Source: Nokia Bets Big On Mapping
Source: Nokia Bets Big On Mapping
Google Maps and Google Earth just got their second update of 2012 to add 45º imagery, which now covers 17 U.S. and seven international cities. These 45º views cause buildings to cast shadows and rotate with real perspective. It’s an almost-3D view that makes the satellite view of a place more realistic while still supporting most systems.
45º views act as a transition between the standard top-down view and Google’s new Google MapsGL, a full-3D Maps experience powered by WebGL in the browser. That part won’t work on certain low-end graphics cards, but for those who can run it, Google Maps gets pretty magical. Google has good reason to push the envelope on 3D maps. Its competitors are working on magical maps of their own.
In addition to the full-3D WebGL views, desktop Google Maps also got a flyover feature for travel routes last year. When you put in travel directions, the map viewer gets a “Play” button that switches to a Google Earth 3D view and flies you from point A to point B. It’s not the most useful feature in the world, but it’s a nice way to check out the terrain on your route.
Google is even taking 3D mapping indoors. It’s sending people with backpack-mounted Street View cameras inside local businesses, so Google can put a panoramic interior view into Google Places results. Google is also building mobile 2D maps inside buildings, including malls, airports, hotels and convention centers. When all these maps combine, Google can take you from a desktop or mobile search, down the street, into the mall, to the store, inside the store, and eventually, it wants to be the way you pay, too.
Sounds like Google has this whole business locked up, right? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Google has competitors to worry about. There’s Microsoft, whose Bing Maps got interior mapping first, but it’s still a distant second in terms of market share. Amazon may not have the maps, but it has unparalleled reach into shopping. And Apple has Siri, a mobile assistant that already routes around Google when able, and it has made some intriguing mapping acquisitions.
The missing piece in Google’s end-to-end mobile shopping chain is the shopping part, and no Web company does shopping like Amazon. Amazon has released an augmented reality iPhone app that lets customers scan products in a store and buy them (or cheaper alternatives) on Amazon. That’s a pretty serious diss to local businesses, but it makes Amazon customers happy. Also, if they’re buying through Amazon Flow, they aren’t paying with Google Wallet. Amazon also bought a voice recognition company last year, sparking comparisons to Apple’s Siri.
For Apple’s part, Siri is the piece that threatens Google. Currently, Siri searches the Web using Google when it can’t find the answer itself. Apple’s iOS Maps app also uses Google for now. But certain features of the Siri beta are telling. When you use Siri to search for a local business, it uses Yelp, not Google. What can we expect from later versions of Siri and iOS? Here’s a hint: In November 2011, Apple bought C3 Technologies, a 3D street view and interior mapping company.
What apps, maps and Web services do you use to find your way around?
The official blog of Open Street Map reports tonight that someone at a range of Google IP addresses in India has been editing the collaboratively made map of the world in some very unhelpful ways, like moving and deleting information and reversing the direction of one-way streets on the map.
The IP addresses match the same ones that were caught last week running a long-term scam wherein telephone directory listings were scraped from a crowd-sourced phone directory in Kenya called Mocality. A Google contractor then systematically called those phone numbers claiming to have a paid placement deal jointly offered by the Kenyan company and Google! A Google spokesperson told BoingBoing on Friday that it was “mortified” by the discovery but now it appears the same Google contractor may be behind mayhem rippling throughout one of the world’s biggest maps.
Open Street Map said tonight that two user accounts have been found vandalizing streets in New York, London and elsewhere since at least last Thursday. Full investigation of the actions may take time, OSM said, because at least 17 user accounts have accessed OSM from those Google IP adresses more than 100,000 times over the past year.
Is this a Google contractor with something against crowdsourced projects? That’s one thing both targets have in common. Neither offense seems short-lived or trivial though, either.
Open Street Map is like Wikipedia for world maps. It’s a fabulous and inspiring project, I think, but not everyone agrees.
