Google Maps needs accurate underlying maps data to be successful. It needs the data to not only provide a positive user experience but to correctly deliver ads and a safe mapping environment. The change to TeleAtlas in September appeared to many to be a step backwards in map quality, partiuclarly in the U.S. But the nexus of Google Maps, TeletAtlas and Tom-Tom, TeleAtlas’s owner creates an alliance that is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the benefit of user generated content (UGC) to create a better mapping product.
Unlike business listing data where the motivations for gaming the system are high, user generated map data has the potential to create better, more accurate maps more quickly. A device like the Tom-Tom navigation devices can gather incredibly accurate GPS paths that when combined with the user feedback of Tom-Tom and Google Maps users and matched against satellite imagery can allow TeleAtlas to make more maps changes in less time, less expensively than sending out cars and drivers. This capability will grow, going forward, with the introduction of navigation devices that offer a two way connection back to TeleAtlas and TomTom.
The volume of data, the nature of the data and the timeliness of the data could mean that Map errors in Google could be updated in a 1 to 4 month time frame going forward, rather than the traditional 6-9 months they have taken in the past.
TeleAtlas recently released their first quarterly update that integrates TomTom UGC since they were aquired by TomTom in early June and contains significant improvements from community data .
At the end of last month, TeleAtlas provided a Webcast from Rik Kemmik VP of Product Management with a number of details about how community input changes the way maps are made.
Here are my notes of the conference (which is available as a podcast here)..
Continue reading Google Maps + TeleAtlas + TomTom = Powerful map update strategy
As the release date of the iPhone upgrade approaches, the rumor mills are churning. Gizmodo has a good roundup of likely new features that are thought to be in the next iPhone update (2.2). There are a number of interesting Google Map features that seem ready to appear on the iPhone in this update:
Public transport information
Share location (essentially a send to mail via Google Maps feature)
Google Maps in the iPhone shares the same listing and ranking of businesses as the browser based Google Maps and the Universal Local results. The last time I looked though it only showed the top 8 businesses in a query. Is that still the case?
Ed Parsons is the Geospatial Technologist of Google and he has noted for Geospatial services to belcome really mainstream, the ability to determine a users/devices location needs to be a standard function. Windows 7 announced that it would include the capability, the iPhone and gPhone already do. In a recent post Parsons speculates that All eyes then (will be) on Macworld in January, I would be surprised if we don’t… see a location API as a new feature of Snow Leopard.
With location awareness moving towards the mainstream, all of local will be affected. Ads will be more targeted and content can be more relevant. Google can make search even more personalized having reasonable confidence that if you search on the word “Dentist” that you are looking locally rather than for a wikipedia article.
With the next versions of the major operating system including location awareness, the leading smart phones including it, Firefox soon to offer it as well, it will have widespread availability within 12-24 months. It will have a long term, permanent affect on what we call local.
Goog-411, Google’s voice driven 411 directory assistance that uses the same business listings and rankings as Google Maps, has recently been upgraded to only require a single business + city search phrase. This upgrade mirrors the late July blue line upgrade to Maps that moved Maps from a two field entry (one each for business and location) to a single single search box like the main Google search page.
Goog-411 now starts the search with the phrase: Say the business and the city and state…If that query is not understood the service reverts back to the requirement to entry first say just the city and state. Once that query is answered it then notes: What business name or category?. While it is not noted the user can still ask for category + city during the first query combined query.
When on the road
The community edit hijackings started in the Payday Loan industries to create location confusion, moved onto theft in the floral industries, were highlighted with a bit of pranksterism with the Microsoft Escort example and subsequently moved into the consumer complaint arena. As Ben Allen noted in his blog: You Deserve a Rake Today at Ickdonalds.
There is certain trend to these hijackings and they beg a larger question: When will politics enter the wiki world of Google Maps hijacking? In the not too distant future, the next frontier for use of the Maps community edit feature could very well be as a virtual reflection of real politics. The disputes of the world often shift to the internet as the broad reach of the platform creates opportunity for widespread impact and the anonminity provides cover to the perpetrators.
When will PETA take over McDonald’s? When will the Armenians take over the Turkish Embassy? When will the Service Workers Unions take over WalMart? These listings all remain unclaimed in Google Maps and seem to be likely targets for partisans of these particular real world battles.
I can only imagine the conversation between Eric Schmidt and the Turkish ambassador explaining how this could have happened.
You can see battle lines forming, albeit in a limited fashion, with edit wars in several of the unclaimed listings that I highlighted last week. These edit wars, once the province of Wikipedia, have now made their appearance in Google Maps. Two examples can be seen in the edit histories of the unclaimed Apple Corporate listing and Google’s unclaimed Cambridge record.
