Apple has acquired the Sweden-based "C3 Technologies," the company which has shown off its own remarkable 3D mapping application in the past (see screenshots below). The purchase amount was not revealed, but according to the first hand report the valuation of the company was put at a billion dollars, but based on Saab's 57.8% stake being valued at $150 million, the total value of the company looks to be more like a quarter of a billion.
According to reports, "C3 Technologies CEO Mattias Astrom, C3 Technologies CFO Kjell Cederstrand, and lead C3 Technologies Product Manager Ludvig Emgard are now working within Apple's iOS division. The leading trio, along with most of the former C3 Technologies team, is still working as a team in Sweden (interestingly, the division is now called "Sputnik"), where the C3 Technologies company was located prior to the Apple acquisition."
Apple has bought two other mapping companies, Placebase in 2009 and Poly9 in 2010. It seems beyond a doubt that they are deep into a skunk works operation to revamp their maps.
The addition of C3′s technology puts a powerful tool in Apple's hands, and of course takes that tool out of others'. Photorealistic 3D maps, likely with local business and deal overlays and traffic data (all areas where Apple has been buying companies, patenting ideas, or developing products), may be the major feature of the next release of iOS.
"Sputnik" is the name of the new team, and is based in Sweden, as C3 was originally. The reference to the early lead the commies (as we might have said at the time) had on the US during the space race is pretty clear.
Per C3 Technologies' official company description:
C3 Technologies is the leading provider of 3D mapping solutions, offering photo-realistic models of the world for search, navigation and geographic information systems. Since 2007 when it was spun out of the aerospace and defense company Saab AB, venture-backed C3 has redefined mapping by applying previously classified image processing technology to the development of 3D maps as a platform for new social and commercial applications. The Sweden-based company's automated software and advanced algorithms enable C3 to rapidly assemble extremely precise 3D models, and seamlessly integrate them with traditional 2D maps, satellite images, street level photography and user generated images, that together are forever changing how people use maps and explore the world.
Although Apple and Google signed a deal to extend the use of Google Maps in iOS, Apple's purchase of Placebase could potentially replace the entire Google backend, allowing Apple to completely market iOS Maps as an end-to-end solution from the Cupertino-based company.
3D: With Apple's aquisitions of both C3 Technologies and Poly9, it's very likely that the future of iOS Maps will include a third-dimension.
Apple has gone on the record to say that they are working on an improved traffic service for end-users. "Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years," quoted Apple as saying.
The service is crowd-sourced and is another indicator of Apple moving away from Google in their iOS mapping services as Google currently supplies iOS Map's traffic data.
Apple - with the speedy custom made chips (A4, A5) in the latest round of iOS devices - could make their mobile mapping solution the best in the world with C3 Technologies' 3D mapping technology. C3's solutions are so powerful and remarkble, and would truly transform Apple's basic Google Maps application into something entirely new, fun, and powerful.
Watch the following videos demonstrating the work done by Apple acquried C3:
SAAB, partially a former owner of C3 Technologies has a video that explains how the technology actually works:
A virtual, 3D look at the Hoover Dam created by C3 Technologies
A fly-through over Oslo, Norway created by C3 Technologies