When Apple launched the iPhone 5, much was made of the new features of IOS6. One of which was the new maps application. This was lauded as "A beautiful vector based interface" and "Everything's easy to read and you won't get lost".
Although the application functioned well, the data it used was far from effective. Unlike the hype, people started to 'get lost'. One thing is patently clear. Apple had not conducted any data quality analysis of the databases that the maps application consumes.
All databases are models of reality. The discipline of data quality is to ensure that the database is the best model possible. It is obvious that the maps database was not checked against reality to ascertain whether it was an accurate or complete model.
An independent analysis of a sample of the Apple Maps (using the Canadian province of Ontario) provided some interesting stats. Of the 2028 place names in Ontario, 400 were correct, 389 were close to correct, 551 were completely incorrect, and 688 were missing.
Apple did not gather this information. It acquired the street and place data from Tom-Tom (the vehicle satellite navigation company) and integrated it with other databases. Despite strenuous denials of culpability by Tom-Tom, the facts show that the location data experienced by the users was missing or incorrect.
To say that this has undermined the reputation of Apple is a large understatement. It prompted a public apology by the CEO, Tim Cook.
So could Tom-Tom and the other suppliers of maps data have knowingly supplied incorrect data to Apple? Probably not. Surely Apple had data quality measurement in place? The results suggest not. Only 19.7% accurate place names and 33.9% of place names missing.
When entering into agreements with 3rd party suppliers of information it is imperative that data quality standards are insisted on as part of the commercial agreement - with penalties for non-compliance. As the results of this little mess between Apple and their suppliers show, you may be able to outsource responsibility, but not accountability.