Apple’s expansion in India accelerates Maps development

Expect more features and more city views in Maps soon as Apple launches dedicated offices in India

Apple, iOS, iPhone, Maps, Apple Maps, INdia, OS X, software, WWDC

We can't yet see the new Maps R&D center in 3D.

Credit: Apple

It seems likely Apple will very soon extend Flyover support to a range of new cities, as the company this morning announced plans to a open a new Maps development hub in Hyderabad, India.

Maps to the future

“Apple is focused on making the best products and services in the world and we are thrilled to open this new office in Hyderabad which will focus on Maps development,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, promising more expansion ahead as the company deepens investment in India. “The talent here in the local area is incredible and we are looking forward to expanding our relationships and introducing more universities and partners to our platforms as we scale our operations.”

The level of the investment Apple is making in its Maps team isn’t trivial – the press release suggests it aims to employ 4,000 people for the project in Hyderabad, that’s a big number for a company that currently claims 100,000 employees worldwide, and comes as the company gets deep set into a wave of R&D-focused expansion.

The new facility is located on the state-of-the-art, green Waverock campus building, will “provide a world-class, LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) home for the expanding Maps team,” the company says. The campus is also situated in a local tech enterprise zone.

Talent acquisition

Apple’s move takes advantage of the depth of developer talent and high-quality infrastructure available in India. Across India, Apple claims to support over 640,000 iOS app developer jobs and other positions related to the iOS ecosystem. For Maps, Apple is working with a partner in India, RMSI, which has one of the largest inventories of India map data products in the industry and has also been ranked as India’s best tech firm to work for.

“Apple is one of the most innovative companies in the world and we are very proud they chose us to partner with for this important project,” said Anup Jindal, RMSI’s CEO. “We are experts in geospatial data and we will be hiring thousands of people from the local area to support this effort.”

What we can think about

Unlike some mapping products that confine their remit to transit, shopping and local information data, RMSI’s existing India-focused product portfolio combines conventional maps with far more extensive data sets based on census information, administrative atlases, guide and tourist maps, satellite imagery at various resolutions and additional public domain data.

RMSI offers one of the world’s largest databases of 3D building data, the kind of information you need in order to create Flyover views of cities. This makes it pretty likely Apple will rapidly introduce Flyover support for new locations, particularly in the APAC regions in which it is currently so very focused.

It will be interesting to see if Apple intends deploying some of the more sophisticated data sets being developed by its India partner within Maps. If so then it is relatively straightforward to imagine that Apple Maps will supplement its existing product with access to deeply valuable information such as altitude, flora & fauna, geological and demographics, with clear impacts on the education, tourism, and environmental markets. Apple’s new partner also develops products of use to climate change and disaster risk assessment, which could further extend the Apple Maps remit.

WWDC looms

One thing is for certain, Apple has made a range of announcements in recent weeks and many of these may have direct implications to plans it intends sharing at WWDC in a few weeks time. While pre-event rumor has been relatively sparse for WWDC 2016, the clouds are beginning to shift sufficiently to suggest the company will have some major initiatives it may feel ready to announce at the developer focused event.

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