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Share and Share Alike

Embracing cloud collaboration can lead to new revenue sources for geospatial firms.

Share your geospatial data with the world, and new business opportunities could arise from it.

As powerful mobile devices eat away at the PC and laptop market, geospatial firms have a golden opportunity to capitalize on a new wave of mobile computing and location-aware devices, according to presentations during the Location and Mobile Mapping seminar on Jan. 29 at the MAPPS Winter Conference in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.

Peter Moeykens, lead architect, LBS, at TomTom, said today’s mobile devices have the same computing power of desktop computers 10 years ago, and their usefulness is only going to increase as more and more applications work together. He suggested that geospatial firms embrace collaboration across the cloud with third-party companies and software developers to increase revenue for data many already have stored on their servers.

“One of the things I’m pushing our company to do is to push the data we have in our warehouse to the rest of the world for a fee,” Moeykens said. “I want you to think about your data: Have you been collecting some kind of information, that maybe if you were to put it up on the cloud to share with other people, it would enrich the lives of all those people in the world and also be a new source of income for your company?”

Likewise, Mark Baker, business development manager for Esri Inc., said sharing data between individuals and companies around the world will be the norm in the not-too-distant future. He likened it to sharing information across social media platforms today.

“This will be pushed more toward an online presence, so that what you’re consuming on a desktop, what you’re consuming on a tablet, what you’re consuming on a web browser will be basically the same,” Baker said. “That’s the fusion of the technology and platforms we see going forward, as we drive more and more applications away from mobile and desktop programs.”

This fusion will enable the public to use geospatial information in increasingly intelligent ways because mobile devices know where individuals are, where they’re going, what’s on their calendar and who’s in their contact list. This data can combine with mapping applications to set reminders based on geofences, text warnings about flu outbreaks, weather or road conditions, or send coupons for retail stores or restaurants within a boundary.

As the user moves across a boundary, the mapping application then triggers new information to be sent. Baker provided an example of a phone that had accumulated more than 1 million data points, the locations where that particular mobile phone went in one year.

“This information becomes very valuable for companies like Google,” Baker said. “Google wants to market information to you based on your location. One of the reasons why Apple wanted to equip (phones with) mapping applications was because they were handing over this information from their own phones to Google.”

Mobile mapping services can be used to drive scavenger games, community events, restaurant reviews and tourism. Commercial applications such as these are enabled by mobile phones knowing where they are and what is going on in a specific geographic region.

Many geospatial firms don’t have the manpower or know-how to develop these types of applications. But putting the information on the cloud and working with third-party developers can open up new business opportunities. Offering an easy-to-use platform with maximum flexibility is the key to leveraging these assets, Moeykens said. Third-party developers can make a firm’s maps more interesting for commercial applications.

“You all might have technologies that you use in-house that maybe you’re not fully leveraging as a new product. … I really think over the next few years what we’re going to see is an explosion of these kinds of web services that are interoperating with one another in crazy, spiffy ways,” Moeykens said.


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