I’m sure we’ve all been there, I know I have. I was once voted most likely to get lost in my own backyard and for good reason. I have absolutely no sense of direction but I’m not alone! Getting lost is a serious problem, especially if you’re not familiar with the area, have to be somewhere on time or have to deliver goods.
For most of us, huge paper tourist maps, compact travel maps, and GPS ensure that shipments reach their destination on time, you take the quickest route to get Uncle Bob to the airport and you find the Social Studies building your first day on campus. When it comes to location services, we often turn to Google Maps as our first and final option but today’s startup MapBox is giving Google a run for its money.
If it sounds impossible, it’s time to believe the hype because just last year MapBox secured $164 million in funding which helped them with upcoming projects. At the end of 2017, they acquired the neural network startup Mapdata. Okay, so they’re a force to be reckoned with, what makes funders confident enough that they can compete against Google and online map service providers?
MapBox collects their data from open sources like OpenStreetMap.org and because this data is obtained by the continuous input of thousands of people, their data may be more reliable than traditional online maps because it’s updated more frequently. Today they also obtain some of their data by collecting anonymized data from approximately 200 million users through apps that use their SDK (we’ll talk about that later). These apps include Airbnb, Instacard, Snap, and MasterCard.
According to their site, they reach over 300 million people each month. They want to change the way we explore the world whether the maps we use are for weather, social interaction or current events. Think about it, you may track the location of your friends, check in to a local restaurant or view the location of an accident on various social media platforms and apps.
They supply companies with aesthetically pleasing maps, developer-friendly location information, APIs, and SDKs. API is a kind of interface that facilitates the cooperation of various software programs and SDK is a set of tools used to create software programs for a certain platform.
Since they use open source tools the location data that they provide to companies is gathered in numerous ways and from numerous sources including geodata, drone data, real estate visualization projects and satellite companies. They offer a range of products including maps, search tools (which uses addresses and converts them to coordinates), navigation tools, and custom map features.
Their products give companies a few options to put them on the map (I don’t want to say expect a bad pun each article but you kind of have to). Of course, companies can choose to have MapBox design a map for them an even customize it but they can also ensure that their maps are available for Mobile (iOS and Android). Following the acquisition of their former partner MapData, MapBox started working on integrating their maps with autonomous driving cars, among other applications.
Their live location platform for vehicles is made to be an unobtrusive, natural and above all functional with Autonomous Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). The company can maintain full design control over the way the interface looks and how exactly users will interact with it and MapBox provides them with everything else. The navigation options allow for voice support, turn by turn guidance and customized in app design and data options.
The next feature is something we all can appreciate, traffic avoidance. Using a large, global sensor network for navigation and the most up to date maps, MapBox ensures the most accurate direction and ETAs. 225 million miles of data is collected each day for use of their mobile SDKs. The maps constantly adapt to newly detected routes, offer turn restrictions and speed profiles and for autonomous vehicle guidance, there are high-quality centerline maps available.
MapBox continues to expand their product and service offers and it will be exciting to see if they continue to meet the needs of consumers. While I love and use Google Maps, the importance of competitors is invaluable. Encouraging innovation and the constant development of relevant, helpful products for customers means customers (and through them, consumers) always win by being offered the best options available.