Apple plan to improve its Apple Maps data and design by using drones, indoor mapping and better car navigation according to a new report from Bloomberg. The app was first introduced in 2012 but did not get off to an auspicious start as the maps were full of errors and outdated. Apple Maps however have improved considerably since then and now include additional features like public transport routes.
The company have conceded that updating maps continuously is an onerous task as roads and buildings change constantly. They are therefore outsourcing work to thousands of employees in India and elsewhere to continually map data all around the world. Hitherto Apple, along with Google, relied on user reports and vehicles driving around in different countries. By using drones, they will be able to capture and update map data faster than before, including changes to roads, street signs, and construction. Apple are also reportedly putting together a new team in Seattle to implement the changes and are hiring robotics and data collection experts including one from Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery project.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted Apple a licence on March 22nd to operate drones for data collection, photography, and videography. However the drones can only fly in designated areas in accordance with current FAA rules and there are similar limitations in the UK. The company apparently are planning to buy drones from DJI and Aibotix and have committed to adhering to the official commercial drone guidelines introduced in August. It is not known if Apple are currently using drones in the U.S. or other countries as they not obliged to disclose this information. Apple however have confirmed to Bloomberg that they have acquired Indoor.io to supplement their earlier acquisition of WiFiSlam for indoor mapping.
Apple’s competitor, Google Maps, maps well-known malls, museums and public buildings. Apple are looking to do the same by using an indoor positioning system that uses an iPhone’s sensors to locate people within a building. People will now be helped to find their way through large public spaces like airports and museums. Buildings can pose a navigational challenge for electronic instruments and Apple will likely use a mix of pressure sensors, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth to fulfill this objective. For car navigation, Apple will be looking to upgrade their guidance systems while changing lanes. The introduction of these new technologies might take place next year.
Another new technology likely to be introduced by Apple to its camera app would be augmented reality (AR) which would enhance a live view of a city street by superimposing a map with directions, facts about surrounding buildings, and animated video game characters. Apple were granted a patent recently for this purpose and its goal is to provide consumers with futuristic spatial recognition and mapping, thereby throwing down the gauntlet to its competitor, Google Maps, to do the same.