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Apple buys Toronto startup in rare foray into Canada

The Apple Inc. logo is seen in the lobby of New York City's flagship Apple store in this January 18, 2011 file photo.

MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

Apple Inc. has made a rare acquisition of a Canadian company, buying a Toronto-based location data firm.

Apple has purchased a Toronto startup called Locationary, which specializes in highly specific location data that can be incorporated into enterprise IT systems and web publishing platforms. For example, the company collects information such as business opening hours, availability of parking and Wi-fi access, which can then be overlaid on the business' location in a digital map.

The purchase price has not been revealed, but according to a source familiar with the negotiations leading up to the deal, Apple paid "multiple tens of millions of dollars" to buy the Canadian company.

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"It is remarkable what [Locationary CEO Grant Richie] and his team have accomplished over the last couple of years at Locationary," said the source. "They have assembled billions of fields of data and location information around the world using the most powerful source – the people."

While other tech giants such as Google Inc. have been especially active in picking out and acquiring Canadian startups in recent years, Apple has been far less prolific. Indeed, Locationary is believed to be the first Canadian acquisition for Apple in the last decade. The iPhone-maker is likely to incorporate the massive store of Locationary data into its maps application, which now competes directly with Google's similar product. When first launched, Apple Maps became the subject of ridicule because of myriad bugs and errors in the software, leading to a rare apology from company executives. However Apple has greatly improved the quality of its application in recent months, in large part by collecting crowdsourced data to add to the service.

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