Take a look at the edit history of Google’s unclaimed listing in Cambridge to get a glimpse of the opinions that have already been expressed via Maps about Google:
Continue reading Google Maps: Will Edit Wars go Politically Postal?
Heather Hopkins of Hitwise was kind enough to generate another look at market share of Mapquest & Google for Nov. ’07 thru Oct. ’08. Mapquest’s September jump has not continued. They appear to have plateaued and Google Maps appears to once again be on the rise.
Mapquest has risen on my local radar of late. Their September market share numbers showed a healthy rise against Google Maps with the introduction of their new site. They seem to sincerely care about customer service and the client experience in local. They are rolling out new features to their Mapping product on a regular basis lately.
Mapquest has long held the lead in the maps market place due their early start and their end user loyalty. They have however been experiencing market share declines for a number of quarters as Google Maps has shown a steady ability to take market share in the mapping & local arena and usually Google’s gains came at Mapquest’s expense.
Do you think that Mapquest’s product is competitive with Google Maps? Does their UI work as well as Google’s? Can they provide meaningful competition to the Google juggernaut in Local? Can user engagement hold Google at bay? Does customer service matter in the battle for market share?
I will be interviewing Mark Law, VP of Product Development, Mapquest next week and I am wondering what questions you might like to ask him about Mapquest in their quest for a Local presence.
Google has roled out two new Maps transit trip instructional videos:
For new users:
As we are having more and more new Maps users and new forum members
everyday, we customized an Introductory Maps video for people who has
just about started to use Google Maps yet not very familiar with all
kinds of great basic features.
For more experienced users:
Plan a transit trip in cities around the world with Google Maps. Get
step-by-step directions and travel times for your entire route, all in
one place online. Check out our latest education video “Transit on
Google Maps, since my Microsoft hijacking, has taken on a whole new role; consumer advocate and complaint department against major national firms. Google’s community edit feature is allowing the “community” (aka disgruntled consumers) to speak out in ways that were not anticipated when the feature was released.
I was browsing Maps when I found this record for Apple Computer today. Here is how it looked a mere week ago. I swear it was not me.
Given Google’s commitment to a wiki style of open community Maps environment, we can expect to see more of these. Mat McGee has a great post on the contradictions involved in Google’s position.
Andrew Turner of the HighEarthOrbit.com blog, reported on his work developing VoteReport:
an open public reporting system to be used during the 2008 US Election to track the situation as citizens cast their ballots. The simple goal is to make it easy for anyone to send in a report describing the wait time, overall rating and any complications that are impairing their ability to participate in the election. For more information check out http://twittervotereport.com.
The system gathers and maps information from voter reports via a backend that aggregates together Twitter, SMS, voice, iPhone and Android native applications, and even YouTube and presents it in a visually appealing map layout. They also provide a range of feeds in OpenSearch XML, KML, GeoRSS & GeoJSON for others that might use the data on their own maps.
It combines not just deep local data but near real time local data with a map in way that contribute to our understanding of real events on the ground and help us make different decisions in our life. Its a cool use of technology and gives a glimpse of the power maps when combined with social tools and mobile technologies.
I have included an iframe of the map below. If it doesn’t load correctly or loads too slowly, visit their site, http://votereport.us/reports/map to see this product work.
Sometimes Google Maps just gets it wrong. It is a large and complex system where a single switched byte makes all the difference.
For whatever reason if you do a search on Pregnancy Testing Wellsville , it wants to send you off to Amsterdam NY for your appointment, 265 miles away. While Wellsvile is rural, it is in western NY near Corning and not anywhere near Herkimer, Saratoga Springs or Cobbleskill. This quirk shows up on any search using the locale Wellsville whether you search on Tuxedos in Wellsville or Flowers. It could make for one very expensive prom date.
A search on the similar term, Pregnancy Testing Wellsville NY returns accurate results. What is odd is that the results screen above indicates that the listings are for Wellsville NY but none are.
In the end, I don’t suppose that Google has it in for pregnant teens any more than they hate Advertising Agencies. I do though, think that as Google Maps gets more tightly integrated into the fabric of our daily lives, it is necessary for Google to fix these sorts of quirks quickly. Unfortunately, someday an unsuspecting user, in a life threatening situation, will be searching for an emergency room or hospital and be sent in the wrong direction and to a disastrous outcome.
PS – In an unplanned, related development (as they say), Miriam Ellis reports on her disastrous medical searching experience using Google Maps while seriously ill…