Nokia acquires MetaCarta

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Last Friday, Nokia announced that it had acquired MetaCarta Inc, a privately owned firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which specialises in 'geographic intelligence solutions'. MetaCarta is best known for its geosearch and geotagging products (e.g. NewsMap, which allows publishers to automatically created a map tagged with their news stories) and has partnerships with a number of leading technology firms. MetaCarta's technology will help Nokia improve its social location services, such as local search.

Adding location meta data to existing content

MetaCarta has technology that can take information from a wide variety of data sources (internal data stores, web content, etc.) and automatically add standardised location information and related information (i.e. automatically create related machine-readable geo-meta-data), based on various attributes (place names, related language, co-ordinate systems and more). Or, put more simply, the technology is about putting more data on a map.

From the press release:

"MetaCarta's products make data and unstructured content "location-aware" and geographically relevant for easier organization and quicker action."

From the MetaCarta website:

"MetaCarta’s Geo Referencing Engine uses natural language processing (NLP) to identify and disambiguate geographic references within unstructured content.  MetaCarta rapidly builds a searchable index that enables users to find content using a combination of keywords and a map.  While MetaCarta uses advanced algorithms capable of processing massive amounts of data at lightning speeds, the heart of the platform is the data that allows it to think like a person. The following information describes how the MetaCarta platform processes and indexes content."


The ability to add location information to existing data is, potentially, very important when creating geographic databases (geo-databases). Despite location information being the critical link between the digital and physical world, relatively little existing data has location information associated with it. Moreover, even when location information does exist, it may not be machine-readable or standardised.

Being able to add location data to non-structured information allows you to create a richer geo-database, both in terms of quantity (number of things) and quality of information (information about things). Geo-databases are the fundamental building block for all located-based services; building the 'best' geo-database is going to be critical in the location service ecosystem. As such, MetaCarta can be seen as a strategic technology acquisition by Nokia. 

The acquisition is the latest in a string of small location-related acquisitions by Nokia; amongst others, it follows in the footsteps of Plazes and Plum.

Rafe Blandford, AAS