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Apple reportedly acquires public transit and navigation firm HopStop [update: confirmed]

post #1 of 38
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Apple on Friday has reportedly purchased transit navigation service HopStop, which also has an iPhone app of the same name, in a possible bid to bolster its own in-house mapping solution.

Update: Apple has confirmed the acquisition to AllThingsD, but did not reveal what it plans to do with the mapping firm.

HopStop


Citing sources with knowledge of the deal, Bloomberg reports that Apple has just purchased HopStop, a localized public transit navigation service that could potentially be folded into the company's Maps iOS app, and the upcoming OS X Mavericks version.

If the report is accurate, HopStop's technology could by Apple to build out its Maps app, offering users directions for bus, train, subway and other transit options. The current version of Maps does not include such functionality, and instead points users searching for public transit routes toward third-party apps that can handle such tasks. Along with supporting transit information for over 300 major cities, HopStop also includes walking, car and bicycle routing.

News of the reported purchase comes just hours after Apple announced it had acquired Locationary, a tech startup that uses crowd-sourced data to offer accurate and up-to-date listings of local businesses.

Apple's Maps has been the source of much debate since it was launched with iOS 6 in 2012. Incorrect data, graphical glitches and navigation issues plagued the app during its first few months in the wild. The company is still working hard to bring the mapping solution up to snuff, as evidenced by today's acquisitions.
post #2 of 38
Public transit data would be a huge win for Maps! I won't need Google Maps any more.
Edited by ifij775 - 7/19/13 at 2:39pm
post #3 of 38
There must be a few small iOS mapping companies jumping up and down shouting, "me, me me."
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post #4 of 38
Definitely a step in the right direction. Looks like a slick, well-organised company.

I still don't see how they will ever get the bike and pedestrian info without adding a bazillion employees around the world though.
post #5 of 38
Wow, nice move Apple. Great acquisition.
post #6 of 38
Excellent! I recommend they buy the companies that created the apps Transit and Embark next.

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post #7 of 38
Bye Bye Google Maps, never liked you anyway.
post #8 of 38
Just like Yelp, however, no so great outside USA. I just asked it to route my daily commute in Sydney (supposedly supported) and it recommended a 2 hour journey to somewhere random. Start and destination are 25 minutes apart on the same train line.
post #9 of 38

YES YES YES. This is the best Apple news I've heard in a long time. Nice job Eddy!

post #10 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by noelos View Post

Just like Yelp, however, no so great outside USA. I just asked it to route my daily commute in Sydney (supposedly supported) and it recommended a 2 hour journey to somewhere random. Start and destination are 25 minutes apart on the same train line.

 This is different than Yelp since it's an acquisition. Apple can put more resources toward keeping Hopstop's routing info up to date.

post #11 of 38
I just downloaded and tested the app for some New York locations and it is very impressive.
It accurately combines walking instructions with bus routes and train / rails instructions very nicely.

Apple can do wonders with this.

Edited by AppleSauce007 - 7/20/13 at 6:27am
post #12 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by noelos View Post

Just like Yelp, however, no so great outside USA. I just asked it to route my daily commute in Sydney (supposedly supported) and it recommended a 2 hour journey to somewhere random. Start and destination are 25 minutes apart on the same train line.

You must select the correct transportation methods. If you select train only for example and you need to take a bus to the train, it assumes you want to walk to the train. You must select train and bus transportation and it will give you correct walking, bus and train instructions correctly. Very impressive application.
post #13 of 38
Great news.
post #14 of 38

I just tested it for Vancouver (Canada) and the recommended route was not the ideal choice, but the second suggestion was. Close enough. I call it a win!

post #15 of 38
Let's see...

 √ Point-to-point Navigation
 √ Crowd-sourced reliable POI data
 √ Transit/bicycle/walking data
 √ Best-in-class 3D Flyover Mapping
 √ Top-notch desktop mapping app
 √ Desktop Map / Mobile Map interaction
 √ Find iDevice, Find Friends Social Mapping
 √ iOS 7 & Mavericks Maps SDK
 √ Enhanced Location Services
 √ Multi-Layered Map overlays
 √ Custom Map Tiles
  - Programmable/Scriptable Map Traversal
  - Pictorial Summary Maps
  - Demographic Mapping
  - Improved searching
    Route Points, Track Points -- trip planning and tracking
    Improved world-wide satellite views
    Street view maps
    indoor mapping
    Web based maps app


I think Apple is in a pretty good position to become the goto mapping solution within the next 2-3 years -- I think they can buy companies or contract services to flesh out the missing bits.

