Have you ever wondered on the overall location data ecosystem? How information appears on Google, Bing or any other search engine or map? How often is it updated? Who provides the online information about a hotel, restaurant or any other place?

To comprehend how data travels from business owners, who are the ultimate source of the information, to the end user, first you need to understand the key roles in location data ecosystems, including who are the data providers and who are their customers.

Location data ecosystem

A location data ecosystem is a system of companies providing content to other companies and/or to users. We have classified these companies into four groups, ordered by the volume of the data they are working with and providing:

  • Mapping and navigation authorities
  • Data aggregators
  • Data publishers (and suppliers)
  • Business owners, chains, etc.

Let’s start with the most visible role from the end-user perspective, the group of companies that fall under the category mapping and navigation authorities (or data authorities). Today, any research basically about anything and everything starts with the data authorities and their services (Google Search, Google Maps, Bing Search, Apple Maps, etc.), with the end users comprising their primary and most important customers. Even if we were talking about the volume of data they provide to users, they would still be top of the chain. Since they are working with big data, one question might be ‘how do they acquire that volume of content?’. In some cases, they own some of the location-based content, but most of the data is collected from a myriad of different sources, as you can see in the image above.

Data aggregators are companies who supply map authorities and data publishers with location-based content. For instance, there are three companies who aggregate businesses’ data in the United States: Infogroup, Neustar and Acxiom. Data authorities use at least one of these aggregators to display information about businesses in the US. Data aggregators do not necessarily perform as data publishers as well, because they do not own the map or any other service used for publishing data to users. Additionally, they are not owners of the data; also, they collect business information from a couple of other sources, but they are all grouped into data publishers and suppliers.

The third group of companies in a location data ecosystem comprises the data publishers, who not only publish data to users, but also supply it to data aggregators and data authorities. As you might have noticed, data aggregators and data publishers are also customers of each other as they exchange data content in order to increase and enrich their own databases.

The last group of companies is business owners, such as chains, small business owners, etc. Since they are usually ultimately the source of the information, they provide business information directly to all the other groups in the ecosystem, including users, data authorities, data aggregators and data publishers.


As you can see, there is no simple answer to the questions: Where does data on the map come from? Who is providing the content? Most of the companies in the location data ecosystem are customers of each other. Map and navigation authorities collect data from a lot of different sources, also known as third-party data providers. Their first customers are end users but they also buy data from other parties in the ecosystem. Furthermore, data aggregators and data publishers are customers of each other but they also provide services to data authorities and in some cases to end users. Business owners are the smallest group in the location data ecosystem and their customers are all other groups in the ecosystem.

Selection of an appropriate data supplier is one of the most challenging phases in the location data lifecycle. The world of data vendors is a crowded and complex one and each vendor has it’s own strengths, specialization and culture. On the one hand, by choosing a new vendor or partner, companies can add extra value to their current content, but on the other hand, it is very difficult and challenging to decide whose data should be ingested, especially when business success can strongly depend on the quality of the service they are providing.