Apple has been focused on considerably improving its Maps app ever since its debacle launch back in 2012. And it’s been successful: Apple’s Maps is now packed with great features, thanks in part to Apple’s army of minivans recording on-the-ground data. But it’s still not on par with Google Maps, so Apple is in the process of devising a new plan.
According to Bloomberg, the company is reportedly planning to use drones to provide fresh data to update its Maps services like traffic conditions, road sign changes, and construction updates, and other information that car cameras would have difficulty photographing.
Last summer, Apple asked the Federal Aviation Administration’s for permission to fly its drones for commercial purposes, back when that was restricted. Now the FAA has regulations set in places for commercial drones. However, these same regulations forbid companies from flying drones over buildings or people.
Apple isn’t just trying to beat Google at its own outdoor mapping game. The company also wants to compete in indoor mapping, which would help us to use iPhone to find our way around large, busy buildings like airports and museums. The technology comes from indoor mapping based company Indoor.io, which Apple acquired last year.
Apple has been keen on indoor location-tracking for years, using the iBeacon protocol with indoor positioning to permit venues to send alerts when people are by the side of a physical Bluetooth location, and have Bluetooth turned on with the company’s installed app.
This same scenario was in action in 2013 with MLB’s At the Ball park app in CitiField, the home of the New York Mets.
Google Maps has indoor maps already, and it’s unclear if Apple’s will be more sophisticated or simply on par with the competition. Either way, Apple’s rumored Maps upgrades are significant, and a sign that Tim Cook and Co. really are betting big on services-even ones that don’t contribute outright to the company’s bottom line.