In August 2010, Open Street Map co-founder Steve Coast wrote a long blog post titled Enough is Enough: Disinfecting OSM from Poisonous People. That post has been read by almost 175,000 people.
Coast said that divise conversations “have spilled over now from poisonous people merely making life difficult on the mailing list, to paralyzing the project and even systematically corrupting the data we serve out using bots…Many (if not most or all) of the key people in OSM are feeling drained, distracted and upset. Some are talking of hiatus or resign. These are the key people who write code, build things, maintain things and run our working groups.”
Three months after writing that post, Coast left the company that supports Open Street Map and became the Principal Architect at Bing Maps.
He was one of three signers of tonight’s blog post that concludes as follows:
“These actions are somewhat baffling given our past good relationship with Google which has included donations and Summer of Code work. As a community we take the quality of our data extremely seriously and look forward to an explanation from Google and an undertaking to not allow this kind of thing to happen in the future.”
Google has not responded to my request for comment on this story, but presumably it will tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how the company responds to this, the second serious allegation of wrongdoing by one of its contracting companies.
It would be nice if Open Street Map could continue to flourish and grow. Bad actors may be an inevitable issue for an open site building collective knowledge at scale, but it would be good if people sitting in Google offices around the world were all helping instead of hurting such efforts. Reversing the direction on one-way streets is a particularly nasty thing to do.
If you’re attending the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) this week and have an Android phone, you’ll be able to use Google Maps to navigate inside the Las Vegas Convention Center. Select resorts and casinos on the Las Vegas strip are also covered, as is McCarran International Airport.
Google has also partnered with some Las Vegas-area Best Buy stores, so it can guide gadget-addled convention-goers straight to the cash register. Today’s update also releases the floor plans of some of the first locations submitted to Google.
The update to Google Maps for Android that launched in November contains indoor maps of participating locations. Google is extending its mobile reach until it can be the end-to-end provider of finding what its users are looking for, period.
There’s a mobile arms race heating up here. Apple’s Siri intelligent search assistant on the iPhone 4S skips Google and goes to Yelp when you search for a local place or business. Apple has also been snapping up 3D mapping technology. Meanwhile, Bing Maps has provided inside mapping since August of last year.
Mobile mapping inside buildings is an important trend, but Google has an advantage of scale. As the map provider for the biggest smartphone platform and the iPhone (for now), the majority of smartphone users are comfortable with Google Maps.
To understand the value of this strategy, look no further than Google’s partnerships with Las Vegas-area Best Buy stores during CES. Google has a piece of every step of the sales process except the cash itself, and it wants in on that, too.
Those changes, along with a newly-awarded patent for a feature that allows Bing Maps to route pedestrians away from unsafe neighborhoods, suggest Mcirosoft is driving to surpass Google Maps, which has dominated the space since surpassing MapQuest in site traffic and queries in 2008.
Microsoft has not announced a timetable for implementing the safe routing feature, which would use crime statistics to steer pedestrians away from neighborhoods that don’t meet certain safety thresholds.
The changes that have been launched build off of a Microsoft Research presentation at the 10th International Symposium on Experimental Algorithms last May. Those tweaks could be significant because they can incorporate new metrics in a few seconds: fast enough, the paper’s abstract noted, “to support real-time traffic updates and personalized optimization functions.”
The newly enhanced mapping service also allows users to select up to three routes in a single directions request. That’s similar to a feature Google Maps has offered for quite some time, but the recently-upgraded Bing pinpoints potential traffic problems and suggests quicker alternatives.
For example, a trip from Somerville, Mass., where I am typing this post, to South Boston – on the exact opposite side of downtown Boston and peak rush hour traffic – will take 17 to 19 minutes, depending what route I choose, according to Google Maps. Bing, on the other hand, also tells me the 6.6-mile trip will take about 15 minutes. But when I click on a link that lets me view the route based on traffic, Bing serves up real-time traffic conditions, showing construction delays and details and tells me in all likelihood the trip will probably take closer to 22 minutes.
