GPS device maps typically two years old

User-generated data may be the answer to the GPS navigation industry’s problem of outdated maps on user devices, say industry voices.

According to Ed Parsons, Google’s geospatial technologist, the reason users encounter inaccurate road layouts and landmark placements on their GPS devices is that it takes a long time getting updated maps to users.

From the mapping of roads to getting the maps updated and onto distribution channels such as garages, people can expect their maps to be over two years old, even on new devices, Parsons said in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

Even buying maps online will only shorten the process by about a year, leaving users with maps that are about a year old, which is still not good enough for some users, he added.

The most time-consuming portion of the process is map collection, Parsons said. “Traditionally, people captured [road data] by driving around. To update the data, they drove over the same routes again. This manual [process] has been time-consuming and costly, but it’s been the only way to do it up till now.”

The industry is moving toward making information available in real-time, to push out updates faster, he said.

Incidentally, the Automobile Association of Singapore on Tuesday announced a GPS-based device it calls TrafficGEM, aimed at providing more up-to-date information for motorists.

Although its map does not reflect changes in roads, the real-time traffic alerts are hoped to alert users to temporarily-valid information such as traffic jams.

The power of user-generated data
Parsons said the industry has warmed up to the trend of harnessing user responses to supplement map data, by offering users tools with which they can feed back information.

Google has a site, Map Maker, which works with its Google Maps service.

Maps provider, Tele Atlas, too said it integrates user contributions as an “additional source”, which has been helpful in geographically dispersed and rural areas which are less frequently covered by its surveyors.

Tele Atlas Asia-Pacific director of operations Arnout Desmet, said in an e-mail, road information changes between 10 to 15 percent each year, and more so in busy urban areas.

He said updates are pushed out four times a year, with the help of “tens of thousands of global sources, ranging from mapping vehicles and digital cartographers to zoning boards and public safety officials to construction companies and truck drivers, satellite and aerial imagery and government documents”.

Geraldine Kor, director of customer marketing, Asia-Pacific, at Navteq, said keeping maps updated involves some 80,000 sources, which include professional cartographers and “the input from more than 100 million users every day”. (…),39044908,62057422,00.htm