Thursday, May 17, 2007

Winalot, Walkies and Maps

Having spent some very interesting time at the Ordnance Survey partner conference it was alarming how little one knew about the world of maps and cartographers. The innovation and usage of mapping information goes far beyond those folded and infamous explorer maps. The organisation supplies geographic information for business supporting through their effective partner programme; emergency services, government, health, insurance, land and property, retail, transport, utilities, wireless and communications.

The map sector is now a classic case of a sector that was joined together by one format, paper, that is now diverging with digitisation. Different market segments need different information, delivered on potentially different devices and in different formats and also different levels of detail. The business is now having to react to diverging segments. What is clear is that the old A1 sheet and grid system is not relevant in the digital world. It begs the question that if they could break out of the old paper and grid paradigm and get the paper sizing down to say A4, the opportunities for print on demand are clear for all to see. Everyone now wants ‘My Map’ and the pricing has to recognise that Google and other are free and that business models, particularly in the consumer world are changing.

When you hear about the increasing level of GPS navigation, the proliferation of devices and their potential uses, one can only sit back and wonder how our bodies are going to cope with this bombardment of electronic waves let alone information on tap. Forget privacy the equipment that is already deployed and planned for cars makes one wonder if driving will ever be fun again and whether your every move will be logged in some huge databank in the sky.

However, the real gem was when a marketing executive eluded to a new partnership opportunity with Winalot. Yes, the dog food manufacturer. Maps for dog walkers aimed at showing them all those exciting walks they may have missed and no doubt where the nearest pooper bin is. At this point I wondered whether I was dreaming or the kids had truly taken over the chocolate factory.

Whether the Guardian ever wins its campaign to privatise the Ordnance Survey is immaterial as this organisation and sector face some huge digital business challenges which by their nature change the shape and potential make-up of the organisation.

Map information is a whole new world.