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

The 3D Arms Race and Thoughts About Analytics – Part 3 (of 3)

June 29th, 2008 by MDob

This is the third and final exploration prompted by Richard Water’s article in the Financial Times titled “Way to go? Mapping looks to be web’s next big thing”. The article can be found here.

More about the market

While all of the examples in the Waters’ article are interesting, the author seems to miss the prime mover in this historic development. Companies developing 3D technologies are looking for the spatial cues that will allow them to do something better than their competitors. While “mapping for the masses” is a laudable goal, that is not why any of these companies are interested in the technology. Interest in 3D data, spatial or otherwise) is based on financial goals. All companies in this space are looking for ways to generate enhanced profits using 3D data.

I think it likely that the mobile Internet is the next big market – for advertising! Google and the other players are not creating 3D-data for any reason other than it provides a realistic spatial context around potential buyers of the products and services presented in their ads. From the perspective of companies in the advertising business (i.e. Google, Microsoft, etc.), 3D data allows them to target the user for ads that are not only contextually relevant but also spatially cued (geotargeting).

When the user’s search environment evolves into a mobile, 3D paradigm, their actions at the interface will provide more contextual cues about their interest than are available today in the online environment. The spatial aspects of the 3D-data will allow presenting ads about relevant topics in the location where the user is at that point in time and possibly, about where they will travel next. Mining the web logs that accompany the trails that a person commonly travels will become a profit vortex that just keeps sucking those dollars in.

The mobile Internet’s ad distribution networks (Google’s or Nokia’s – because that is where Nokia is going)) trump the wired Internet, because they can present advertising opportunities while the user is on their way to a destination. If you use Local Search to select a category of stores while on the wired Internet, it is because he or she intends to travel there sometime. The Mobile Internet allows you to search for an item when you need it! Place and context based search in real time -now that gets me excited about advertising!

Perhaps Mr. Jorgensen’s (Microsoft) quotes in the Waters’ article have been edited or he was being coy about the promise of the mobile Internet. Let’s take location capable handsets as a given. The “awareness” is added by connectivity to the Internet and its storehouse of geographical databases. The phone, in addition to its communication and display capabilities, needs to be improved in its role as a “remote sensing” device. It should become a location tool in which pointing the phone in a direction, interrogates that location and returns information about what it is, what it offers and how to get there (this capability has been patented and is now being rolled out on phones in Japan). Further, the phone’s operating system needs to be customizable so that the user can shape their phone to search only for the things of interest to them and day-part these activities to reflect the complexity of their life (business, personal, medical, recreational.)

For many such as Microsoft and Google, creating a more detailed world allows them to offer advertisers a more specifically geotargeted audience. Consider this concept – most of use travel through our neighborhoods and local shopping areas using the “ribbon” approach. We know the main streets and a few local streets and use them to navigate our local geography. Most of us do not know what it between the roads we use or what types of stores are areas that we cannot see from the street when we are driving. When we travel in new areas, the problem is even greater. Since we know (act on) only the opportunities that we can see.

Enabling Local Search lets me know things around me and enabling 3D-Local Search lets me “see” the things around me that are not visible from my car. Now, if I place filters on this process, I can see only those things of interest to me that are near me. Wow, what better advertising target than this?

However, it seems to me that the opportunity is much bigger than just advertising. Accurate 3D spatial data for instance, allows me not only to show the environment with its correct position and elevation (so those advertisers can deliver me right to the storefront), it allows me to use these data in a M2M (machine to machine) environment to perform a number of types of analysis that would benefit me as a user (e.g. to navigate my car, provide curve speed warning, adjust my car’s fuel economy, etc.). In other words, the real benefit of 3D data comes not from just seeing it, but using it in analytical ways that enhance other aspects of my life than just “finding”.

I think that the use of personal analytics to “know” the environment surrounding us will be the next big thing on the Internet, in wireless, in navigation and in all of the advertising that will accompany these revolutions.

Later this week I will become a soothsayer and author a blog on TomTom’s strategy now that the TeleAtlas deal has been finalized. After that I will do the same for Nokia and Navteq. Before either, however, I will write a brief expose on my latest battle with TomTom Customer Service over my TomTom 920 database updates. Yep, they better get out of the PND business – or at least figure out how to provide customer support, customer service and consistent product positioning.

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Posted in Geospatial, Geotargeting, local media, Local Search, local search advertising, Mapping, Microsoft, Navteq, Nokia, TeleAtlas, TomTom, User Generated Content

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