Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mapping standards

On April 14, the technology behind Google Earth and Google Maps was accepted as the international standard for the visual display of geographic data. Keyhole Markup Language (KML) was already used by Microsoft in its inferior product, and this step will mean that other software firms will have an easier time integrating geographic data into their applications.

What does this mean to you and me?

It means that sticking a useful map on a web page will now be easier than ever.
It means that rendering geo-demographic data on your reports will be easier and easier.

This is a quiet, but significant advancement for commercial real estate developers, for traffic engineers and for transportation professionals. The real estate guys will soon be able to understand what is really around their properties. And that information will get updated with far greater frequency than before. Why? Because a standard format means predictability... which makes just about everything easier. Traffic engineers will be able to model new movement patterns more easily as the format standardizations enables developers to create new capabilities for road design. Route planners for delivery firms, emergency planning and operational staff in government agencies and maybe even first responders will find that this event will impact their lives.... though it's likely any will ever know why.

Another big winner is the advertising industry. Media that have a geographical component, like print, direct mail, billboards, broadcast radio, and mobile web, will be able to take advantage of richer mapping content. There will be opportunities to make buys more efficient. And response data will be reported (as long as it's tracked) in a geographic context (as in... a map).

In the short run, Google loses a royalty income opportunity.
In the long run, Google no longer has to bear the burden of defending, maintaining and improving the standard all by itself.
And I would say that, within a year, the geographic presentation of data will be in a lot more places.

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