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Welcome to the Cloud Mapping Era: The New Rules for Mapping Success

January 5, 2012
By: Vivian Nguyen

A new breed of location technologies powered by cloud services is overtaking the consumer web.

These new location apps and geodata are taking cloud mapping into the mainstream through their ease of implementation, maintenance, and use. We’re now seeing that users once timid with mapping are now demanding interactive spatial features and further innovation from sites employing mapping and location data.

Using location technology

Cloud computing has permanently transformed the mapping sector and is creating new rules for success, along with a tremendous opportunity for those attuned to these changes. By better understanding what lies ahead for cloud-based mapping, organizations and individuals can best capitalize on this technology revolution and make their sites and products stand out with mapping.

New Web Mapping Users, New Markets

Web mapping has an army of new users, most of whom are nontechnical and have exceedingly high expectations for their user experience. These new users are impatient and have a very low learning curve. They’re interested in mapping so far as it helps them accomplish their immediate task at hand.

They are not GIS groupies who will wait for a map to load or tolerate inaccurate data because they think GIS is cool. For these new users, location technology will be interwoven into their everyday tasks, many times in ways they don’t even realize. You must understand and design for these new users to succeed in the mapping of tomorrow.

The New Face of Geodata

One of the benefits cloud computing brings to mapping is the simplification of acquiring, integrating and maintaining data! With the cloud, getting the data is the easy part, which frees up significant time to meet the needs of those demanding new users you have. With the proliferation of mapping APIs, location data has become even cheaper, easier to implement and keep current, and more plentiful. Even better, data quality is improving significantly which should lead to fewer user complaints.

One of the most exciting developments on the location data front is with user-sourced data. Users are moving from merely being data consumers to data creators. They’re tagging their current locations so friends can find them, correcting attraction locations, pinpointing breaking news and offering their opinions on everything from restaurants to homes for sale.

Pervasive Cloud Mapping

With new users and data come new applications for mapping, and none are more significant than the rise of mapping in the mobile environment. Mobile and mapping are a natural fit and because of this, mapping is becoming pervasive, being integrated into any device, anywhere, any time.

The question you need to continually ask yourself is this: “Is your mapping mobile friendly?” We used to rely on maps to help us understand “where am I?” or “how do I get to my destination?”  With mobile mapping, a whole new world is exposed, one where the dominant question becomes “where am I in relation to everything else?” Pervasive mapping gives us new tools to explore our immediate locations and discover people, attractions, businesses, and new experiences.

Spatial Technology Blends the Real and Virtual Worlds

As spatial technology empowers us to better explore and understand our environments, there’s a critical need to display information; sadly the traditional world of 2D is no longer sufficient. Thankfully, by blending standard maps with augmented reality and 3D images users can instantly get a better sense for their surroundings and more easily locate the information they desire and navigate unknown areas. Augmented reality will be particularly effective in the mobile and hyperlocal spaces.

Increased Innovation and Speed to Market

One of the things we like best about cloud services is that they free developers from many of the back-end headaches of mapping development and maintenance affording them precious time to focus on innovation and improving the user experience. This free time is much needed to make mapping applications intuitive and easy to use. Companies that recognize this and take advantage of this shift in focus will deliver apps that meet the needs of the new web mapping users.

The Increased Need for Data Visualization

With more demanding users, increased data, and more sophisticated mapping features, future mapping success is predicated on good data display. The use of correct and innovative data visualization techniques is essential for improving the usability of location-based products. We need to adhere to solid data visualization principles like summarizing large data sets and using geographies that make sense to users, such as neighborhoods, not census tracts. Also, we need to push the limits of tools to help users explore data. As data and analysis get more complex, users will need to quickly drill into and out of maps. And don’t forget the time element – we love playing around with animated maps as a means to easily understand the temporal component of trend data.

There’s no question a new era of mapping has arrived, and it’s unmistakably tied to the cloud. We encourage everyone to embrace these new mapping norms and begin exploring the many facets of spatial cloud computing to take your mapping to the next level. We’ve been thrilled to see the rapid evolution of our favorite technology and are excited to see what the future of mapping holds in store for all of us.

Contact us today to learn more about where mapping technology is headed in the cloud era.

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