GeoSmart Weblog

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Location is Going Places

Obviously we would love to be writing more blogs about how our clients and partners are writing location-based apps using GeoSmart Maps API’s and Web Services and how we are helping the discover new ways to use location for proximity based marketing, location-based games (read future proximity based marketing), location-based education and  much more.The good news is that there are many new projects happening and more announcements to come next week from our camp.

There are companies who automatically go to global map providers because they perceive there is no difference and maps are pretty much all the same. To those people I say, go and have a look at the new Upper Harbour Motorway on AA Maps (one of our clients) using GeoSmart Maps and then check any other map provider on the web or on a mobile application. It’s only one of many locations we update as they happen because we are local and we care about providing the best data to our clients and to New Zealand motorists, but it is pretty major if you travel between west and north Auckland.

So this blog is for those of you who are wanting to develop applications using quality maps and location-based data, because we want to keep you informed and share great ideas with you and help you achieve your goals, whatever your business models and budgets may be.

One of the areas that I think is huge is proximity based marketing. If you are running loyalty programs, you really need to think about what you are doing. If they are working well, then we say they could be working much better, if they are not performing the way you would like, you should talk to us about how we can help, because location is our bread and butter.

As we have discussed before, the marriage of social media and location is really going places. I’d like to mention a couple of recent developments relevant to the many blogs here.

Foursquare

Now obviously Foursquare is global and needs more than the excellent New Zealand and Australian Maps we provide, but they are really showing the way to develop successful check in software. Want to know more about check ins and Foursquare have a look at more of the blogs on this site.

One of the things that people have been asking about is how to push a message to people based on their proximity. In effect, rather than have people open up Foursquare and look for deals and promotions near you, what people have been asking me about almost daily is how do we push an alert to people, rather than have them stumble on opportunities.

Now Foursquare has their own very popular application and I hope to hear that their latest announcement appears on their own application as well as the API’s they offer to developers. The Foursquare global hackathon starts tomorrow and it has een whispered on many sites around the world that one of the new features to be launched there is a Push API.

What does this mean? Well effectively it is an opportunity for developers to look at ways to send push messages to people using their applications using the Foursquare API’s. During the hackathon there will be competitions to see who can come up with the best applications using this functionality over the week. It could be almost anything and I’m hoping that this will provide our local New Zealand developers with ideas as to what they can do using these concepts. A few ideas being floated include:

  • Your mobile shopping list reminds you that you haven’t bought the milk and you are passing your local grocery store.
  • You are at a bar or restaurant and your app tells you that you have friends nearby. You can notify them where you are and get them to join you.
  • Your restaurant has empty seats and you have loyalty customers nearby, send them an invitation with tonight’s specials
  • Your loyalty card has double points today and you are about to pass your favourite Petrol Station, DIY, Clothing, Consumer Electronics store

Obviously we have much cooler ideas in our treasure chest to share with our clients, but you get the idea I hope. This is one of the missing links and is going to turn the concept of check-ins on its ear in my humble opinion. Now you don’t need to use Foursquare for this, although I’m not saying you shouldn’t. Personally I’d like to see these sorts of things being developed and proven locally in the way good Kiwi entrepreneurs do, with support from GeoSmart and then shipped overseas generating export revenues.

We have clever and passionate people here and sometimes it frustrates me that companies developing applications around locality instantly go to American or other map providers who aren’t passionate about New Zealand aren’t keeping their maps up to date and don’t have local resources to help. OK, I’m off my soap box people.

September 15, 2011 Posted by | AA Maps, Auckland, Australia, Australia Maps, channel partner, Check Ins, competition, competitions, foursquare, geosmart, gps, ICT, Indoor Navigation, iphone, lbs, lbs games, location based services, map tools, Mapping Applications, Marketing, new zealand, new zealand maps, proximity based marketing, Social Media, social networking, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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