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How we are helping the future greening of New Zealand

A couple of statements by David J. LePoire drawn from his essay “Beyond (Conventional) Renewable Energy?” caught my eye this morning. He said that “If energy use had grown as fast as the economy, the United States would be using an estimated 60% more energy than it does now. We’ve improved energy use in buildings, electrical appliances, cars and industrial processes. These applications are often motivated by cost savings.” There are often stories about how companies who focus on sustainability in a concerted way will become more profitable as a result, but often there is little information on where the increased profitability will come from.

There has been a lot of discussion about how green New Zealand really is and which initiatives are going to help us go forward in the way I believe most Kiwis want toThe elections are close and the parties are all telling us what their policies are going to be.

Meanwhile there are many companies who are just working business as usual with an eye to a better future. GeoSmart is one of those companies. So what are we doing?

First, we have driven every road in New Zealand for many years, but in the last few years we have been driving with phenomenal technology put together in New Zealand by Kiwis, which allows us to map New Zealand roads to sub 1 metre accuracy even when there is GPS shadow or at times (not uncommon particularly in the South Island) where there is no GPS sugnal available at all for periods of time. Tests show that we tend to be accurate to around 15cm which is as good as I believe you can get without having surveyors and laser theodolites on the ground.

This in itself means that we are able to provide highly accurate data to users of our routing web services, such as AA Maps and mobile applications such as Rugby2GO. It means that people will not be sent up paper roads that don’t exist, confirms speed zones and intersection controls and other information that doesn’t always get provided to us by the authorities.

Quality routing means that people can get the best routing information to meet their needs. For example the shortest route is often not the fastest.

We also collect road inclinometer. That is the rate of incline on hills, of which we of course have many in New Zealand. Our car navigation clients are getting more involved in eco-routing which means you can choose the route which will consume the least fuel. That means that effectively, irrespective of what type of car you drive, you can save money while also helping to save our environment.

We are also collecting data about the camber or angle of the corners. Because of the volatile nature of our country with frequent earthquakes, floods and slips, geothermal activity, the condition of corners may change. When a corner changes and noone knows about it, this can be the cause of serious accidents, such as with large trucks and trailors who may be obeying the speed advisory signs, but the conditions have changed since they were set. We are working with sophisticated Fleet Management companies who are going to use this data, combined with their knowledge of their clients’ vehicle set ups, roll over specifications and load information to alert drivers that they may be going too fast for the conditions of the road. This can save insurance conmpanies millions of dollars, not to mention reducing the inconvenience of motorists having to deal with travel delays as the incidents are examined and detours put in place.

Another major area for us is real time traffic. You are probably aware that we built and maintain the AA Roadwatch website and and provide services including real time accident, incident and congestion data throughout New Zealand and Australia to major car navigation brands. AA Spokesperson Simon Lambourne was quoted in an article in the NZ Herald earlier this week that studies have shown that “when 10 per cent of drivers use real-time traffic information to avoid jams, journey times drop 5 per cent for everyone.” Find out more about AA Traffic by GeoSmart here.

Route optimisation is becoming more important. We have written a number of blogs on this topic and more and more companies are coming to us to use this service and variations of it. Essentially  if a person has a number of sites to stop at during a day’s work, our SaaS application Route2GO Lite geocodes and calculates the best order to make those visits in, to drive the least amount of time via the most efficient route. This results in increased productivity and reduced overheads. It is also sustainable. Are you able to tell your clients that your business uses technology to benefit the environment as well as the company’s bottom line and provide better service to boot?

Talk to us about how we can help you become more sustainable whilst increasing profit.

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November 7, 2011 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, Auckland, Australia, Business Tools, car navigation, carbon footprint, driving directions, geosmart, gps, Mapping Applications, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, route optimisation, Route2GO, Rugby, Rugby World Cup, SaaS, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2011 Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup in Auckland is just over a year away and GeoSmart is looking forward to the opportunities that come with it. As New Zealand’s premier location-based services (Mapping) company there are many areas that we will be looking at. These include:

  • Cartography. We produce many printed maps. These include map books for Wises and the NZ Automobile Association, as well as several travel atlas products for various organisations such as the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, which includes locations of Points of Interest of unique interest. We also produce custom maps for many organisations ranging from hotels to regional tourism organisations.
  • Car Navigation. GeoSmart is the provider of map data and Points of Interest for the leading brands including Navman and TomTom. Many people coming from overseas will be able to use our map data to find the venues, accommodation, attractions, parking, bars and much more for the Rugby World Cup, making their trip stress free. We also now offer real time traffic to car navigation which would be great if you are trying to get to a venue close to kick off.
  • Real Time Traffic. We built and manage the new AA Traffic service. This service provides information on traffic incidents that might interfere with people getting to the match on time.  We do this with a number of services including subscription alerts via Email and Text Messaging, which can be found on the AA Traffic website. Traffic is also shown on other AA websites, Roadwatch and AA Maps. Real Time Traffic is also of course available on your car navigation product such as with Navman.
  • AA Maps website. This website is the perfect site for local and overseas travellers. A significant proportion of web traffic to AA’s websites come from overseas and this includes AA Maps. People are guided here with links from affiliated motoring associations around the world as well as people looking for services such as driving directions. This is a great site for people planning their routes, looking for other things to do while they are travelling, where to stay, where to eat and drink and where to have some fun and adventure.
  • Mobile Applications / Location Based Services. We are working with several companies who are developing applications for smartphones such as iPhone and Android. When your mobile knows where it is, it becomes easy to use GeoSmart’s highly accurate data about New Zealand roads and points of interest to add value to people touring New Zealand following the rugby tournament.
  • Web Mapping. Many companies use GeoSmart’s web mapping tools in their custom environments. Examples may be found on our home page. If you are looking to add maps, points of interest and turn by turn directions to your site, we would love to chat with you about how we can help.
  • Carbon Friendly. This has become a very important topic and one that we are committed to supporting. We are able to support concepts such as Eco-Routing, in effect, finding the route that uses the least fuel and carbon waste. Our RAPIDcV has been continuing to drive all of New Zealand at around 15cm accuracy, not only getting an accurate road centreline but also measuring the road’s inclination and even the camber of corners on the road. This highly accurate data allows us to support organisations focused on sustainable eco friendly policies.
  • Multi-modal routing. We have been developing solutions supporting the ability to guide people through various means of transport from foot to motorised. This includes situations where one trip might include different forms of transport. Rugby fans might use a combination. For example, they might drive to a carpark, then use public transport, finally walking from there to the match venue via restaurants and bars. Each transport medium has its own set of rules. For example a person walking, doesn’t need to worry about one-way streets and may be able to take advantage of short cuts through arcades etc, to get to their destination.