I do hope that Apple does right by the developers who have followed Apple's guidance and created 3rd-party transit apps!
Edited by Dick Applebaum - 7/20/13 at 5:04am
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post #16 of 38
Smart purchase. HopStop is a good company on its own.
post #17 of 38
Next on Apple's to-do list.... Internet search supported by ad revenue.

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post #18 of 38
At one time I thought Apple might be bluffing Google on mapping. But it looks more and more that they're serious about taking them on. What's needed to seal the deal is some kind of killer map function that Google can't easily mimic. Not sure if that even exists.
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post #19 of 38

HopStop is indeed a great app.  And I'm sure the acquisition will go a long ways in improving Maps.

 

However, I liked Apple's original idea of leaving public transit to 3rd-party developers.  The companies that run the subways, buses, and other public transit are in the best position to create these apps—they have the resources and nuanced knowledge of their own systems.  They just need to get their asses moving, and fill in the gap.  Perhaps this is Apple's way to jumpstart the effort by showing the way.

 

I hope this doesn't mean Apple is changing strategies.

post #20 of 38

Buy Transit too, please.

post #21 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

At one time I thought Apple might be bluffing Google on mapping. But it looks more and more that they're serious about taking them on. What's needed to seal the deal is some kind of killer map function that Google can't easily mimic. Not sure if that even exists.

 

I think if they can just match them feature for feature, and on the same level of quality, Apple will "win."  Their solution is more elegant right out of the gate than Google's which is typically tasteless and confusing (or at least it was until they started copying Apple's approach this year.)  

 

I have serious doubts that Apple can achieve this however as they really just don't seem to want to spend the resources on it.  Buying technology, and companies and using crowd sourcing is one thing, but they still need to hire a lot of people around the world to really get their maps up to snuff compared to Google.  

 

I think that they need to at least expend as much human capital on it as Google does, but Apple has a long history and a firm belief in exactly the opposite.  Apple has always preferred to use very small groups of people working closely together in one room for pretty much all things, but mapping the world is arguably a task for absolutely huge groups of people working separately all over the globe. I don't see crowd sourcing as really cutting it for bicycle paths and pedestrian directions and even if it does, it will be a decade before the basic information is built up.  

post #22 of 38
Good. Because Google needs competition, right?

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post #23 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

At one time I thought Apple might be bluffing Google on mapping. But it looks more and more that they're serious about taking them on. What's needed to seal the deal is some kind of killer map function that Google can't easily mimic. Not sure if that even exists.

How about an eco system and set of device for users that work seamlessly and have the vast majority of users that actually have any money?
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
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post #24 of 38
Apple's new Maps app has very good integration with Google transit--it even lets me get transit routes between locations in my iPhone contacts, which Google's app alone won't do (and which I frequently need). But it's not AS great as it used to be with one single app.

This could solve the only reason I have ever launched Google Maps in many months.
post #25 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Let's see...

 √ Point-to-point Navigation
 √ Crowd-sourced reliable POI data
 √ Transit/bicycle/walking data
 √ Best-in-class 3D Flyover Mapping
 √ Top-notch desktop mapping app
 √ Desktop Map / Mobile Map interaction
 √ Find iDevice, Find Friends Social Mapping
 √ iOS 7 & Mavericks Maps SDK
 √ Enhanced Location Services
 √ Multi-Layered Map overlays
 √ Custom Map Tiles
  - Programmable/Scriptable Map Traversal
  - Pictorial Summary Maps
  - Demographic Mapping
  - Improved searching
    Route Points, Track Points -- trip planning and tracking
    Improved world-wide satellite views
    Street view maps
    indoor mapping
    Web based maps app


I think Apple is in a pretty good position to become the goto mapping solution within the next 2-3 years -- I think they can buy companies or contract services to foesh out the missing bits.

I do hope that Apple does right by the developers who have followed Apple's guidance and created 3rd-party transit apps!

 

Apple Maps will be the go to maps much sooner with iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks.

People are using mobile devices more than desktops and native apps gives a much better experience than web apps.

  • Indoor mapping is covered with WiFiSLAM purchase.

        http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/03/25/apples-20m-purchase-of-wifislam-snubs-googles-android-for-indoor-map-tech

  • Apple will out do street view with more consistent zoomable views from the outside.  (Fly over beats street view's inconsistencies in many ways already.)
  • Web based maps could be in iCloud but if you already have an OS X or iOS device you have a native app with much better experience.
post #26 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Good. Because Google needs competition, right?


