Why Nokia’s NAVTEQ Bought Hit Traffic App Trapster

Pete Tenereillo, the man behind the hit mobile traffic app Trapster is about to have a very holly-jolly Christmas. NAVTEQ — a Chicago-based mapping company that’s a division of Nokia (s NOK) — is rumored to have acquired Tenereillo’s company, according to AutoBlog. The auto-industry blog said there were about five companies in the running, and there was a bidding war for the company. The terms of the deal are not available. We’re waiting to hear back from Nokia and Trapster.

Trapster is a multi-platform application, which allows folks to report and get information about speed traps and road hazards. On a map, Trapster shows user-reported speed traps, red-light cameras, and speed cameras (the ones that actually issue tickets) that are close to you. It has been downloaded nearly 9 million times and has been one of the top location-based apps for a while. It is certainly a GigaOM favorite and a good example of crowdsourcing at work.

The crowd-sourced data is precisely why NAVTEQ bought the upstart company. As mapping data become commoditized, companies like NAVTEQ have to offer additional experiences on top of the raw mapping data. Practical information such as traffic conditions and speed traps are only some of the location-built experiences.

In a conversation, Nokia EVP Tero Ojanpera earlier this year said, ““We want maps to be part of everyday life, and as a result, we are working on building a richer experience on top of the map…I think it is going to become obvious that companies with mapping assets are at an advantage.” The company has been slowly building upon the idea of map-based experiences.

The acquisition of Trapster makes perfect sense and is a good move, as Trapster can only help enhance the value of NAVTEQ’s mapping information. When I first communicated with Tenereillo back in 2008, he told me his plan was to make the app available on all platforms, and he bootstrapped his company. It currently works on most major smartphone platforms and also with popular devices such as Garmin and Tom Tom.

Tenereillo has been working on the company he founded since 2003, but it wasn’t until the arrival of iPhones (s aapl) and the app store that Trapster found the momentum it needed to become a big smash.  It’s now the number two most downloaded free navigation app in the iTunes app store.

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