Apple has acquired yet another mapping company, according to former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin. The company, Embark Inc., is a startup based in Silicon Valley that developed free transit apps for iOS and Android.
We don’t know how much Apple paid for the several-person team it acquired very recently. But we heard from people knowledgeable about the deal that the company plans to directly integrate Embark’s technology into Apple Maps.
Embark, founded in 2011, builds apps for mobile devices powered by Android and Apple’s iOS with information about transit systems in about half a dozen U.S. cities such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago. Its iOS apps are still available for download, but its Android apps aren’t, according to our checks.
Apple confirmed the acquisition, offering the same boilerplate statement it has issued on previous occasions when it acquired smaller companies:
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
When Apple made the switch to its own mapping system a year back, it had famously left out transit data, probably due to the lack of sources. To make up for that, the company had included a special section for third-party transit apps in the iOS 6 Maps app, which apps like Embark benefited from.
Transit had over half a million users and had an impressive set of investors including Y Combinator and the BMW group. Despite the large user base, the company wasn’t able to figure out a proper revenue model, which is one of the reasons why it chose to sell.
Embark’s iOS apps are still available on the App Store, so download them before they are removed to get an idea of the functionality Apple could add to the Maps app.