VentureBeat by Chris O'Brien, June 27, 2019

Google and Apple loom so large over the field of digital mapping that it’s understandable why it may seem they represent the beginning and the end of this market. But the demands of a wide range of services such autonomous vehicles and smart cities are giving rise to a new generation of mapping competitors who are pushing the boundaries of innovation.

The fundamental approach to mapping used by the two giants, mixing satellite imagery and fleets of cars roaming the streets, is becoming archaic and too slow to meet the fast-moving needs of businesses in areas like ecommerce, drones, and forms of mobility. These services often have very specific needs that require real-time updates and far richer data.

To address these challenges, new mapping companies are turning to artificial intelligence and crowdsourcing, among other things, to deliver far more complex geodata. This increasing diversity and competition is the catalyst behind a global mapping market that is growing more than 11% annually and is expected to be worth $8.76 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research.

Google Maps triggered a revolution when it was launched in 2005. The embeddable, adaptable mapping service quickly supplanted then-leader Mapquest, which had built its early lead on static maps that provided directions. In 2012, Apple broke with Google to create its own maps, which were initially regarded as a disaster, though they have continued to improve in quality.

The problem with both models is that the world around them is accelerating faster than these leaders are evolving. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that Google Maps is filled with an estimated 11 million fake business listings, delivering a serious blow to its credibility. In response, Google said it took down 3 million fake listings last year, and continues to step up its efforts, while also insisting fake listings have existed pretty much since printed directories of businesses.

Meanwhile, the use cases for maps continues to explode. Cities are turning to smart parking, planners are relying on mapping data to make infrastructure decisions, and delivery services need more granular information that is up-to-the minute. Other businesses are using geotargeting in marketing and ecommerce. And of course, autonomous and connected vehicles need sophisticated mapping for information.

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