I think it’s probably safe to assume that the majority of people who read this article make use of online maps; whether it be Multimap, RAC, Tom Tom, Navteq, Nokia, Bing, Google or Apple, the utility of being able to quickly figure out how to get from point A to B is critical to our daily lives.
As consumers, we often see limited differences between these platforms, yet at the moment there is a race for supremacy in the world of digital cartography that rivals the early days of the exploration of the ‘New World’.
And so, we look at the world in 2013, where the race to map the earth is on. This race is being predominantly led by western technology companies such as Apple, who has acquired two mapping companies over the summer, Google, who spent over $1bn to acquire Waze and Nokia has announced it has increased its focus on HERE.
Let’s not forget about Open Street Map.
With over 1.1m registered users and 3.2bn GPS points it has the power to disrupt and overwhelm more traditional mapping offerings such as Ordnance Survey.
Of course, there is the need for any large company to get time out of our busy schedules, and in Google’s case, to then sell us locally-targeted advertising. Yet on a broader level, maps now have a huge range of potential future applications and aid us in our understanding of the world we live in.
In transport, there is the focus on self guided cars from all the auto manufacturers and also technology companies. Whilst in the USA, the US State Dept has recently published this image, increasing the understanding of the evolution of the Fukushima incident.
But why this sudden interest?
Location, or perhaps more accurately, your location in relation to products and services, is increasingly seen as key to supporting those well worn paths of local & mobile. I recently met with a company that proudly advised me of their ability to sift through huge amounts of personal data, tie it to your current and past location such as proximity to a supermarket and then use this information to serve messages on behalf of a competitor supermarket in the same vicinity. Now this would only work if you understand the propensity of someone to switch supermarkets but, nonetheless, it does illustrate some of the capabilities available to companies who understand the location cookie.
However, as with many things in digital space, the serious question that must be asked is not ‘how do we do it?’, but ‘to what extent are consumers ready or even understand what data they perhaps inadvertently share via apps, mobile networks or social networks?’.
So watch this space! Location information is evolving and growing in sophistication incredibly quickly and, for the moment, is in a fascinating state of flux but the decisions made now by various platforms will have an impact long into the future.