Comment: End of the road for professional mapping
By Darien Graham-Smith
Posted on 10 Jul 2007 at 09:18
TomTom's new "Map Share" technology is undoubtedly a welcome convenience for motorists. They can now edit the maps on their SatNav device, enabling them to add one-way systems, block off exits and even draw new roads to reflect changes in the real world. These modifications can then be shared with other drivers via the internet. No doubt, it's a clever system. Click here for full details.
Yet its significance is far greater than TomTom is letting on. The ability to share updates opens the door to free, community-created maps - a development which dramatically severs the umbilical link that has bound SatNav to commercial map makers such as Tele Atlas and Navteq.
This can only be good news for consumers, who have previously had to pay to keep their SatNav maps up-to-date; but it's a disaster for the cartographers, who may soon discover - as those who publish magazines, music, films and software already have - how little respect the internet has for content creators.
It's not online law-breakers that could threaten the map makers' livelihoods, though: it's a million competitors working together, perfectly legally, for free.
Of course, when a job's done by volunteers, it's not always done well. But peer-to-peer cartography can benefit from individual self-interest. Since drivers use GPS devices for planning their own routes, there's a clear incentive for each driver to make accurate road updates to his or her unit.
Online map servers could collate these updates and make them available to other visitors (along with trustworthiness data, such as the number of independent corroborations). Only out-of-the-way areas might remain murky, leaving commercial entities to fulfill their natural role: mapping the places that no one will map for free.
It won't happen overnight. TomTom's unassuming launch shows it has no immediate plans to turn the market upside-down, and it's not about to shoot itself in the foot by immediately shredding the healthy revenue it makes from selling maps. Indeed, for now it's only offering the Map Share service to customers with fully paid-up map subscriptions.
No competitor has yet even announced a comparable system. And even once a free system is in place, it will take time for community-created maps to attain the completeness and credibility required to earn the trust of mainstream motorists.
But the genie's out of the bottle, and from here demand can only grow. TomTom may not be ready to cut loose from commercial maps, but sooner or later that's where this announcement inevitably leads. And not just for TomTom but for the entire industry.
Is your business a social business? For helpful info and tips visit our hub.
- Windows 8.2: release date, features and free cloud version
- iPad sales stall as owners "too happy to upgrade"
- iPhone 6 release date, rumours, specs and features: when will the iPhone 6 come out in the UK?
- Killing the Surface Mini hit revenues, Microsoft reveals
- Amazon posts another loss - its biggest since 2012
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- Windows Easy Transfer – not so "easy" in Windows 8.1
- Formula 1: what a difference virtualisation makes
- Office of the future: comfy chairs and tablets everywhere
- I went to Glastonbury and the only thing that got high was my smartphone
- Meet the robots helping teach children
- PaperLater: would you pay to print the internet?
- Amazon vs Kobo: how much to make the ebook switch?
- Phishing emails: how I nearly got caught out
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office
- How to write your company's IT security policy
- Raspberry Pi and Wolfram: a must-have for every child
- Could you get by with Office Web Apps?