Exploring Local
Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial

Navteq’s New Mapping Beta

July 1st, 2009 by MDob

I am diligently working on my next blog on foot-driven navigation and hope to publish it later this week. While doing some research for it, I visited the Navteq website trying to find more information about Discover Cities. Instead of the usual Navteq corporate website I encountered their new Navteq Beta version of the company’s mapping and routing site . Take a look. You will find a lot of interesting features. You will also find a textbook primer on why “betas”, like wine, should not be released before their time.

The first thing I noticed was that the site was very sloooooowwwww. Instead of the usual lickety-split resolution of the Navteq home page, the new version (an application based on Map24) took an incredible amount of time to load. The map portion of the display, which apparently is rendered real-time with magic markers (probably in Gonalistan and communicated with a 2400 baud modem), is poorly designed, poorly generalized, and the whole concept appears poorly executed. However, Navteq did trap the IP of my ISP and was able to localize the map display, centering it on my neighborhood (even though I could have moved to a new residence before the map displayed).

I tried the local search functionality and thought the business listings appeared reasonably comprehensive, although a number of locations were missing from my local data. The categorizations used in the “POI” selection legend showed a lack of familiarity with search. In addition, the geocoding of the listings showed that Navteq has major problems in this area.

I liked the traffic feature, but found the “directions” capability to be less mature in its functionally.

There were lots of unique features on the maps. For instance, there were these small, numbered rectangles (the numbers not route numbers) on the local highways and I clicked several to try to find out what they were indicating. Up popped a form that indicated I could search for what was nearby this still non-identified location. I looked for a restaurant near it and then asked the system to route between the two. However the system had not saved the original point, so I could not route between the two locations (and still do no know what the boxes are supposed to represent).

Next, I clicked on a tab labeled map highlights (at the left bottom of the screen) and found that there was a feature called “Junction Views” that was supposed to allow you to see the junctions and signs-as-real (well, that’s what the website indicated). However, doing so had some unusual results. On my first try, enabling the junction views turned the map blue and inoperable. I had better results the second time, as it skipped turning the map blue and just crashed the browser.

Finally, I found a menu that let me select the POIs I would like to see on the map. I clicked several of interest, but doing so created another case of “break the browser”. I gave up. My interest in exploring starts to wane around midnight, especially with buggy apps.

Navteq has hired some experienced, talented personnel recently. I hope they are given the opportunity to fix the “beta” – although this is clearly an “alpha” release. If I were part of Navteq’s management, I would recommend that they take it down and try again (and ask for advice if they do not have it in house). If I were holding any Nokia stock, I would be horrified! Does anybody really think this stuff from Navteq is going to be on phones soon?

Speaking of phones, I purchased an iPhone 3GS (mainly because another of my endeavors is considering publishing on the iPhone) and found it to be a world changer. It wasn’t the apps from Apple that I found so satisfying (although they are very smooth), but the mobile mapping apps from Google that allow voice search. Google has done a great job. When I was CTO at go2 systems in 2001-2002 this is the kind of stuff we were trying to build with early generation phones, bug riddled WAP gateways and slow networks. Just a few years early and a few gazillion dollars short, I guess!

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Posted in geocoding, Google, Navteq, Nokia, Personal Navigation, routing and navigation, Technology

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