The Future of Maps: Customization
The presenters at this morning's opening session of the IMIA/.MAP Conference in Cambridge Massachussetts revealed that they are all facing the same kinds of questions about the current mapping industry. What is a map today? What does users want to do with it? How can map publishers create and distribute print and digital/mobile maps and make a living doing so?
One theme rose to the top for me: customization.
Peter ter Haar (left), Director of Products, Ordnance Survey, UK described his organization's Custom Made maps
, where individuals can select and area of interest, determine other details and even choose a cover photo. For L16.99 the map is delivered in just a few days via post. It's popular for specific trips and for special gifts. He didn't state the future of OS printed maps would be this sort of on-demand only system, but hinted at it. He didn't suggest the business case, but I will: OS may save a lot in printing costs by going print on demand. Ter Haar went on to quote Darwin:
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
Tarun Bhatnager, Director, Enterprise Maps for Business, Google (right) described the key principles for the development of Google Maps: completeness, accuracy and usability. Customization falls into that last category. A map made just for you (as the latest Google Maps will do if you are logged in) is far more useful and probably usable than a generic one or one made for your neighbor (espeically if he likes ribs and you like Japanese food). He didn't suggest this, but I will: Google will likely make more money from that custom map than for am generic one. He went on to share details of two upcoming mapping products:
later this month/early next month: a product that democratizes GIS data and breaks down the "silos"
next year, perhaps Q2: a predictive analytics product (My colleague Joe Francica has predicted this for some time!)
The other presenters from companies big and small detailed the challenge of knowing what the customer wants. Offering a customization can alleviate that burdensome task. While few have that feature, it's clear it's at least in the back of their minds.
Gordon Cheers, Managing Director, Millennium House, Australia, the man behing the 6' x 4.5' printed Earth Platinum Edition Atlas
, also spoke about customization, but not in the way you'd think. There are 31 copies of the $100,000 in print. Why that number? At first he gave a logical answer: that's how many the world needs. Said another way, only so many libraries, museums and universities could or would step up to buy one. Then, he coyly gave another answer. Collectors like to select specific items where there is a limited run. In particular they like to select the one that matches the date of their birth. So, 31 calendar days (max) in a month, 31 copies of the Atlas. Collectors was a custom, just for them, item.
Customization is clearly not the single idea that will answer all the issues related to today's mapping business, but I suggest it could play a big role. Consider how easily we customize the colors of our basketball shoes or our playlists on Pandora and other music sites. We rarely eat the "stock" sandwich at the deli: "no cheese, but extra pickles, please!" And, as happily pay a bit more for custom kicks, I think we'd pay a bit more for custom maps.
by Adena Schutzberg on 09/09 at 01:24 PM |