CloudMade Acquires Mobile Mapping Company, Goes Cross-Platform

Web and iPhone maps provider CloudMade can add a few more platforms to that list. Today it acquired German geospatial company One Step Ahead to incorporate Android, MeeGo and other mobile platforms to its suite of developer tools. CloudMade will also incorporate One Step Ahead's offline/online map technology, which passes a few map updates at a time.

CloudMade, which has several CloudMade APIs, has found developers more likely to use device-specific mobile SDKs, according to Nick Black, CloudMade's Head of Products. "CloudMade today is focused on the iPhone, but cross Platform is becoming increasingly important for mobile developers," Black said. That's where One Step Ahead comes in, as the company already has an offline navigation app for Android. An early version is demoed in the video below.

The offline maps were originally built to get around European mobile internet roaming charges. When all the data lives in the device, another outcome is that you can zoom, pan and search without the lag normally seen while waiting for the result from a service. One Step Ahead has also created offline/online hybrid maps that will receive new data when a connection is available. The new data might be changes to the map since the last download or to cover a new area where the device does not have a complete map. Rather than downloading entirely new data every time, as many maps do, offline/online hybrids "trickle little bits of updates," Black said.

It's complex technology to implement the trickling of updates and rendering maps from data on the device. CloudMade is probably right to abstract the process from the developer. When it comes to mobile, that's becoming a common way to distribute APIs, whether or not the underlying service is also made available.

One Step Ahead's Stuttgart headquarters will become CloudMade's second engineering office (the first is in Ukraine). The technologies will be merged in the next couple months, according to Black.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: Foursquare Photos and Comments Make More Robust API