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The difference between Map API vendor and Map Data Provider

The definitive Map API buying guide

The map data is an ingredient, and the algorithms make the cake.

Map data vs. Map API

Why is it so important to check the quality of the underlying map data?

The map data is an ingredient, and the algorithms make the cake. The Geocoding and Routing algorithms search and process map database in order to deliver results. Therefore, not even the best algorithms can produce good results based on low-quality data.

Map API vendors typically compile the map data in-house, but they acquire the map data from third parties - map data providers. Performance of Geocoding and Routing API is the reason for in-house map data compilation. An efficient and custom map database is the ground of high-performant APIs.

The map data needs to be updated regularly to reflect the real-world road network conditions, and map data providers are in charge of this.

Map data

Besides the road network, many other data are also part of the map data: administrative hierarchy, POI data, buildings, signposts, pedestrian, car, truck attributes, and speed profile of a road network, etc. And each one of these features brings something to the table. A professional map data provider will provide all of these data, ensure their quality and truthness, and most importanly, update them regularly.

There's a significant difference in the quality of map data for plain map display or data visualization on maps and the routing or geocoding needs. For example, map data for routing requires that all roads have properly set mandatory movement directions, proper road categorization, speed limits, etc. Without these data, such maps are practically useless for routing purposes.

Map data providers

Professional map data providers deliver incredibly high-quality map data, polished to absolute perfection, both in terms of coverage and quality. Field visits, GPS traces, and acquiring from smaller, regional providers are the main ways of updating the map data. Each edit is afterward validated, usually by a real person. Most importantly, all data complies with mapping standards.

Google Maps, HERE, TomTom, Apple, Azure, Yandex provide professional-grade map data and APIs. Map data complies with mapping standards; each edit is validated.

Map data can be either open-sourced or acquired from professional map data providers.

Professional

Professional map data providers deliver incredibly high-quality map data, polished to absolute perfection, both in terms of coverage and quality. Field visits, GPS traces, and acquiring from smaller, regional providers are the main ways of updating the map data. Each edit is afterward validated, usually by a real person. Most importantly, all data complies with mapping standards.

Google Maps, HERE, TomTom, Apple, Azure, Yandex provide professional-grade map data and APIs. Map data complies with mapping standards; each edit is validated.

Open-source (amateur)

OpenStreetMap is the biggest open-source map data and is maintained by a community of map enthusiasts. The biggest disadvantage of non-professional map data is uneven coverage and map data quality. For example, the map coverage and quality often vary even between city parts and depend on the goodwill and map enthusiasts' experience.

Local and Professional

Local map data providers collect and maintain map data for specific countries or regions. They provide better coverage and publish map updates typically 3-6 months sooner than the aforementioned professional map data providers. (Global map data providers acquire the data from local providers, process, categorize and validate them, which obviously takes time.)

If you require exceptional map data and a fast response rate in map updates, consider contacting local map data providers.

To name a few, the most notable regional map providers are:

Read more about how to choose the best Map API platform:

Check how Compact Maps ticks the boxes of your Map API buying checklist!