To be fair, the Google Maps results incorporate traffic data as well, but the Bing upgrade makes those traffic problems more obvious by displaying them directly on the map.
A screenshot from a Bing Map route request showing real-time traffic conditions in downtown Boston during rush hour on Jan. 5, 2012.
Google Maps just went indoors. Starting with Google Maps 6.0 for Android, users of Google Maps can now navigate inside of mapped locations such as airports, malls and IKEA stores. The program launches with selected partners, and any business owner can apply to have a floor plan included.
This is a key move for Google’s mobile business, which up until now could only take you to the front door of the place for which you were searching. Google Maps on the desktop recently got 3D photo tours of small locations, an extension of Street View, but this is a bigger step. When Google Maps goes inside, Google can take you all the way from searching for something to holding it in your hand, advertising and data-gathering all the way.
This is currently only available on the native Android version of Google Maps, but that’s where it makes the most sense. At your desk, a photo tour is all you need. This location-based technology is a mobile innovation for once you’re actually there. Google Maps is now an end-to-end service, and that means Google has your eyeballs every step of the way.
Maps & Mobile Platforms
Location services are the heart of any mobile platform, and mapping is the most fundamental interface for them. Naturally, Android users (with the latest versions of everything) will get this powerful new service straight from Google. What about other mobile platforms?
The iPhone uses Google for mapping, too, at least for now. Based on the way Apple and Google are butting heads on mobile and location tools, that partnership can’t be long for this world. When iPhone 4S users ask Siri about local businesses, she skips Google and goes to Yelp, even though Google is likely to be the place a user would go first if given the choice. Apple is clearly trying to squeeze Google out of this picture. It recently bought a 3D mapping company of its own. This stand-off is why Google Maps and Siri were head to head in our Top 10 Consumer Web Products of 2011.
Interestingly, Bing Maps got interior mapping on its mobile Web version this August, but it didn’t make much of a splash.
Mapping The Inside World
Interiors are the last frontier of location services, and Google is looking to annex it. It’s the next big thing for Google’s business.
This is interesting news for startups working on this problem. Meridian, a Portland, Ore.-based company, just took $1 million in funding to make interior mapping into a platform. It provides its partner businesses with an interface to turn a 3D map of their building into an interactive, standalone application. That’s a competing vision for how mapping the inside world should work.
Read more about Google Maps 6.0 for Android on the Google LatLong blog.
How do you use your mobile devices to navigate the inside world?
Three years ago, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority looked lost, and so did many of its riders.
Those who hadn’t memorized Metro’s schedules had to employ its persnickety Trip Planner, a clunky Web form that not only won’t let you click on a map to specify your location but also chokes on cities, states, Zip codes and even commas if you add them to a street address. Meanwhile, other U.S. cities had enjoyed transit directions from sites like Google Maps since at least 2005. But not DC.
Worse yet, after the first step to share schedules, converting data to the standard General Transit Feed Specification format, Metro had halted the effort. In December 2008, a spokesman told the urban-development blog Greater Greater Washington that continuing it was “not in our best interest from a business perspective.” That left Metro riders with kludgey, screen-scraping workarounds like DCist’s text-messaging service.
But now, Metro rail and bus directions are clicks or taps away in third-party sites and applications, allowing passengers to benefit from such innovations as Google’s stop-by-stop transit navigation on Android phones. The changes in between suggest a road map for other organizations having their own open-data debates.
Start lobbying to open a conversation. Greater Greater Washington editor David Alpert quickly had hundreds of signatures on a petition protesting the decision. That persuaded Metro to detail its objections: fear of losing $68,000 in yearly ad revenue from the Trip Planner page, a wish to be paid for its data, and the legalese around data sharing. That then widened the discussion from an argument over APIs to one over the proper use of taxpayer dollars.
