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

UGC and Map Compilation- Do Data Flows Tell The Story?

November 19th, 2008 by MDob

If you had time to look at the slide show on Neogeography that I published here recently, you might have noticed some slides on “data flow” diagrams related to User Generated Content and the creation of navigation databases. I’m using this blog to advance my thoughts on this issue, although it will take a few entries to get through the topic.

As you know, I am a proponent of UGC and believe that it can become an important method for augmenting the quality of update process for creating navigation databases. See the illustration below for a diagram of how a UGC-enabled compilation process might work. (For a larger version, click
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Waterfall model of navigation map compilation involving User Generated Content

It is likely that some update information from UGC will be easy to validate, while other information may simply serve to point out geographic locations that the map database providers need to examine in more detail. In either case, appropriately implemented, UGC could provide the following benefits: lower cost compilation, increased the accuracy of database content, increased spatial coverage, increased currentness and increased relevance of POIs. While there are many questions about the sustainability of UGC over time, let’s deal with those at a later date.

If integrating UGC into the Waterfall Model of map compilation does provide the benefits mentioned above, do the implications of a beneficial new compilation technique alter the landscape for navigation map database providers? Maybe! (The case of creating a map database using a WIKI-type format, such as OpenStreetMap, has different fundamentals and dynamics than those experienced by the leading commercial developers of navigation databases and I will not address that case in this blog, at least not now.)

One of the critical but overlooked aspects of the model shown above, is that the benefit of UGC is increased when there is a product in the marketplace. Product marketing usually benefits from end-user contact, even if it is only for customer service. Unfortunately, products designed for end-users are not necessarily a focus of the navigation database provider, since their customer are usually OEMs or “Tier 1” suppliers to the OEMs. Although navigation database companies have tried to “connect” with the public through their corporate websites, these efforts have been inefficient as a method of harvesting User Generated Content.

Another important component of product strategy is that when consumers use of the product it provides them something to react to and test in their specific use environment. Users of products know their benefits and weaknesses both functionally and, in this case, spatially. In essence, the existence of products, customers who use them and an efficient method of communicating between the two are necessary ingredients for creating a beneficial cycle based on UGC.

It is my belief that the engineering of the data flow involving UGC is critical to the success of the effort to involve UGC in the map compilation effort. TomTom currently has the best model for successfully leveraging UGC into the map database compilation process. I think this could pose difficult challenges for Nokia/Navteq based on my assumptions about the data flow that Nokia is likely to implement. In the next segment on this topic, later this week, I will examine the issue in more detail.

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Posted in Data Sources, Geospatial, Navteq, Nokia, routing and navigation, TomTom, User Generated Content

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