Whilst the Rugby World Cup may be over a year away, GeoSmart is working closely with our partners to assist them in achieving their goals, through the use of our data, web services and API’s and other products. If you would like more information, you will find our contact details here.

March 7, 2010 Posted by | AA Maps, car navigation, carbon footprint, cartography, driving, driving directions, geosmart, GIS, gps, iphone, lbs, location based services, map tools, maps, Mobile maps, navman, new zealand, real time traffic, route optimisation, Rugby World Cup, satnav, Sport, tomtom, Traffic | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are Maps all Created Equal?

I really enjoyed reading Brian Rudman’s article in this morning’s NZ Herald. It was about Google Maps and the quality of their data in Auckland. Basically it was about the usefulness of Google Maps to help people find their way around, getting walking and driving directions, and most recently the inclusion of information to help people find out which buses to catch and how to get to them using data from ARTA.

I urge you to read the story, because it highlights some interesting points that we often struggle to explain to people.

I’m not knocking Google, I love Google and spend a lot of time using it, as do many of my colleagues. But here’s the thing. Google is a data collection and aggregation tool that enables people to access data from multiple sources and use it for their purposes. In some cases Google creates the data, which includes having people drive vehicles such as the Street View cars to help people make better use of maps.

The problem we frequently have is that people think that, because there are Google Maps and Google is ‘the authority’ then their maps must be the best, or, as people often learn the hard way, that Maps are all pretty much the same.

If that were the case, there would be no need for GeoSmart, because Google obviously has far more money and resources than we do. What we have and they don’t, is a mandate to have the best possible maps that can be used to meet people’s varying needs. One of the key components in this, is what we call our ‘turn restriction database’. We know where all the roads are, we know which ones have traffic lights or roundabouts, we know which ones are one way streets, or have no left or right turns. We know the streets where you can turn legally, but a large vehicle probably wouldn’t be able to complete the manoevre.

We know which roads in NZ actually exist. What do I mean? New Zealand was town planned in Edinborough a couple of centuries ago and some 20% of the streets draughted, were never constructed. We know those as paper roads. These still exist on our government maps (which services such as Google use) because they have a legal status and the Government can still retake the land to build them.

For decades, our people have maintained maps of New Zealand working with data we collected by driving and flying New Zealand over and over again. We continue to do this and move the boundaries taking advantage of new technology so that our data quality and accuracy stays ahead of the needs of our clients. For example, with the RAPIDcV, we now are able to collect data at 15cm accuracy for future car navigation and safety systems. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Eco-routing and other future technologies will only work with quality data and for these services, near enough is definitely not good enough.

When people buy car navigation systems, they are relying on accuracy to help them find their way around. There is a good reason why quality brands such as Navman and TomTom come to us for data, because near enough is not good enough. If you take a look at web map sites where you can see the roads on aerial photography and where they show the roads using the labels, you will see that they often don’t match up. In other words, they are not spatially accurate.

If you want to claim tax rebates for times when your commercial vehicle is not on a public road, you need to to be able to prove accurately, where you drove. If your map itself isn’t accurate, then your argument must be flawed.

In the old days, we looked at a map and interpreted the data in our heads. If something didn’t look right, we worked our way around it, and it wasn’t a problem. When you put your map on a computer and have the computer make decisions for you, the quality of the data has a far more serious impact. That is why we have a large team of professionals employed in NZ to make sure that we have as accurate data as possible. That is why the NZ Automobile Association invested in our company.

One of today’s problems is that these maps are now accessible on mobile phones and other devices. People assume that all maps are basically the same and then don’t understand when they get a poor result. They might blame the phone manufacturer or the technology, but the old addage in the computer industry is still true. GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

So next time you want to rely on a data source, don’t assume that all maps are the same. They aren’t. In some cases it doesn’t matter, but in many cases it does. Our people care about quality, they use patience and skill to produce map data that people rely on.

Thanks Brian for showing us that map quality matters and being a multinational giant doesn’t necessarily mean they are always the best. Who knows NZ better than Kiwis? I’m sure you will find AA Maps and other sites that use GeoSmart Maps a tad more reliable.

December 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment