Location Intelligence Blog

Mapping India the right way: Global positioning system

Courtesy of The Financial Express

Mapping India: Global positioning system - earlier, India lacked the culture of using maps, but it is changing now. Today, we use maps every day on our mobile phones and laptops to find a variety of information, whether it’s a nearby hospital or a good cup of coffee. Even businesses rely on maps to create new efficiencies in their operations - especially radio taxi service providers. 

There is no doubt that radio taxi providers have brought better service for customers in Indian metropolitan cities, not to mention freedom from frequent quarrels with auto/taxi drivers on fares or refusal to travel to certain parts. They offer good quality service and are available round the clock, but have you ever wondered how these taxi operators are able to have quicker pick up and faster response time to a call for a cab?

It’s not rocket science but technology is coming to the aid of the traveller; not mobile phones or age-old walky talky but global positioning system (GPS) to be precise. An avid user is Meru Cab, India’s largest cab provider and the third largest taxi operator globally. Meru Cab oversee over 20,000 trips a day across the four massive metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore—using geospatial services (electronic maps), they have pioneered the concept of GPS-enabled taxis in India.

Each cab is fitted with GPS-based tracking device that helps to identify the nearest cab from a customer’s pick up location. The customer’s address and other details are communicated back to the driver on the display screen. The printed receipt for the fare is a boon to the customer as each cab is fitted with a tamper-proof digital fare meter. What’s more the location information and fare details are continuously sent by each cab back to the control room for tracking purposes. 

Radio taxi operators are not alone in the use of geospatial technology. Today, we use maps every day on our mobile phones, laptops and tablets to find a variety of information, whether it’s a nearby hospital or a good cup of coffee. Businesses rely on geospatial services (electronic maps as well as satellite imagery) to create new efficiencies in their core operations, find ways to better target their customers, create leaner operations, and make smarter strategic decisions. Yet have you ever stopped to think about the industry behind the maps we use every day, the contributions it makes to our economy, and the benefits it provides to both consumers and businesses?

Put simply, geospatial technology is driving economic growth and job opportunities in India. This is evidenced by a Boston Consulting Group report, commissioned by Google. The report reveals that the Indian geospatial services industry generated $3 billion in revenue in 2011 alone while accounting for approximately 1,35,000 jobs. The industry is composed of geo-data providers, location-enabled device manufacturers, geo-app developers, and a growing network of geospatial experts and educators.

According to the BCG report, geospatial services help Indian businesses drive $40-45 billion in revenue, save $70-75 billion in costs and affect 8-9 million jobs in India. The report also found that Indian consumers are also willing to pay $1.5-2 billion more than they currently do for geospatial services such as online maps, navigation systems and local searches.

Geospatial services allow consumers, businesses, governments, and other organisations to make decisions based on geographic data. The primary ingredients of geospatial services are electronic maps and satellite imagery describing our physical and human environment.

Commenting on the report, Lalitesh Katragadda, country head—India Product, Google says, “Geo services helped generate $2 billion in revenue within the Indian accommodation and food services industry alone. In the report, restaurants reported benefitting from new customers finding them through local searches. Users benefit as it makes it easier for them to find the information on local offerings and creating valuable efficiencies in their day-to-day lives.”

Currently, geo services represent 0.2% of India’s GDP and affect 2% of the national workforce; however there is tremendous room to grow this industry and create a lasting source of competitive advantage for India. The Indian geo services industry is comprised of companies that process the location data, companies that produce geo-enabled software, and expert industries that use geospatial data to generate insights. Beyond the industry itself, a wide variety of other industries in India also use geo services to make their businesses more efficient and productive.

“Geo services such as the Google Maps APIs are helping to grow the Indian economy by enabling job opportunities, and paving the way towards future innovation. To enable continued growth, governments, companies, researchers and consumers all need to encourage mapping innovations and investments in India,” Lalitesh adds.

Indeed, geospatial services industry in India is still at a nascent stage. Google Maps, Google Map Maker and the Google Maps APIs are revolutionising the geospatial industry and making maps more widely available, but there’s a long way to go. To ensure that these mapping services continue to be a valuable driver of the Indian economy, there is a need to invest in it—through support of open data policies, product innovation, better satellite technology, and pushing for more geography education programmes in schools.

Most important, a consumer is a distracted user and expects a map to respond instantly to a mouse click or a swipe across a tablet’s screen. Therefore, a map must be responsive, easy to use and should offer a compelling user experience.

