Map Moves: Uber Buys deCarta, Maponics Grabs UMI, Google Ends Maps Engine

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Over the past several weeks there have been a number of map-related announcements. Two of them were acquisitions: Uber buying deCarta and Maponics acquiring most of the assets and name from Urban Mapping.

The pickup of deCarta is noteworthy in part as Uber’s first publicly announced acquisition. The San Jose company was a nearly 20 year veteran of the geospatial enterprise market and started out as Telcontar, later changing its name after a decade in enterprise mapping. The price of the acquisition was not disclosed.

Google Maps initially used Telcontar/deCarta when it first launched. Google later brought mapping in house and deCarta went head to head with Google for enterprise and developer business, trying to appeal to developers with more flexible policies and lower prices than what Google offered.

Beyond just mapping, deCarta provided search tools and turn-by-turn navigation. But after years of beating up on Google publicly, deCarta somewhat ironically sold its long-standing and broad “SoLoMo” patents to Mountain View in 2012.

Uber currently uses the Google Maps API. The deCarta acquisition may mean its replacement. I suspect, however, there are routing algorithm, navigation and other reasons that Uber picked up the company. According to reports, most deCarta employees including CEO Kim Fennell will stay on with Uber.

First reported by ZDNet earlier this year, Google has decided to shutter its Maps Engine product. Designed as a way to store and render enterprise or private geographic data on the Google base map, it was used by many enterprises. The company has said support will end on January 29, 2016: 

The Google Maps Engine API is deprecated. Support for the Google Maps Engine (GME) product ends on January 29th, 2016. You can use your existing GME project as well as the GME API until that date. After January 29th, 2016, GME will be deactivated and the API will therefore no longer be available.

A company called CartoDB is positioning itself as a replacement.

Finally, another story of mapping rivals. As mentioned, Maponics announced the acquisition of some assets of one-time rival Urban Mapping:

As part of the transaction the company will receive the complete Urban Mapping Neighborhood portfolio, including over 100,000 neighborhood boundaries spanning 40 countries; as well as the Urban Mapping trademark. The procurement of assets is part of Maponics’ broader strategy to deliver advanced geospatial solutions to the market.

At the height of their “neighborhood boundaries” battle a few years ago, Urban Mapping offered the more sophisticated product. Maponics’ simpler approach eventually won more business. (I was an advisor to Urban Mapping for a few years.)

Then Urban Mapping substantially pivoted into vertical enterprise applications and away from consumer-facing local search and directory businesses. However it retained a large and loyal client base in that segment, which was undoubtedly part of the appeal for Maponics.

The company did not sell all its assets, retaining its geotargeting technology platform called “GeoMods,” which Urban Mapping contends “dramatically increase[s] the effectiveness of online advertising through paid search and search engine optimization.” I suspect that product will also be sold at some point.

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