“David came along and started this campaign,” said Christopher Zimmerman, an Arlington County Board member who chaired Metro’s board in 2008. “It wouldn’t have happened without the public pressure.” Alpert could also lobby Metro from closer in after joining its Riders’ Advisory Council in January of 2009.
Flipping the debate from potential profits to actual expenses. Gordon Linton, a former head of the Federal Transit Administration who served alongside Zimmerman on the Metro board, focused on the opportunity cost of giving data to other sites. He said the agency had given away resources–for example, free parking for car-sharing services–that it later realized could yield income.
“While we were raising fares and cutting service if we were investing staff time and energy for a product that would reap some financial benefit for those who would use it and sell it, then we in turn should get some money back,” Linton said.
Zimmerman took the opposite argument: the ease of upgrading one aspect of the Metro experience. “We were having a lot of difficulties,” he said. “If some of these things don’t cost us anything or don’t cost us a lot [to fix], we should do them right away.”
Alpert suggested this debate encouraged Metro staffers to rethink things. “Staff may have felt they were under orders from the board to maximize revenue. Zimmerman gave them permission not to worry about that.”
Oh, and Google never had any interest in paying for a schedule feed. Wrote spokeswoman Anne Espiritu: “We do not pay agencies for their data.”
A change in leadership can help. All of this effort got sidetracked on June 22, 2009 when two Red Line trains collided and killed nine passengers. Things were set back further when general manager John Catoe unexpectedly resigned in early 2010 and his interim replacement Richard Sarles had to focus on safety upgrades.
But Sarles’ earlier employer, NJ Transit, had provided rail schedules to Google back in 2008. He wanted to follow suit here, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.
Metro and Google signed a data-sharing agreement in July of 2010, once Google had dropped earlier demands for an indemnification clause. Metro directions showed up on Microsoft’s Bing Maps in September 2010; they arrived on Google in May after a final shove from Sarles following his appointment as WMATA’s full-time general manager in January.
(But even now, you must return to Metro’s sites or a few third-party apps for bus and train arrival predictions. Google only announced a standard format for that data, GTFS-realtime, in August, and Metro is still weighing support for that. And some regional bus systems that Metro’s Trip Planner includes have yet to provide their own GTFS data to mapping sites.)
What about the original financial arguments? We may never know how the math worked out: without detailed surveys, you can’t draw a line from clicking on maps to boarding trains. But Stessel, who didn’t provide a dollar cost for the work involved, suggested that the rationale merchants invoke to invest in intangibles like store or site designs works for public transit too: “Our primary motivation is improving the customer experience.” Zimmerman had a more philosophical justification for how a government agency should act: “Putting information in the public domain is part of what we do.”
Sometimes, being open isn’t easy. You could say that there were many stops on the route that Metro took.
In our continuing tradition of rounding up new mobile application releases we found interesting and/or exciting over the past month, we present you with this new list of apps for June 2011. Previously in June, we shared a list of apps that came out in May and during the first part of June, so be sure to check that post for some early June app launches.
This time around, we’re again focusing on new (and notably updated) iPhone and Android applications, as well as a few iPad, tablet and cross-platform apps that caught our eye. As always, share which apps are your new favorites in the comments below.
Discovr Apps: An interactive map of all the iOS applications on iTunes. Search for a favorite app, and Discovr shows you related apps in a beautiful visualization. ($0.99, iTunes)
Frenzapp Music: A social music player for sharing songs with friends. (Free, iTunes)
Roger Ebert’s Great Movies: Offers all of the reviews in Roger Ebert’s series of Great Movies books, from 1915 to the present. ($0.99, iTunes)
Doxo: A file cabinet in your pocket. Snap photos of bills and receipts, view digital files, backups supports, and receive paperless statements from select providers.
