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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Replaces Tele Atlas Data in US with Google StreetView Data

There has been a lot of activity of late in Google Maps with rollout of Places and its attendant controversy, tests of the new Local Listing Ads, Ads in the iPhone, Streetview in Canada & the Czech Republic and lots, lots more. I was at SMX East when Google Maps announced both more detailed Maps and the new Maps error reporting and updating tool.

That announcement in the LatLong Blog though was as interesting for what it didn’t include as what it did. One tidbit that has flown under the radar and was not mentioned in the blog post is that Google Maps has replaced their primary geospatial data provider in the United States, Tele Atlas, with their own data gathered from their StreetView cars.

According to the article a Tele Atlas spokesperson provided this statement on rumors that were floating around the Location Intelligence Conference last week:

“Tele Atlas confirms that Google has decided to stop using Tele Atlas map data for the U.S. Google will now use its own map data. Our relationship with Google for map coverage continues outside of the U.S. in dozens of geographies.”

It was only last year that Tele Atlas and Google signed a long term deal for Tele Atlas to replace Navteq as Google’s sole third party road data provider. In January of this year, after the late 2008 widespread expansion of Streetview in the US I theorized that Google could very well be on the road to replacing TeleAtlas as their supplier.

It is interesting to speculate on the move. Certainly, Tele Atlas’s data quality in the US has not been very high. Complaints about map quality in the forums, which started immediately upon Google using Tele Atlas data, were frequent and have continued. Reports of wrong street names, missing townships and use of very old mapping information were not uncommon. Despite powerful new feedback systems by Tele Atlas, time to repair these errors has often been 6 to 8 months, if ever, leading to additional complaints. It appears that Google’s new map error reporting mechanism can lead to map fixes within 24 hours. The forums, while picking up on the recently changed data, have been surprisingly quiet, given the magnitude of the change. It is also interesting to speculate on why Google was not forthright about this change.

This action speaks very loudly to both Google’s long term intentions in the Maps environment and provides interesting clues as to their immediate capabilities. It portends shakeups in the mapping business and positions Google as a major worldwide player in both delivery Map data and collecting it. It took Google roughly 10 months from rollout of their expanded US Streetview data to delivery of a fully functional Mapping product with routing. Can the rest of the world be far behind?

I hope to have a more in depth look at the implications of this move in another post.