Apple needs iSearch lol

post #27 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

At one time I thought Apple might be bluffing Google on mapping. But it looks more and more that they're serious about taking them on. What's needed to seal the deal is some kind of killer map function that Google can't easily mimic. Not sure if that even exists.

 

I think the Saturn software that was part of the Locationary buy they had earlier today would give Apple the "killer" feature Google can't easily mimic.

 

Saturn seems to search the web for all information about a business and then streamline the info into any format necessary.

 

For example, if a restaurant post on a website, facebook, and urbanspoon their hours of operation, specials, and menu Saturn can grab that information from the various sources then streamline it in order to display it to the end user.

 

That would be a powerful service. Yes Google Maps provides some of that but their searching algorithms are not as advanced as Saturn's and the ability to streamline the data sounds quite impressive to me.

post #28 of 38
Apple will gobble up HopStop's data and put it into Apple Maps. Hopefully, Apple will inject a bunch of cash into the HopStop staff and get them to add every city in the world with public transit's data to the Maps. Also, is it just me or does HopStop in its current form basically just use "paper schedules", and not dynamically adjust to minute-to-minute transit times?

Google has already moved on to cycling routes, which is awesome here in Europe, not to mention hiking trails all over north america at a level that Apple Maps isn't near yet - still a really long way to go for apple.
post #29 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superbass View Post

Apple will gobble up HopStop's data and put it into Apple Maps. Hopefully, Apple will inject a bunch of cash into the HopStop staff and get them to add every city in the world with public transit's data to the Maps. Also, is it just me or does HopStop in its current form basically just use "paper schedules", and not dynamically adjust to minute-to-minute transit times?

Google has already moved on to cycling routes, which is awesome here in Europe, not to mention hiking trails all over north america at a level that Apple Maps isn't near yet - still a really long way to go for apple.

Why do people think Apple need to match Google Map feature to feature to be successful? All Apple need to do to be successful is get the major things right: naming Direction, Transit, and POI. If all these are the most accurate out there, Apple Map will be very very successful. Walking, biking, hiking, all of these niches will be covered by a 3rd party apps. Apple doesn't need to do everything like Google.
post #30 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superbass View Post

Apple will gobble up HopStop's data and put it into Apple Maps. Hopefully, Apple will inject a bunch of cash into the HopStop staff and get them to add every city in the world with public transit's data to the Maps. Also, is it just me or does HopStop in its current form basically just use "paper schedules", and not dynamically adjust to minute-to-minute transit times?

Google has already moved on to cycling routes, which is awesome here in Europe, not to mention hiking trails all over north america at a level that Apple Maps isn't near yet - still a really long way to go for apple.

HopStop covers cycling routes.

Most people don't hike, so... :)

post #31 of 38
I have been playing with the HopStop app on my iPad and iPhone...

I am impressed!

The UI takes a little getting used to, but it gives good results AFAICT.


I haven't commuted in years -- But these worked:

• Toledo Ave St Louis Park, MN to 44th and France Minneapolis, MN (walk, taxi)
• Des Plaines, IL to Fox River Grove, IL (train)


I think where HopStop will really be a benefit is when the transit is combined with Apple Maps. For example, If you want to commute between Paris Gare De Lyon and Vincennes...

Apple Maps currently gives you 14-minute (traffic permitting) driving instructions via the Arc De Triomphe -- AIR, it was a 10-minute train ride in 1973.

Currently there is no Apple transit solution for this -- Google Maps Shows a single 5-minute train ride, but, oddly, doesn't give much detail (return, schedule, etc.).

With the addition of Locationary and HopStop to Apple Maps, I can see it fairly easy to target certain stations like Gare De Lyon and then crowd-source capture/maintain all the train schedules for that station...

It's just a matter of identifying and prioritizing...


Just for drill, I thought I take a stab at getting the train schedule between Gare De Lyon and Vincennes...


Again, I haven't used public transit for years and am out of touch with how/where to find train schedules, etd.

Anyway, it took me about 15 minutes to figure out the flow, and here's what I found:




Here's the thing... Once I got my feet wet, It was pretty easy to determine schedule (I didn't investigate ticket prices, passes, etc).

I can envision people working-from-home competing to earn (whatever) rewards/payment by creating and maintaining transit schedules all over the world. They could use:
  • Desktop Apple Maps (or any of the various web maps) to locate POIs Stations, etc.
  • Web Browsers to research and gather schedules and other transit info
  • Enter and maintain the transit/POI/Schedule data using the Locationary APIs
  • Verify the data using Apple Maps, Locationary and HopStop.

