Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apple Thought Mapping Was Easy

I had never believed that maps could calculate for me a practical drive-able route from point A to point B in the real world.  Earlier this year, just for the fun of it, I asked Google Maps the route from where I was in town to home.  I was surprised!  It knew where the U-turns were, where I could turn left, and where the ramp into and out of the highway was.  It gave the exact route that I was using for years.

The details of the  information required for such as feat is complex.  I have been left behind on the progress and standards made in the cartographic world.

In the last forty-eight hours, everyone has heard how Apple has bungled up on their maps.  I would like to relate an experience with Google maps here to demonstrate some of what it takes to build usable maps.

In April, I had to make a trip to a remote outback of south Malaysia.  This was from Google Maps the day before I traveled in April.

Google Maps BEFORE I drove
For part of the journey, I drove along the gray route as indicated by the red dotted line from right to left on the outward journey, and in the other direction on the return journey.  Although the class of road was labeled gray, it was a good wide hard road with one lane in each direction.  Google Maps was a bit out of date regarding this road.  I was traveling at an average speed above 50kph.  I had signed in to Latitude, and there was good GSM/3G coverage everywhere.

The next day, I took a look at Google Maps again, and lo and behold, this is what I got:

Google Maps AFTER I drove at above 50kph

How Google crowd sources everyone's inputs to improve their maps is IMPRESSIVE!

Unless, it's a coincidence that Google was updating the maps of south Malaysia that day.