Digital mapping is becoming increasingly essential in an age where technology is no longer a choice. Etienne Louw has embraced the possibilities that digital provides when it comes to mapping and location based data. We chat to him about how mapIT began and what this accurate product means for businesses around the world. He also explains the personalisation of layering and the benefits that many people are not aware of when considering online maps.
Tell us the story of how mapIT started out.
MapStudio has been mapping Africa for 56 years and 10 years back mapIT was created to take the analogue maps digital. Originally we focused on the fleet and vehicle tracking market space, as there were no accurate digital maps available to support these businesses. All the big players like Mix Telematics, Tracker, Altech Netstar, Digicore, CarTrack and SmartSurv became early adopters of our maps and are still our clients today.
Explain the relationship between mapIT and TomTom.
In 2008 the second largest digital mapping company in the world, Tele Atlas, acquired the mapping database from mapIT and became 49% shareholders with the responsibility to maintain and enhance the data. In 2008 TomTom bought Tele Atlas and became shareholders of mapIT.
mapIT is the exclusive go-to market partner for TomTom in Sub Saharan Africa. We provide worldwide data to our African based clients operating all over the world.
What are the benefits of layering when it comes to digital mapping?
Various applications that make use of digital mapping need to be able to overlay additional custom data such as vehicle positions, own and competitor stores, sales territories, LSM data, census data, and pipeline infrastructures. This is on top of the base data that we provide. Our base data includes all the layers you would expect in a high quality navigation ready database – roads, points of interest, land use and much more. Furthermore, these apps often need to get access to the layer attributes that we carry, such as posted speed limits to enable fleet companies to generate route compliance reports for every truck they manage or insurance companies monitoring driving habits; on a driver behavior incentive package.
Does mapIT have plans to expand beyond Africa?
We are already active worldwide through our SSA clients that are operating all over the world. Right now we are working on a big deal in Latin America together with one of our clients, Cellfind, to offer VAS services to large mobile network operators in that region. We also recently delivered a large solution to the Automobile Association of the Netherlands with more than 4M clients. This solution will allow people to plan their trips taking into account the live HD Traffic from TomTom. The development work was done through another mapIT client – Aspire Solutions.
What are some benefits to digital mapping that most people are unaware of?
The earliest known examples of maps date back several thousand years. Yet in this age of convenience, maps have become so ubiquitous that they appear simple. This short-sells one of civilisation’s finest inventions. In a world obsessed with metrics of all kinds, maps are a potent business tool. mapIT has been illuminating the potential of maps for enterprises and combatting a perception created by free mapping services.
The unfortunate thing is that the true value of maps as a rich platform has been forgotten. People only think about it as a simple display layer. Location data represents far more than the ability to draw pins or lines on a map. And even that is often scuppered by inferior data, so people are getting instructed to drive through a field when you were expecting a road.
Map data reveals the architecture of society – from the shape of the land to the way we live. Accuracy is not negotiable. While the layman can function with a free service, those who rely on maps – such as all the leading fleet/tracking companies and clients of mapIT – to hone their competitiveness or efficiency need data that leaves no doubt.
How can businesses get the most out of digital mapping and what is gained?
The importance of this is already clear in the number of local companies which rely on good mapping data. According to a recent joint study between mapIT and World Wide Worx, nearly half of SMEs and three quarters of enterprises spend at least two percent of their IT budget on mapping services. Many use it for security or logistical purposes, allowing them to track fleets, plan deliveries or to monitor their mobile workforce.
“The perception is that mapping is free,” said Arthur Goldstuck from World Wide Worx. “So the moment someone spends anything on a mapping budget, it means maps are being taken seriously from a strategic point of view.” And maps are actually not free. Though you can access online maps without charge, functions such as tracking require licensing fees. And there is more functionality. When high-accuracy data from TomTom is combined with partner data feeds, one can – for example – pinpoint client details along LSM lines. Businesses and advertisers can then avoid using a shotgun approach to entice an area’s consumers and instead see actual results when launching a campaign. This can be seen in action here – mapIT’s portal to location based analysis.
mapIT data also includes business and residential details, aspects that have brought clients such as the Yellow Pages in SA and the Governments of Uganda and Kenya to use our services. The presence of the latter is testament to one of mapIT’s advantages – it has a solid network of map data gatherers across Africa and the rest of the world.
But the most exciting development in recent years is how affordable and accessible mapping technology has become. Utilising cloud services, map data can be made available on demand and on a pay-per-use basis. mapIT’s geospatial platform, deCarta, offers mapIT’s quality global maps, routing and local search all through a suite of API’s. This can be accessed at here. This makes quality affordable and non-negotiable. Dedicated mapping servers can also be installed for clients hamstrung by unreliable broadband.
Maps create the tapestry of our world, where data is becoming a vital tool in creating advantages and building leaner, more effective businesses. Flying blind is not an option when you can rely on the largest and most accurate mapping data available.
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