Skyhook Gets Neighborhood Data from Urban Mapping

So, you’re at the corner of Harrison Street and Union Park Street in Boston. Are you in the South End, or in the trendier but less widely recognized SoWa (South of Washington) district? Both, technically—and if you’ve got a location-sensitive mobile device, it can be tricky for mobile data providers to know which neighborhood’s information to send you.

That’s the problem that San Francisco-based Urban Mapping purports to solve. The company’s neighborhood database contains the geographic boundaries of 60,000 neighborhoods in 2,700 municipalities in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Often, these boundaries overlap—and for those cases, the company knows which neighborhood is historically and culturally dominant, which can be very helpful to providers of location-based information and marketing services.

Today Boston-based Skyhook Wireless said that it’s integrating Urban Mapping’s neighborhood data into its Loki location-based search service, which tailors content based on the user’s location, and its MyLoki location-sharing service, which broadcasts a user’s geographic position to friends and family. That means Loki users will have access to “contextually appropriate and socially accepted neighborhood information,” in the words of an announcement from the two companies today.

“The Urban Mapping neighborhood data adds a richness and more context to social connections than just a city-level message or plot on a map,” said Ryan Sarver, director of consumer products for Skyhook Wireless, in the announcement. “For example, when our MyLoki service messages out that a user has changed locations, we can say that the user has ‘just checked into Back Bay in Boston’ instead of just indicating that the user is in Boston, Mass.” And if a Loki user is at Harrison and Union Park, I’m guessing the system is probably going to send them information related to the South End—the more established (if less fashionable) of the two overlapping neighborhoods.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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