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

User-Assisted Map Updating

December 24th, 2007 by MDob

After thinking through the materials we covered the last time we spoke on UGC and map updating, I have put the salient points together in a table that should give you an idea of how I see “User-Assisted Map Updating” (UAMU) working.

Chart describing the actions and functionality involved in UAMU

One of the issues that will be difficult to accommodate in a UAMU is the nature of the errors that users encounter. While it should be clear when there is a blatant positioning error on the PND map, there are a number of situations where the error that the user experiences could be the result of inadequate map data or a peculiarity in the routing algorithm. The user’s inability to determine the difference between data errors related to the map and method errors related to the procedural aspects of the approach taken to routing is one of the main faults of User-Assisted Map Updating. For the moment we will accept that the UAMU approach results in some degree of confounding and that this problem will create more error reports than warranted. Also, we will return to this issue in a later column.

The top row in our chart shows whether the actions that users will take to update the map information is to be shared with the PND manufacturer or other users. Note that most of these changes are designed to be shared. Why the single exception?

I think that users will want to personalize maps and some of the personalization will be only for their own use. For example, I may decide that the PNDs suggestion for some routes is unreasonable and, in response, I will block roads, knowing that I will never travel on these streets, although they can be used to get you to a destination. My blocking these roads does not indicate that they are physically unavailable, merely that I would not elect to drive them or recommend them as a part of any route. In essence, since I may not know if the problem is the data or the routing algorithm, I solve the problem by making the road unavailable to the algorithm (more about this in a future column). Also, I may elect to call businesses and POIs by unflattering names, something I surely would not want to share with the rest of the world.

Now, back to the chart – The second row in our chart shows the actions that will be required to allow users to update map information that they feel requires correcting. Along the left edge of the chart is a list of map features. The use of an “x” is designed to indicate that the actions involving this feature may include potential changes to the feature’s attributes. In turn, this attribute level editing may require significant levels of granularity in the “map updating” interface offered to report these problems.

I am uncertain whether the list of “User Actions” that I have posed is sufficient to support the AUMU task. I think these actions offer the functionality necessary to update the map information that will most likely be required to report problems observed by the user. Let me know if you have any additions.

The schema and explanation looks like this:

Move (relocate)
Delete (remove)
Insert (add new)
Modify (change non-positional attribute)
Connect (connect disconnected paths)
Block (disconnect connected paths)
Personalize (make changes or additions across categories that reflect your tastes and preferences. This action may be focused on POIs, but it is likely that it would also be used to rename roads with a common, local identifier.)

Of course, it is likely that there needs to be “attributes” attached to the “User Functions”. The one that seems most obvious is to add a temporal dimension to the suggested changes in order to accommodate seasonal, construction or other changes of a known or predicted duration. Making this change might best be accomplished by adding a “duration” qualifier to all user-suggested changes (e.g. permanent, multi-year, indefinite, specific date).

When you contemplate these types of map updates, you begin to realize that creating the interface that allows these corrections may impose limitation on the types of devices that could be used for UAMU.
Since Christmas Eve will be here in a few minutes, let’s talk about this next time.

My best wishes to you and yours for a happy holiday season.


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Posted in Garmin, map updating, Mapping, Personal Navigation, TomTom, User Generated Content

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