The history of map making or cartography starts as early as 16,500 BCE when the first travellers made cave paintings and rock carvings depicting hills and mountains. Fast forward to 600 BCE, when the Babylonians produced the very first “world map”, based on accurate surveying.
The Chinese developed, in the 9th century already, a very accurate map of China and Central Asia and introduced grid and fixed scale, but the biggest step forward was made in the age of exploration, when cartography became science thanks to the Flemish Gerardus Mercator, who invented a map projection methodology that’s still used today.
From mapping to location services
Thanks to aerial photography and satellite imagery, the 20th century meant revolution for the map making industry. Today, we go on our mobile phones and see where we are and how we can reach our destination. It’s been the core business of suppliers such as Google, TomTom and others.
The mapping ecosystem is not as simple as combining longitudes, latitudes and labels. There is map data on one side and a map making platform on the other side. Similar to what’s happening in the mobility industry, the combination of platforms and content is what defines success for the map makers. For example, Apple Maps has been using external TomTom data whereas Google has sent its own sensor-and-camera equipped vans across the world to build what we now all use and like.
German OEMs BMW, Mercedes and Audi have acquired former Nokia spinoff Here in 2015, understanding the potential of the data collected by their vehicles. Here was initially fed by data coming from the app users, but as vehicles become connected, Here will soon receive data from the cars directly. Obviously, Here is to become the German map platform for autonomous vehicles.
As China is an important market for the German automakers, Here has invested in a partnership with Chinese NavInfo, that will be providing local mapping data to be converted to Here specs and compatible with Here’s location and mapping services around the world. Google not being available in China, Here acquires a solid advantage commercialising global map services. It’s therefore no surprise that Here has been nominated global number 1 in providing location and navigation services.
Nevertheless, the current ecosystem is under pressure. Map making is, even today, still based on human verification, making the industry headcount-heavy and expensive. Google, for example, employs thousands of people for its map division.
New players on the market, such as New York-based Mapfit, are disrupting the industry; Mapfit starts with ingesting its platform with as many data sources as possible: commercial data, open data, IoT sensor data, video streams… and translate these data into spatial-contextual relationships. It does so not once, like the Google vans, but constantly. As a result, Mapfit acquires a level of accuracy unachieved before
For the Fleet Manager
When introducing car connectivity (because we shouldn’t talk about “telematics” anymore), one of the selection criteria for your suppliers is the quality of the maps. It’s recommended to keep in mind or research who the map suppliers are and where their data come from. A reliable source will guarantee the longevity of your solution.