Written by Default at 13:00

Facebook May Be Mapping Out a Location-Tracking App

Courtesy of eCommerce Times

Facebook may be joining tech rivals Google and Apple in offering up more location-tracking features for its users. A rumored Facebook tracking app could mean revenue from targeted ads to members and a way to boost the company's mobile strategy. However, it could also reignite longstanding privacy concerns about the world's biggest social network.

Facebook, which already has a long history of skirmishes with privacy advocates, may be heading toward another fight following reports that the company is working on a mobile location-tracking app.

The app, set for release in mid-March, would reportedly run in the background even when other apps are running on a smartphone or when the smartphone is not in use, according to Bloomberg.

Facebook is ramping up its marketing efforts to reflect the fact that more consumers check in to social networks via mobile devices. The app could help Facebook sell location-based ads, but it could also reignite concerns among consumers about how the social network uses their personal information. 

Tracking the Growth of Mobile Use

The team developing Facebook's location software is led by Peter Deng, formerly of Google, Bloomberg reported. It also includes engineers from two Facebook acquisitions: Glancee, an Italian location-tracking startup, and Gowalla, a location-based social network company.

Facebook already offers the Nearby mobile discovery app to businesses, but it is planning to beef up its mobile products suite. During a Jan. 30 call with analysts, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook will focus this year on mobile apps.

Mobile is a growing area for Facebook, which reported 680 million monthly active users on mobile at the end of last year. Mobile daily active users on Facebook exceeded those on the Web for the first time in the last three months of 2012.

The need to focus on mobile was heightened by advertisers' adoption of social media during last Sunday's Super Bowl. Facebook was mentioned in only four of 52 national TV commercials during the game, or 8 percent, while Twitter was mentioned in 50 percent of the ads, according to the Marketing Land website.

No Need to Get Your OK

Facebook may not need to ask its users' permission to track them.

In a section of Facebook's data use policy, the company says it may put together data about users for marketing and advertising purposes.

Facebook spokesperson Ana Brekalo declined to comment for this story.

"Facebook knows that it has some trust issues with users because of privacy missteps in the past," Justin Brookman, director of the consumer privacy project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told the E-Commerce Times. "Whether or not their current data use policy allows for this, I highly doubt they're going to turn it on by default. The backlash wouldn't be worth it."

It's doubtful that the app would continue tracking users' locations in the background even when it's not being used, Brookman added, because of privacy reasons and the fact that doing so would consume too much battery power.

But Everyone's Doing It

If Facebook is indeed working on such an app, it may not be that different from what's already being offered by Apple and Google.

Apple's Find My Friends app lets users on devices running iOS 5 or later get the locations of friends and family members. Find My Friends is optimized for the iPhone 5, but is also compatible with the iPod touch and iPad.

GPS Phone Tracker app on iTunes lets users follow people worldwide -- with their permission -- through their iPhones or iPads. The app tracks locations to within 30 feet, logs locations from every two minutes to every hour, attaches photos to identify users on maps, and uses satellite maps or street maps. The paid version can follow up to 10 iPhones and map their movements for up to 48 hours.

Google offers Google Latitude, which is part of Google Maps for mobile. The app is available for Android, iOS or the BlackBerry. Users can control who sees their location and at what level of detail, and they can share, set or hide their location at any time.

However, "there's no real indication that that's what [Facebook's] planning," Brookman pointed out. "The sources in this story are fairly vague."

Written by Default at 11:00

Google asks: How much is mapping worth?

Courtesy of the Washington Post

The Google Maps app is seen on an Apple iPhone 4S on December 13, 2012 in Fairfax, California.

How much has mapping software changed your life?

The anecdotal impact is easy to assess. Look no further than the uproar Apple faced after it switched the iPhone’s default mapping program from Google Maps to its own much criticized service.

Or consider the glove compartment. Twenty years ago, that catch-all space under the dashboard was home to road maps, TripTiks and — probably — a magnifying glass. Today, you’re more likely to find a smartphone charger.

But when it comes to fixing an actual value — on the online mapping industry and on the service it provides — it gets much trickier.

Google, which has embarked on an almost zealous mission to map the whole world, said Wednesday that it’s trying to get a handle on how to gauge that value. The company commissioned two studies, one from Boston Consulting Group and one from the European firm Oxera, to look at the geo-services industry in the United States and worldwide.

