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Wednesday April 27, 2011 9:46 pm

Okay, what’s up with Apple creating its own traffic database?

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Apple, Smartphones, Editorial, GPS

Apple traffic database

Buried in Apple's statement on how the iPhone tracks a user's location data, the company admitted it was collecting anonymous location information to create a "crowd-sourced traffic database" that will be part of a future "improved traffic service."

The thing is, there's already a traffic service on the iPhone, provided by Google. If a user launches the Maps app and selects "Show Traffic," the map overlays colors on roads that show traffic congestion. Google gets the traffic data by—surprise!—crowd-sourcing it, aggregating information from Google Maps users who have approved the app for location services on their mobile devices.

Apple's statement reveals that the company is working on its own version of such a service. Whether that service will be something that Apple will use to improve traffic in Google Maps, or if Apple will launch a competing maps app, or something else entirely isn't known. Apple didn't respond to multiple requests for comment on the topic.

The Google Maps app is one of the few that's baked into iOS—there's no way to remove it, and many other apps depend on it for map data. If Apple were to replace it with something else, it would have widespread repercussions for app creation and the developer community. However, the fact that Google hasn't brought Google Navigation—its full-fledged GPS navigator turn-by-turn instructions that's on Android—to iOS in the year and a half since its debut, may also be a factor. Apple may be planning on introducing its own GPS-like functions, which would technically be an "improved" service over what the Maps app currently offers.

Crowd-sourcing traffic data via cell phone has been around since at least 2007, when TeleNav launched the first such service for GPS devices. Since then, several similar services have debuted, including Google's, the short-lived Internet-enabled Dash Express GPS, and TomTom's recently launched connected GPSes, which boast "HD" traffic.

This article, written by Peter Pachal, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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