BiteHunter: Like Kayak.com for restaurants, this iPhone app helps you seek out dining deals via real-time search. (Free, iTunes)
SayClip: Free & private video messaging. Coming soon to Android. (Free, iTunes)
Agenda: A beautiful calendar app with a clean, minimal design. Great replacement for the stock calendar. ($1.99, iTunes)
WeatherTrends 360: Discover your future weather…up to a year ahead! Uses the company’s high level statistical forecasting model to project temperature, precipitation and snowfall trends for 6.4 million locations in 195 countries. ($0.99, iTunes)
SmartFuel: Lets you find cheap gas, but also rate station cleanliness and safety. Uses the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) database which tracks credit card swipes at the pump for determining fuel rates. (Free, iTunes)
Photosynth: Microsoft’s 360-degree photos app was recently updated to offer cropping, expanded sharing (now Bing, Facebook and email) and includes “Best of Bing Maps” contest, where the prize is free Xbox 360 and Kinect. (Free, iTunes)
Flixwagon Live Video Share: Broadcast live video from your iPhone and share on Facebook, Twitter, via SMS or email. Sketch and draw over the live, video too. (Free, iTunes)
exfm: Social music discovery app goes mobile, letting you follow favorite tastemakers, note songs to favorite or share, listen to friends’ shares and buy from iTunes. (Free, iTunes)
NBC: Clips and previews, not full-length episodes. Worth noting, we suppose, but kind of lame. (Free, iTunes)
Fring: Recently updated to include video conferencing on iPad 2. Supports groups of up to 4 people. (Free, iTunes)
Flixlab: Lets a group of friends share video clips and pictures to make movies together. (Free, iTunes)
Hipmunk: Popular flight search app is now available for iPad, letting you sort flights by “agony.” (Free, iTunes)
Roadshow: Lets you save online videos for later viewing, even if you go offline. Supports Vimeo, CollegeHumor, Funny or Die, The Onion, but not YouTube. (Free, iTunes)
Book Crawler: Book database and reviews app was recently updated to integrate Skyhook’s Local Faves. Now lets you talk to others nearby about the books you’re reading. ($1.99, iTunes)
Users of Google Maps and Bing Maps have enjoyed 3D imagery for a while now, and Nokia is now catching up with the launch of (admittedly very nice-looking) photorealistic 3D models of 20 metropolitan areas from across the globe.
On Maps.ovi.com/3d, you can now explore places in 3D in major cities like London, Barcelona, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and, of course, Helsinki.
The feature is free on Ovi Maps and will be formally introduced later today at the Where 2.0 conference in California.
Starting with a bird’s-eye view, users can scale up and down and move around objects such as buildings and trees from their desktop, provided they install a browser plugin.
A detailed 360-degree panoramic view of streets is also available.
(In related news, Google this morning introduced ‘Map Maker’, which lets you edit Google Maps, in the United States for starters).
Nokia’s says Ovi Maps for mobile currently covers 180 countries, nearly 100 of them navigable in 53 languages. On the Web, Ovi Maps covers the same 180 countries, 93 of which are navigable in 29 languages.
Nokia boasts that its 3D offering, while late to the game, is the “most realistic available” and goes beyond rendering limited areas and buildings by making entire cities, including suburbs, available for exploration. Plugins are available for IE 7+, Firefox 3.5+, Safari 5+ and Google Chrome.
You be the judges.
Microsoft has just released a new app for the iPhone – Photosynth that lets you capture 360° images and then share them with others.
There are several panorama apps available for the iPhone, each with different levels of ease with capturing an expansive view of a particular room. Photosynth stands out as you can capture images not just along a horizontal line, but in all directions – up, down, left and right. And rather than just relying on you to hold the camera steady while you pan, the app gives you guidelines of where the next image should be places and next photo snapped.
The processing is done pretty quickly, and images are stored locally but can also be shared to Facebook.
Even more interesting than sharing with friends via Facebook is the ability to share to Bing Maps. This means that others will be able to view your panoramas on maps and in search results for the particular location you’ve captured.
The app is free, and is only available on iPhone at the moment. Look for it on Windows Phones when the new “Mango” operating system arrives this fall.