5 Geolocation APIs You May Not Have Heard Of
If you follow the tech space, you’re probably already familiar with the big geolocation services and know that they have APIs – things like Google Maps, Foursquare, Bing Maps and even the Twitter Geolocation API. Here are a few APIs that aren’t as well known, but could be extremely useful for organizations building applications and services that need location based context.
Geoloqi is a Portland, OR based startup offering a multifaceted geolocation service. It revolves around the idea of a “geofence” – when you pass into a certain area, Geoloqi can trigger various events. For example, you can trigger a reminder from your todo list when you are near a particular location, push a Wikipedia entry for a nearby location or send a text message letting them know you are nearby.
Geoloqi launched its API last summer, and it’s become the company’s focus, although it does have its own iPhone and Android apps. The API can be used to build very sophisticated geolocation features into apps.
InfoChimps Geo API Suite
InfoChimps offers several location APIs together known as Geo API Suite. Some of the data that you can access in a structured schema format include points of interest, demographics, neighborhoods and geographic boundaries, local purchasing behavior and weather.
SimpleGeo is actually entirely focused on its APIs and seems to compete pretty directly with InfoChimps on location data. It was acquired Urban Airship, a company that offers tools for mobile developers, in October.
SimpleGeo offers three APIs that can be used to add location features to other applications: SimpleGeo, SimpleGeo Context (which provides weather, demographics, or neighborhood data for a specific location) and SimpleGeo Places (a database of business listings and points of interest). It also offers a custom hosted location database.
There were some questions about what SimpleGeo’s focus will be post-acquisition, but Urban Airship CEO Scott Kveto has commented that the company will continue to provide geolocation services to developers. However, products and pricing may change in the near future. Urban Airship closed a fresh round of funding this month, so it should be in good shape.
Snapr is an app for sharing geo-tagged photos. Its API lets developers add location based photo sharing features to their apps. This could be an interesting API to combine with some of the other APIs on this list.
Stikki is a Las Vegas based bootstrapped startup that focuses on doing just one thing well: attaching virtual notes to physical places. For example, you can leave yourself private reminders attached to a particular location, or you can share a public story related to a place. Founder Joshua Ellis explained the concept in a blog post. Notably, Stikki is HTML5 does not require the use of a mobile device. It doesn’t even have any native apps yet.
To better do this one thing, Stikki launched with an API from day one. Like Snapr, it seems like something that would be interesting to combine with other APIs.
What many of these APIs have in common is a focus on providing the backend for other applications (Snappr and Stikki are exceptions here). Infrastructure apps, not to be confused with infrastructure-as-a-service, provide the ability to outsource certain components of an application to a cloud service. These applications converge with two other trends – API-first companies (such as Klout) and data-as-a-service (an emerging genre I’ll devote some time to exploring later).
Illustration by DonkeyHotey
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