updated 11:05 pm EST, Fri February 22, 2013
Country has particular issues with labels in Apple Maps
In addition to a rash of hiring positions the company has recently posted for work on further improving its Maps app, Apple has posted a new job for a "Maps Ground Truth Data Specialist" for Australia. The country has had to deal with sometimes-dangerous levels of incorrect information from both Apple Maps and Google Maps, resulting in police warnings to motorists and others not to rely exclusively on the mapping data provided by the apps. The new position would send people out to verify and correct satellite imagery.
The position calls for people with knowledge of mapping and "ground truth," or verifcation of satellite and other map data with on-the-ground testing, for example correcting labels of various areas to use the same terminology as the people who live there. Though not explicitly stated, the position may well involve a great deal of travel in rural areas in Australia -- verifying the best travel routes, identifying local landmarks and the correct use of regional or local names.
Apple is looking for applicants with QA experience who are familiar with evaluating map quality, detailed knowledge of the lesser-travelled areas of Australia, strong communication skills and the ability to provide "feedback on unque local map requirements ... and evaluate competing products," a reference to the accuracy of Google and Bing/Nokia maps. Though both Apple and Google fixed the erroneous map data that ran afoul of Australian rescue responders, many errors remain -- including names of towns that don't exist (because they are using the name of a park or region instead of the correct town name), locales that are miles off from their actual position and other inaccuracies.
Because users play a role in verifying satellite data by their use of the maps, remote and very poor areas where there are likely to be few smartphone users have maps that are typically a great deal less accurate than those of big cities. Apple has steadily worked on its Maps program ever since the program's launch alongside iOS 6, where glitches and errors (along with a general replacement of features from the previous Google-powered version of Maps) took the shine off the program in spite of several large improvements Google had refused to implement, including turn-by-turn directions, voice navigation, Siri integration and photorealistic overviews among others. Apple issued an apology for the poor initial quality and vowed to improve it.
The recent spate of new hires may suggest that Apple is redoubling its efforts and may indeed be planning a re-launch or "version 2.0" of an overhauled version of Maps. Recent job listings have called for new engineers to work on navigation, further Siri integration, and overall user interface. Also being worked on is MapKit, the API for third-party app integration of Maps services.