Setting The Record Straight: The Digital Maps Sector Is Wide Open
Digital mapping is one of the most obvious examples of a free tool that has made life easier for consumers. But digital mapping technology is about more than getting you from A to B. In addition to the simple, free maps tools that millions of consumers use every day, there is intense competition in the more sophisticated for-profit mapping space. Billions of investment dollars are flowing to new entrants seeking to meet the demand for digital mapping in emerging technology such as drones, autonomous vehicles, and sustainability. To break it down:
— Digital maps provide enormous benefits to consumers and businesses.
— Diverse mapping services are thriving in a dynamic ecosystem.
— As consumers and businesses demand increasingly sophisticated mapping technology, opportunities for continued disruption are only growing.
Digital maps provide enormous benefits to consumers and businesses.
Digital maps create enormous benefits and efficiencies for consumers and businesses alike, including supporting an estimated $1 trillion in annual sales for businesses according to consultancy AlphaBeta.
It’s not just consumers using maps on their phone: mapping technology helps many businesses. Delivery services, travel search services (like Kayak, Booking.com, and Hotels.com), restaurants (like KFC), navigation (in-car systems, standalone apps, and navigation embedded in other apps), and more all use maps technology to be more helpful. The importance of digital mapping technology across the economy will only continue to grow, as estimated by Grand View Research.
When searching for something near you, seeing a map is helpful. For this reason, Microsoft Bing, DuckDuckGo, Snap, and many other products integrate maps into their services, using technology from an array of providers including TomTom, HERE, Apple Maps (preset as the default on iPhones), MapBox, OpenStreetMap, and DigitalGlobe.
Diverse mapping services are thriving in a dynamic ecosystem.
HERE Technologies is the top global location platform for enterprises, according to a third-party index of 12 leading location data providers. “Business and industry analysts at Omdia have placed HERE Technologies on top of their most recent Location Platform Index. The company overtook Google in the 2018 and 2019 Indexes, and this year Omdia extended the lead for HERE based on the core geospatial capabilities of its location platform and market reach for users.”
MapBox recently struck a technology partnership with BMW, allowing drivers to stream live maps in their vehicles. More from Inside Autonomous Vehicles: “Mapbox updates the map in the cloud, distributed across data centers around the globe. This allows the company to regenerate the global map with 2.3 billion road segments on a daily basis, conflating dozens of vendor sources and applying dynamic updates from sensor readings as corrections on top. Mapbox has 700 million monthly active users, creating a feedback cycle of data.”
Auto manufacturers are relying on TomTom to support in-car navigation services. More from Seeking Alpha: “With 42.8m miles of mapping data from 186 countries totaling 5bn inhabitants, TomTom remains one of the powerhouses of the mapping business. Over 70% of its 4,800 employees work in research and development. Recently, several of the world’s top 10 car manufacturers chose TomTom as their partner for developing High Definition Maps (“HD Maps”), a vital component for assisted driving and autonomous driving.”
As consumers and businesses demand increasingly sophisticated mapping technology, the opportunities for continued disruption in digital mapping are only growing.
Demand for more robust maps technology is leading to an explosion of new competitors and investment in the space, describes VentureBeat’s Chris O’Brien. “[N]ew mapping companies are turning to artificial intelligence and crowdsourcing, among other things, to deliver far more complex geodata. This increasing diversity and competition is the catalyst behind a global mapping market that is growing more than 11% annually and is expected to be worth $8.76 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research.”
Automated driving is another area of skyrocketing opportunity: AI-enriched digital maps, such as the one developed by MIT and Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), will continue to make driving safer. “Showing drivers more details about their routes can often help them navigate in unfamiliar locations. Lane counts, for instance, can enable a GPS system to warn drivers of diverging or merging lanes. Incorporating information about parking spots can help drivers plan ahead, while mapping bicycle lanes can help cyclists negotiate busy city streets. Providing updated information on road conditions can also improve planning for disaster relief.”
Mapping for measuring environmental impact is another rapidly growing space, writes Zenduit’s Jennifer Moore. “Mapping apps already offer a limited amount of information such as environmental impact, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with different travel routes. This is an area that will grow as we see a greater need to reduce emissions and travel along safer routes. It’s important to note that we can already see some of this new technology implemented in various tracking apps (those that are more detailed than the commonly used Google Maps). It is only logical to think that this technology will continue to bring us interesting and cost effective solutions in the future.”