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Apple’s village on Comino

Għajnsielem is located on Comino and Rabat in the middle of fields, according to Apple Maps. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Għajnsielem is located on Comino and Rabat in the middle of fields, according to Apple Maps. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Comino is inhabited by a sole farmer but it seems a massive development to build a whole town there has escaped the planning authority’s scrutiny.

The little island between Malta and Gozo suddenly has a village called Għajnsielem situated bang in the middle, according to Apple’s web mapping service.

In actual fact, the Għajnsielem on Comino is the misplaced location of the Gozitan village situated a couple of kilo­metres to the north across the channel.

But this is not the only problem with Apple Maps, the application included with the computer giant’s mobile software platform upgrade iOS 6, which replaced Google Maps on iPhone and iPad.

Rabat is located in the middle of nowhere, very far away from the population centre, while Gozo’s main town Victoria is renamed Vittorija.

These are but a few of the worldwide problems the application has encountered, leading to big disappointment among customers. Apple Maps was supposed to be the US company’s answer to the same service offered by rival Google.

Saviour Formosa, an expert in spatial planning information, believes the problem with Apple Maps may stem from the dataset used to underpin the maps.

Given the shift in location names, he said the application may have used the boundaries of localities as the basis for finding the centroid, a mathematical calculation that establishes the centre-point of the geographical area.

This explains why Rabat ended up being a location in the middle of uninhabited fields and possibly why Għajnsielem ended up being a town on Comino.

“Comino is within the boundary of the Għajnsielem council and the centroid must have located the place name there,” Dr Formosa said.

It also explains why the location for Valletta is correct. The capital city has an oblong shaped boundary, is relatively small and covered in buildings. This would place the name marker in the middle of the population centre, he added.

Dr Formosa said such problems were common ones encountered by spatial planners. “Apple will have to use a more reliable dataset to correct these issues.”

The app faced criticism from users globally for a number of geographical errors, missing information and because it lacked features that made Google Maps so popular, including public transit directions, comprehensive traffic data and street view pictures.

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