Once entered and verified, Apple would be notified and could approve/expose the data to all users of maps -- and reward/pay the creator for his efforts!

Ah... shit! I just realized that these "Apple Map Content Creators" are just "Apple Developers" by another name -- and the infrastructure already exists within Apple to approve and distribute the content and pay the creators. *

* Ha! Maybe that's why the Apple Developer Sites are down for so long!


And much of the transit data is ephemeral for particular user/uses... I Only needed the Vincennes train schedule for a 2-week business trip to Paris... Others may never need it!

So, for mobile you would likely download and cache only the transit data to satisfy your anticipated, current and recurring needs -- but for trip planning on the desktop or web, you would want all the transit info searchable from Apple's Servers... so you could compare alternate travel options, etc.
Edited by Dick Applebaum - 7/20/13 at 10:27am
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post #32 of 38
I like this app "transit". Hopstop UI was just garbage but their data is probably the best. Apple will obviously integrate it to maps so hopstop UI issues won't be an issue.
post #33 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ny3ranger View Post

I like this app "transit". Hopstop UI was just garbage but their data is probably the best. Apple will obviously integrate it to maps so hopstop UI issues won't be an issue.

Yes, Transit has a much better UI... But it uses Google Maps data.
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post #34 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by noelos View Post

Just like Yelp, however, no so great outside USA. I just asked it to route my daily commute in Sydney (supposedly supported) and it recommended a 2 hour journey to somewhere random. Start and destination are 25 minutes apart on the same train line.

 

The TripView Sydney app is as close to perfection as we are going to get.

post #35 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by am8449 View Post

However, I liked Apple's original idea of leaving public transit to 3rd-party developers.  The companies that run the subways, buses, and other public transit are in the best position to create these apps—they have the resources and nuanced knowledge of their own systems.  They just need to get their asses moving, and fill in the gap.  Perhaps this is Apple's way to jumpstart the effort by showing the way.

 

I hope this doesn't mean Apple is changing strategies.

 

Local transit agencies aren't app developers and most transit agency-produced apps are terrible. It's not related to their business at all. They're mostly government agencies structured to move people, not data. It's like having Apple develop a light rail side-business. Makes no sense. 

 

Offloading transit directions it to 3rd parties ensures that when you travel, you need to always be on the lookout for a new map app, learn the UI for a new map app and constantly switch back and forth between Apple Maps and the 3rd party app. It's not useful, it's not reliable and it's not elegant. It essentially treats millions of Apple users as second class customers who can't change their default map application, but must go through Apple Maps only to get kicked back out again. 

 

I'm not sure how updating the info for transit is somehow more of a burden on Apple than constantly updating the road maps for every street on Earth. Most agencies provide their timetables in an easily-parsable data stream.

 

I'm also not sure how "changing strategies" and including transit support somehow makes the app worse for you.

post #36 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

I can envision people working-from-home competing to earn (whatever) rewards/payment by creating and maintaining transit schedules all over the world. They could use:
  • Desktop Apple Maps (or any of the various web maps) to locate POIs Stations, etc.
  • Web Browsers to research and gather schedules and other transit info
  • Enter and maintain the transit/POI/Schedule data using the Locationary APIs
  • Verify the data using Apple Maps, Locationary and HopStop.

So, for mobile you would likely download and cache only the transit data to satisfy your anticipated, current and recurring needs -- but for trip planning on the desktop or web, you would want all the transit info searchable from Apple's Servers... so you could compare alternate travel options, etc.

 

Wait, what? 

 

You realize all this data is usually provided by the transit agencies through an API that feeds directly from their scheduling software, right? 

 

I'm not sure why so many people here have convinced themselves that mass transit schedules are some kind of esoteric, inscrutable data that cannot be obtained digitally and imported into mapping software on the fly, with minor tweaks here and there. 

 

It's not some monumental, burdensome task that needs to be crowd-sourced and copied from paper schedules. 

post #37 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Good. Because Google needs competition, right?

Yes, and they deserve a very large chunk of that sweet advertising revenue going into Apple's pockets instead.

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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post #38 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Yes, and they deserve a very large chunk of that sweet advertising revenue going into Apple's pockets instead.

Apple is getting better at tracking and gathering the same kinds of data on their users that Google does. The more Apple knows about "you" the more valuable they'll be to advertisers. They're getting there. Two big assists just this year in the form of Apple Maps and iRadio.
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