Disruptive Mapping: MAPple Versus Updated Google Maps Offering

A couple brief notes before drifting into the weekend.  No scoops here – more a digest of things that we think are worth watching in the world of mapping:

  • On the eve of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference which opens Monday, there is broad speculation / strategic media leakage related to Apple’s abandonment of Google Maps in favor of Apple’s own mapping product and content.  There’s going to be a new mapplication on the iPhone.  The consumer angle is adequately covered, but this will eventually and without doubt have import for business as the iOS is increasingly integrated into the enterprise IT environment.  This will, and has to be, more than a game of catch up for Apple.  Google has a big lead from a data standpoint, even despite some strategic acquisitions on Apple’s part.  What I am more curious about is how Apple’s legendary finesse with design may be applied to cartography and to their interfaces to geospatial content.  I think about the way geospatial endeavors changed back when Google acquired Keyhole and Google Earth was born.  It’s exciting to think that we may be about to witness additional disruptions to the conventions of digital mapping.
  • Google Maps is significantly upgrading content and capabilities.  Marching forward, and perhaps spurred by the prospect of losing their prime spot on the iOS for things geospatial, Google is unveiling several improvements in map content and mapping capabilities…
  • 3D mapping continues to advance – “fly through” simulations are becoming ever more realistic and Google is expanding the extent of coverage for 3D content rapidly.  A fleet of small, camera-equipped planes now figures into their tools for “mapping the world” and plans are to release a number of cities in full 3d by the year’s end.  Apple’s offering will also include 3D content made possible by their integration of content and methods secured through their purchases of Poly9 and 3C Technologies.
  • Content caching for offline use will soon be available via Google Maps.  This will allow users to review map content that has been downloaded in advance even at times when network connections are intermittent or not available.  This has been a challenge in the world of GIS data collection for many years, and it will be interesting to see how Google addresses some of the inherent usability challenges in helping users do “mission planning” in ways that leave them adequately prepared for making use of map content when they don’t have cell service.  The simplicity required for consumer-oriented tools may result in benefits that can be leveraged by business users of mobile mapping tools targeted for use in an intermittently connected environment.  Intermittently connected environment?  It used to be that no bars meant no content.  I’m thinking of building interiors where you don’t have signal, assessing the condition of assets or gathering environmental observations in remote places like….the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the Grande Ronde and Deschutes river corridors, remote canyons and couloirs of Utah, the Selkirks, Tuva, Chobe National Park, the Casbah....  What were we talking about?
  • Interior GIS is a focus for Google.  Some suggest that this is a novelty and not likely to be a key differentiator with Apple’s map offering or others.  I strongly disagree.  Developing efficient and effective ways to capture and visualize mapping data for interior spaces is one of the next frontiers in mapping.  Where do people spend the majority of their time?  Nearly all the disciplines to which GIS is currently applied have substantial questions and challenges which apply to processes, movement, and activities in interior spaces.