to play on both sides of the fence. On one side Google is a commercial map vendor licensing – or advertising through – its data and therefore promising a high level of quality.


Interview with Mapillary: Crowdsourced Street-Level Images

Mapillary was first known as a mobile app and website for crowdsourced geotagged pictures, used by Openstreetmap volunteers.

But when the start-up raised $1.5 million in January with Sequoia as a lead investor, we thought there was more than a nice crowdsourcing project.

GPS Business News gets the full story from its CEO and founder Jan Erik Solem.

GPS Business News: Who are you and what led you to create Mapillary?

Jan Erik Solem: I come from a computer vision background. Did my PhD, started a face recognition company that got acquired in 2010 (i.e. acquired by Apple where Solem worked thereafter). I’m a researcher at heart but I want to see research results integrated in products that people see and use everyday and that hopefully have an impact on their lives.

Mapillary comes from an idea I have had for many years, since my PhD days. A photo representation of places that anyone can contribute to that improves and grows. Something that generates a new representation with the photos as input.

When I quit my job in the summer of 2013, the timing felt right for a crowdsourcing application to realize this idea and I started building the first prototype. A few months later, in September 2013, Mapillary was born with two co-founders. A few months later we launched the service and a fourth co-founder joined to form the core team.

GPS BN: Now let’s talk a bit about Mapillary: what is the idea, what is the end goal and what stage have you reached now?

Jan Erik Solem: The long term goal is to have the best photo representation of every place people care about. Map the world with photos in a way that improves the view and map with every new photo.

Right now we are at a point where the technical platform is in place and scales nicely, usage growth is picking up worldwide, and we’re starting the first real commercial integrations.

GPS BN: you talked about usage growth, can you give me some metrics about that, I meanapp downloads, pictures uploaded, users, …?

Jan Erik Solem: We’re getting about 500,000 photos per week currently and 20% user growth month to month. More than 10 million in total.

GPS BN: Crowdsourcing street level photos is nice but what is the business behind that? You have services and products for businesses?

Jan Erik Solem: Our services are free for personal and non-commercial use. We also give OpenStreetMap rights to derive data for free. For commercial use we offer a Saas service consisting of APIs for photos, data, hosted private projects and more.

GPS BN: what type of customers are you specifically targeting for your B2B services, what is the problem you are solving for them?

Jan Erik Solem: We’re providing a low cost, flexible solution as a replacement or complement to professional street view use where the customer can control data capture. For example cities to use for city planning, street inventory, etc.

We’re also providing data for companies in mapping and navigation through our APIs.

GPS BN: More specifically you have developed a traffic sign recognition software, what shall we know about that?

Jan Erik Solem: We’re a team of computer vision PhDs so we build all our vision technology in house. In this case a sign detection and recognition framework that we trained on EU and US traffic signs. It is a flexible system where we will add more continents and geographic regions soon.

We run this on all images immediately as they come in to our system so if you have API access and monitor traffic sign data in a region, you will get updates as soon as someone uploads a photo from that area, worldwide.


Indoor Loc Vendor SenionLab Raised $1.8M in A-Round

Swedish indoor positioning start-up SenionLab announced a series A round of funding of $1.8 million (SEK 15 million) from SEB Venture Capital.

SenionLab is using Wi-Fi, its own Bluetooth beacons and motion sensors in smartphones to calculate a position with 1 to 5 meter accuracy.

SenionLab was launched in 2010 by six researchers from Linköping University (Sweden) with a core knowledge in signal processing and sensor fusion systems acquired by its founders in automotive and avionics.

The company claims more than 250 installations in 32 countries in multiple verticals, including shopping malls, hospitals, and airports. The company made its first deployments in Asia, working in close partnership with wireless operator Singtel.

Parkopedia CEO: “Location-Based Marketing Initiatives Are on the Rise“

Parkopedia’s mobile app works in 52 Countries, across 6,308 towns & cities with no fewer than 38,018,466 parking spaces… It can be accessed online, by SMS, as a mobile app or inside the car navigation systems of some of the world’s most recognized car brands.

Eugene Tsyrklevich, Founder and CEO, was bitten by the entrepreneur bug in 90’s and can now proudly claim the creation of Parkopedia – the Wikipedia for parking.

Our partner, the LBS 2015 event caught up with him in order to find out what the future holds for one of the most advanced location-based apps in the market…

LBS 2015: How long have you been involved in the location-based services space?

Eugene Tsyrklevich: Parkopedia was founded in 2009 and LBS played a key role from the start. We provide automotive OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers with parking services which allow drivers to find and pay for parking in 6,000 cities and 45 countries based on their current location or selected location.

Parkopedia services are now available both as an in-car application (iOS/Android/HTML5) and as a standalone service which can be white-labelled and integrated directly into the navigation system. We use LBS for our real-time space availability info: either through sensors, or barriers in a car park or through users checking in and out of a location and notifying us through the app.

LBS 2015: What’s changed over the last couple years?

ET: The focus has changed regarding what people search for and how they search for it. It’s no longer about what you are looking for but about where you are located and what is around you.

We’ve started to see drivers use more than one mode of transport for daily journeys; which in turn means they need info on more than one location. Drivers are starting to embrace public transportation in conjunction with driving more and more. Location-based service apps, such as the ones Parkopedia develops, help drivers choose suitable public transportation hubs to reach their destination. You could say that Parkopedia helps drivers make location based decisions using various location criteria.