According to the research, U.S. consumers placed a $37 billion value on mapping services, said Charlie Hale, a Google policy analyst. The American industry, defined as those who work with global positioning satellite systems and mapping, generates $73 billion in yearly revenue and employs half a million workers, Hale said. Worldwide, that number jumps to between $150 billion and $270 billion a year and $90 billion in wages.

Hale said Google wanted to underwrite the studies to take a step back and study how its products and others were changing business and consumer habits.

“There’s been a sea change in technology,” he said. “We’re seeing it as a way to put a flag in the ground and understand what the technology means.”

The studies also ventured into the somewhat fuzzier math of examining the impact of mapping software based on how businesses use it. Hale said that this could include the money that businesses save by using maps and map software to plot ideal driving routes, find new sites for buildings or consult traffic flow to find the best places to put billboards.

All in all, the study found these uses add up to a value of $1.6 trillion. Hale said that Oxera’s study predicts that the industry will see 30 percent growth per year, as consumers rely even more on their smartphones for navigation.

Google commissioned the studies to get a comprehensive snapshot of the landscape, he said, and consider how it should invest in mapping software in the future.

“It helps us make the argument that it’s a growing and important kind of technology,” he said.

The studies, Hale said, also reveal a nice comeback for geography teachers facing questions from students about why they need to know geography: According to the research, students who know how to use geographic data and software on average earn salaries three percent higher than those who don’t.

Written by Default at 14:00

Ford Gets Geeky at CES with Voice-Activated Location-Sharing

Courtesy of GIS User

CES isn’t just about small electronic gadgets, it’s also about telematics, GPS, audio, video, basically anything electronic… and the auto industry is represented there as well – big time! Check out this technology being touted at CES via Ford – enter Ford SYNC AppLink.

Using the AppLink interface, drivers will be able to share their location with friends and family directly from their car using simple voice commands, eliminating the need to touch their mobile phone while driving. To use Glympse, drivers need the app installed on an iOS or Android-based smartphone. The car automatically recognizes the app when the phone is Bluetooth®-paired or USB-connected – way cool!! See more details HERE in the official PR

Written by Default at 12:00

Queensland Police are zeroing in on crime, and a planned street map of offences will be just a click away

Courtesy of Courier Mail

qps queensland police crime data map

Police computer boffins are developing software described as like a "Google Maps of crime" that will for the first time show offences street by street. Source: The Courier-Mail

QUEENSLANDERS will get a new perspective on crime in their neighbourhoods thanks to a ground-breaking police mapping project.

Police computer boffins are developing software described as like a "Google Maps of crime" that will for the first time show offences street by street.

But there are no plans to include crime-rate information that would allow comparisons of neighbourhoods.

From next year anyone will be able to enter a street address, postcode or police division into a special search engine and compare the number of reported offences. The system, which will be free to access, is likely to show crimes ranging from assault and burglary to car theft using user-friendly icons to represent each type of offence.

Users will be able to customise their own maps showing neighbourhood crime hot spots and to track offending over time, with up to 15 years' worth of information being made available.

Sensitive crimes such as sex offences and breaches of domestic violence orders are likely to be aggregated with other crime types, such as assault, so they can't be associated with a particular location.

The Queensland Police Service is using data that records the location of each offence, but is working on ways to show crimes by street only so as to avoid breaching people's privacy. QPS said it would consider including crime rates at a future date.

The data will be updated regularly, but there is likely to be a time lag while police verify the figures.

The project is the product of about 18 months' work, triggered by pressure from Queensland's Information Commissioner and the media.

A spokesman for Emergency Services Minister Jack Dempsey said the program would help homebuyers and businesspeople make informed decisions about different locations.

"We want to give everyone an opportunity to look at the crime stats," he said.

"There's no reason to keep it secret or to do it just once a year."

The aim was to have the project go live by February but the State's Privacy Commissioner would be consulted first, the spokesman said.

It will be the first time police have published "divisional" level crime stats, breaking the figures down by suburb.

Police have kept more detailed divisional numbers to themselves, with the QPS last year saying it could not release the divisional statistics because they had not been "verified" by their statistics unit.

A QPS spokeswoman said The Sunday Mail's and The Courier-Mail's use of Right To Information laws to obtain the neighbourhood statistics two years ago had been the initial trigger for the project.

It also comes as the Newman Government makes commitments to greater transparency.

Its moves so far include putting a selection of statistics, including 15-years' worth of Statewide crime numbers and rates, on a pilot website, http://data.qld.gov.au.

In NSW residents can access data by suburb that is collected by an independent body.

Written by Default at 12:00