But does Apple know the way to San Jose?

Crowd-sourcing is being used to do everything from studying outer space to finding the best yakitori joint within 500 feet of where you’re standing.

Now Apple seems  poised to harness that same crowd-shared data to help us all keep from getting lost.

According to a post in MacRumors, Apple has applied for a patent to beef up its already prodigious mapping capabilities, tapping into feedback from folks already out there using the Maps app:

 

 The U.S. Patent and Trademark office has published an Apple patent application that pertains to expanded mapping features, including real-time crowd-sourced traffic information and user-based route ratings and reporting, reports AppleInsider.

 

If this all sounds familiar, it should. The patent, which was originally filed in 2011 and is titled  “User-Specified Route Rating and Alerts,” seems to resemble some of the more seductive features of Waze, a crowd-sourced mapping app that Apple was reportedly interested in buying, although Google actually DID buy it recently.

According to the report:

 

  The patent, which was originally filed in 2011, details a system in which Maps users offer “ratings for routes, streets and/or locations,” improving the company’s mapping capabilities through user feedback.

Here’s an excerpt from Apple’s patent application:

A system comprising: one or more processors; and a computer-readable medium including one or more sequences of instructions which, when executed by the one or more processors, causes: presenting a map display and a route on a mobile device; determining when the mobile device has reached a destination associated with the route; when the mobile device has reached the destination, displaying a prompt for input rating the route; and receiving user input comprising rating information for the route.

So it looks like Apple was way ahead of Waze? As MacRumor put it:

 Waze incorporates user feedback as well, using crowd sourced data to determine route details and travel times. Waze users can utiize the app’s feedback system to provide the company with reports on traffic accidents, road closures, location accuracy, and more. With a similar system in place, Apple could allow its users to provide feedback and ratings on route choices, which could then be used to optimize travel.

Apple’s patent also details a process that would see the company collecting real-time traffic alerts and then distributing it to other Maps users, providing on-the-fly updates to routing information.

Bottom line: between Google and Apple, it’s going to be harder than ever to lose someone, including yourself.

Patrick May Patrick May (308 Posts)

With more than 30 years on the front line of daily American journalism, I'm currently a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News, covering Apple and writing people-centric business stories from Silicon Valley.