LBS 2015: What is your crystal ball prediction for LBS in the next 12-18 months?

ET: At Parkopedia, we hope to see more tightly integrated services which reduce distraction and provide a better user experience. Instead of drivers having to use one app for navigation, one for traffic and another one for parking or fuel, we hope to see these services becoming far more integrated into one consistent and user-friendly service based on the location a driver is currently in or heading towards.

Another exciting space is that of smart Cities/ Municipalities. They have started to use LBS for traffic management/ traffic planning by integrating information and communications technology (ICT) into their transportation framework. Some of the data they require could be anonymous location data which is transmitted from the car en-route to a location.


Combain Provides Cell-ID and WiFi Positioning to Mozilla (Podcast)

Cell ID and WiFi Positioning supplier Combain has announced a deal with Mozilla to supply its service to Firefox and Firefox OS users globally.

Combain will provide fallback services for Mozilla’s Location Service, allowing them to send location queries that don’t meet an acceptable level of accuracy to Combain for further refinement. Indeed Mozilla launched its Mozilla Location Service in 2013 using crowdsourced information, it however still lacks the coverage of companies like Combain or Skyhook Wireless.

“We are excited to work with Mozilla and provide world class coverage and accuracy for Mozilla’s Location Service” said Bjorn Lindquist, CEO Combain Mobile. “With Mozilla’s data and our new positioning algorithms, we will be able to further improve Combain Positioning Service (CPS), which in turn will benefit all Firefox and Firefox OS users globally.”

To know a bit more about this deal and the latest development in indoor positioning at Combain, GPS Business News spoke with Rikard Windh, vice president business development at Combain. Besides the deal with Mozilla he gave us the latest news from Combain, including their work on indoor geo-location and the growth they see working with IoT and M2M platform vendors.

Listen to or download the podcast below:

xAd CEO Dipanshu Sharma: “Advertising is Shifting from Mobile to Local“

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Dipanshu Sharma, CEO and founder of location-based mobile advertising network xAd answered to the questions of GPS Business News.

Created a bit more than five years ago xAd is now a little over 200 people in 7 countries, profitable for the last two years and doubling its revenue (undisclosed) every year. The company currently access an inventory of 30 Billion impressions and 300 million unique users every month.

Dipanshu Sharma sees a lot of opportunities in hyper local marketing, much more than in mobile advertising where the business is in the hands of big publishers such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Watch the whole interview below:

Nextome: Bluetooth Indoor Location Made in Italy

Europe has proved to be a fertile ground for start-up delivering innovation in indoor geolocation. Pole Star, Insiteo, Sensewhere, and a few others are testimonials of that. And so is a newcomer, Nextome (pronounce “Next-to-me“), a provider of indoor geo-location based on bluetooth radio signal technology.

The company, based in Bari, South of Italy, was created by five young graduates from the University of Bari (Università degli Studi di Bari), who transformed an academic proof of concept into a start-up company.

To learn a bit more about the company, its technology and business model, GPS Business News discussed with Vincenzo Dentamaro, the CEO at Nextome.

GPS Business News: What’s the business of Nextome?

Vincenzo Dentamaro: Nextome provides a sub-meter accuracy indoor positioning SDK for third party developers and companies that want to create applications leveraging state of art technology and avoid reinventing the wheel. Nextome technology is also designed to be a service installed into the smartphone that notifies the position to the applications. When we think at Nextome and its business, we think at something like the advertised "Intel Inside" but "Nextome Inside" technology.

GPS BN: What kind of technology have you developed?

VD: We deliver an accurate indoor positioning and navigation system using both Apple compatible iBeacons as existing infrastructure and off­ the­ shelves smartphones such as iPhone or Android. Our accuracy of indoor positioning goes from 0.8 meter to 1 meter, but often we reach 0.5 meter of error with enough number of iBeacons in the environment.

Nextome is the fusion of different patent pending technologies created by our research: a novel localization methodology called MLV3 that limits the multipath fading effect by removing the noise caused by Bluetooth signal bouncing on the walls, floor, furnitures and people moving around. In this way is possible to calculate the right location by using an advanced machine learning approach relying only on the true signal.

Nextome also uses an intelligent inertial step recognition algorithm, called IntelliWalk, capable of understanding when and where the user is moving, the step size, the orientation and the motion model of the user while walking using accelerometer, magnetometers, gyroscope and compass already present in the smartphone.

Nextome technology and all localization algorithms run within the smartphone without making a continuous polling to the server, in fact we do not even need an internet connection making the indoor navigation possible even in those buildings that are not covered by an internet connection as often happens in exhibitions or underground museums. In this way there are no delays caused by a slow connection or by an excessive workload on the server side.

Our technology is patent pending in Europe.


TrackR Bluetooth Tag Sold with Luxury Designer Wallet at Macy’s

U.S. retailer Macy’s is now selling a $100 leather wallet from Royce Leather together with a Bluetooth tracking tag from TrackR.

The TrackR wallet tag uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to connect to a dedicated smartphone app. The smartphone owner can remotely action the ring on its TrackR, locate the current (if within BLE reach) or the last location known of its wallet. Otherwise it can rely on other TrackR users that might approach the location of the lost wallet and automatically send an alert to the owner.

This later feature obviously will require a very large number of TrackR apps in the field to reach a probability to find back your lost valuables this way.