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

UCG and Map Updating – More Details

February 7th, 2008 by MDob

Last time was too long ago, but the lure of some of my Christmas presents was too great to ignore. I shot my way through Mass Effect on the XBOX 360 (and I might add completed the “romance” assignment with an alien scientist from Asari). Also, I galloped my way through the gruesome, but inventive, shooter BioShock (twice, but the second time on a harder difficulty level). Most of the time, however, was spent after I came to my senses and finalized a report on the navigation market requested by a client. Finally, I read several books from the fantasy and science fiction genre, but focused on a technical book describing Joomla, wondering if it might be the right solution for another of my endeavors.

I have been asked to speak on a panel session on Web Portals at the GPS-Wireless Conference in San Francisco (on March 13-14) and hope to see some of you there.

On airplanes over the last few weeks I had sketched out a detailed plan for my next few blogs. Much to my chagrin, the blog notes are now flying somewhere without me, as I lost them on a return trip from the East Coast – I hope they can use the miles. I spent some time recreating my approach, so let’s return to UAMU (User-Assisted Map Updating).

During my last blog, I ended by dropping the hook that some aspects of UAMU are complicated enough that their interface requirements might limit the kinds of devices that could be used for this activity. Where this thought leads me is to the probable limitations on the use of UGC for map updating on certain devices and into the market segmentation of the use of UGC based on these and other factors.

To some degree, the types of data problems you can fix through User Assisted Map Updating (UAMU) are tied to screen size (and influenced by screen resolution). On a PND with a 4.3” touch sensitive LCD screen, for example, you can zoom and point with your finger to the information you feel needs changing. Devices of this size usually include a relatively large “soft” keypad for alphanumeric input and making almost any type of change to the information presented is relatively easy to capture and correct (this experience is based on my familiarity with making changes on a TomTom 920).

Using a desktop or laptop computer, you can precisely zoom and accurately align a pointer on a feature that needs an edit. However, it is unlikely that desktop or laptop computers will be heavily used for UAMU, unless they are somehow linked with a PND-based map update program. The reason has to do with the lack of an onboard GPS receiver. It simply takes too long for a user to localize a map change using a desktop of laptop due to the need to geographically target your correction. Take a look at Navteq’s Map Reporter or the TeleAtlas Map Insight for examples of this cumbersome method. (You know, you would think that these companies would try to trap inbound IP addresses to target the user location and lessen the user’s load, but I guess they decided to eliminate possible errors at the expense of usability).

GPS equipped mobile phones are another device that might challenge the PND for making map corrections, but only if they are GPS equipped, which is a problem on a world-wide basis. Today, the majority of mobile phones in use that have GPS are equipped with “modestly sized” screens and these devices do not provide useful support of the functionality required for zooming and selecting map information that needs correction. In addition, keyboarding the annotation for map changes is fairly difficult on the majority of this type of phone.

Although smart-phones may be equipped with a precision pointing device or a touch sensitive screen, using these devices for targeting a correction, then keyboarding the correction will convince most users to consider another method. Voice input would be a real benefit in solving the correction problem, but how would the dynamics of the updating actually work? In addition, many of the map corrections that users will want to make will require a “verbose” response – in other words, it is likely that more complex corrections will require a note page and a description of what is wrong with the existing road network. Phone users are likely not going to have the patience to make complex map update suggestions (like drawing the position of a road on the screen and labeling it with the correct name).

In graphical form, the devices and effort-level to use them for UAMU look like this:

Ease of use for phones, computers and PNDs in map updating

Okay, so let’s go back and think about the possible changes that someone might want to make. I have created the chart below by ranking the possible map corrections in terms of the probable frequency of each type of change. Since I do not have any “real” data, the rankings reflect my bias that the corrections that are relatively easy to make will be the ones most often attempted by the user. In addition, the rankings reflect the types of errors that I think the users will easily be able to correct and will be most interested in correcting. And finally, you may have noticed that the error categories reflect are situations that the users can SEE on the displayed map and in the “real-world” while using a navigation device.

Probale distribution of Map Errors Correctable through UAMU

Now, we need to combine this information with our knowledge of the industry to decide which companies might be successful with UAMU and how the industry will segment on UGC. Remember, those with a customer facing business will outpace those who do not “own” their customers. Gosh, that sounds interesting – well at least to me and I will blog on this in just a few days —– I promise.

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Posted in map updating, Personal Navigation, User Generated Content

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