Are you ready to learn a whole lot more about the world around you every time you launch a location-aware application? Countless apps are likely to get a lot of real-world data dumped into their databases thanks to two new data sources available for free as of today.
SimpleGeo, the closely-watched location data service now lead by a roster of Silicon Valley stars, launched into public beta today two free application programming interfaces (APIs) that offer a large amount of information about 13 million places in the United States. That information will be available for free, forever, to anyone building an application that needs local context.
Like a Veil Lifted From the Eyes of Your Apps
The SimpleGeo Context API provides a raw dump of boundary related information about any place, including neighborhoods, congressional districts, schools and nearby hospitals. It also offers weather and demographic information about those places. The SimpleGeo Places API offers Points of Interest about those places, like nearby restaurants, churches, parks, landmarks and more. The company says all this data will be free, forever.
How does SimpleGeo make money? With advanced services and service level agreements for larger clients for now, and later with subsequent products the company will launch if and when it can assemble a good group of developer users.
SimpleGeo co-founder Matt Galligan says the company has data about millions of places outside the US, but will expand first to Canada and the U.K. next. All data needs to be of the highest quality before being made available, he says.
Free and Extensive, In a Crowded and Expensive Market
For context of this launch, I'll refer to the context I provided when reporting last month that SimpleGeo had hired tech rock star Jay Adelson to be its CEO.
Putting a heavy hitter like Adelson in charge will help bolster the ambitious company's chances in a battle against a whole lot of competition and pseudo-competition, including entrenched enterprise geodata megaliths, slow-baked open source standards-based technologies, other hip little startups, hip startups that aren't so little, Google (Google's Marissa Mayer, who was the VP of search product, is now focused entirely on local and location) and free open-source geodata backed by big mapping companies trying to make sure Google doesn't eat their lunch.
This market is so big that there are major players in it who haven't even heard of SimpleGeo, despite all the hype the company has received in the press.
The company that plays the most central role in providing geodata to the fast-growing world of Web and mobile apps and startups will be the provider of the lens through which users (and developers) see a whole new dimension of computing, if not lived experience of the world around us.
If you'll indulge me in a little Allegory of the Cave talk: the geodata these companies are compiling describes qualities of physical places that we haven't previously been able to see, on-site or remotely. They make demographics and social trends, commerce and politics, culture and history visible, tied to specific places and accessible through the mobile devices we carry in our pockets.
First computing became democratized, then it became social, and now it is leaving the desktop and changing the way many of us experience the places formerly known as the offline world. All of those transformations have produced tidal waves of new data, upon which new companies, user experiences and types of economy have been produced.
Will Facebook be the Facebook of Location (as it has become to identity), will a shared and open standard data format rule the day, or will a startup like SimpleGeo succeed in putting itself in the center of the coming geo-aware world?
That question becomes a little more interesting with Adelson at the helm.
It becomes even more interesting now that the two APIs released today are out in the wild. If you thought you heard a lot about SimpleGeo before now, you're likely to hear a lot more about the company now.