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Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial

Intermap’s AccuTerra HD For The iPhone – A Winner?

June 11th, 2009 by MDob

Intermap Technologies, is known to the geospatial industry for their purpose-built, high accuracy, low cost NEXTMap 3D mapping databases that cover Europe, the United States and several other geographies. The NEXTMap program is based on the use of Intermap’s proprietary airborne Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Rader (IFSAR), which is employed to create orthorectified radar imagery, color orthorectified radar imagery, digital surface models and digital elevations models.

In the midst of collecting and processing their imagery, the team at Intermap began to conceptualize products using these data that were beyond the uses normally associated with elevation data and imagery. In some ways, the story is a Tale of Two Cities, since two of their new product initiatives, in one way or another, involve navigation. One of the applications is focused on PNDs and the iPhone, while the other involves Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), fuel efficiency, Hybrid Electric Vehicles and other applications that might benefit from the use of a road database featuring high accuracy elevation and position data. Today, I am going to focus on the PND/iPhone products, although I will cover the development of their ADAS database in a future blog.

Anyone who has taken the time to scan the Intermap website will have noted the gorgeous, accurate elevation models they produce. It was a small step to begin thinking about the role these terabytes of data could play as visualization tools and that is exactly the task that Intermap set for itself.

While most PND applications are focused on journey to work, shopping and task solution of one sort or another, Intermap began to think about the recreation market and how they might capitalize on their expertise with imagery and data collection. After all, PNDs take you to the end of the road, but rarely put you on a road that can take you any further than the edge of recreational areas. Was there room in the market that picked-up at the end of the road and took you to the great beyond?

Specifically, how about a product that could take you into the recreational areas, show recreational roads, trails, land use boundaries, hydrologic features, points of interest, contours and other information too numerous to mention? In 2008 Intermap began introducing just this type of product under the AccuTerra brand and chose to distribute it in cooperation with PND manufacturers, rather than creating their own device.

This week, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference Intermap introduced AccuTerra for the iPhone and won Apple’s award for the Best iPhone OS 3.0 Beta App at the annual Apple Design Awards session.

To quote from MacWorld

“Intermap Technologies’ AccuTerra, uses forthcoming iPhone 3.0 technologies like in-app purchase to allow users to buy more detailed maps of various geographical areas of interest. The program allows users to plan, track, and share hiking and biking trips. Users can activate the iPhone’s GPS feature to track not only their exact route, but also later “play it back”, including showing geocoded photos at the places in the trip where they were taken.”

Photos of the amazing detail in Intermap's AccuTerra HD for the iPhone

Some of the functionality in the AccuTerra HD product for the iPhone

While you can find out the detail about the product and other specifications at Intermap’s AccuTerra Mobile website, my interest is in the company’s focus on using geospatial data to open the recreational market to a larger audience.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that Garmin was growing their recreation market, through the use of products, like its Colorado PND, which provide functionality similar to AccuTerra. In addition, it came to my attention (thanks to Duane Marble, again) that Google is taking a tricylcized version of its Street View sensor array into the wild for use on biking and hiking trails.

Look here for a photo of the apparatus, which weighs in at a trim 252 pounds (hope the one they are using for bike trails weighs less – by the way, I had to convert the weight, as it was reported as being 18 stone).

Clearly, there is a growing interest in expanding the use of navigation into the recreational arena and I suspect that it will be a lucrative market for those who can augment their data to provide the feature-sets valued by outdoor enthusiasts. Intermap has spent a considerable amount of research funds compiling data overlays that show up-to-date trails, land use, points of interest and other geospatial data that can be used to provide a display that makes the outdoors more current and understandable with less work than consulting a topographic map, not to mention learning how to use a compass and dead reckoning.

The AccuTerra HD product can be used to lay out a trail and view the rise/run allowing you to determine whether this one is too tough for you or just right. In a very simple sense these products (Intermap’s and others) allow you to have fun at the interface and provide a method of doing so that does not take years of experience to master. In addition, Intermap’s augmented map product provides a more comprehensive view of the landscape than can be found on most topographic maps whose cultural features are rarely updated.

However, Intermap’s porting this functionality to the iPhone (and the new iPhone has both GPS and a compass) appears a masterful strategy in that it harnesses the advantages of connectivity and navigation aids to benefit the outdoor adventurer.

Consumers can buy data (at the iPhone App store of course) only for the parks and recreation areas of interest to them. The data is resident on the iPhone so the application will work with or without connectivity. Supplied tools allow you to annotate the maps with paths and photos, and then communicate a variety of details about the adventure to your friends through links to Google Maps, Google Earth or through social networking tools like Facebook. Not only will you really know where you area, but so can anyone you allow access to your information, so the application also provides an additional layer of safety when you are out and about in the great outdoors.

For the first time in a long time, this is a product that is calling me to use it and I think that the focus on augmented mapped data for recreation is the next big frontier for companies creating geospatial data. Guess I may have to break down and order an iPhone and AccuTerra HD so I can help the market grow. Good of me, eh?

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Posted in Data Sources, Garmin, Geospatial, Google, Intermap, Mapping, Personal Navigation, routing and navigation

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