I happened to be working in Canary Wharf on Tuesday, so on the way home I made a last minute decision to detour to the mashup* event which was themed ‘On Location’.  I’d made a mental note of it a while ago, but then completely forgotten, anyway I’m glad I  went as it was pretty interesting.  There was a good talk from TeleAtlas, about what they are up to, particularly in the Internet mapping and wireless mapping space.  I was most interested in the information they presented about the commercial penetration of the different map sites around the world.  Google was the top one, but the interesting bit was that it seemed that in most places Google was first and a local provider (such as multimap in the UK) was second.  I’m not sure why this would be, maybe a language thing, or historical or perhaps its a map presentation cartography issue, I know my wife always uses multimap when looking for addresses, as she says they look like proper maps!  They also mentioned that Nokia is planning on launching a new global (tile based) mapping platform and API for use with their devices.

The talk was followed by a panel discussion, which focused mostly on the privacy and security issues surrounding things like google streetview and also locational information, kept for example by your phone service provider.  Do you care that your phone company, or your employer or your spouse can locate you anytime? or do the benefits of you and trusted entities knowing your location outweigh the issues?

One thing the talks and the interesting applications that many of the presenters and demonstrators were discussing, made me think about is to what extent does the ubiquity of high quality reference data available in web mapping sites and API’s lead to a downward spiral in the perceived value of data.  I guess this is a question that TeleAtlas and other data providers probably worry about too. 

Most of the demonstrators were showing property search based web sites, which seems to be where the money\talk is at the moment, but being a geek at heart I was more interested in Widr and their location API, Its a similar concept to Navizon, location by wireless networks.  Its pretty cool, and the model of revenue sharing with people who contribute to collect the location data is nice.  I guess the key is how  much coverage they get, this will partly depend on how much data is collected by contributors, and the problem I found originally with Navizon when it was just a mobile application, is that to collect data you need a GPS, but if you have a GPS you (mostly) don’t need Navizon, Having a web site API opens it up a bit as while you may have a GPS but your desk or laptop bound website users may not, but how important location is to laptop users vs mobile users I’m not so sure, its still  a cool idea though.

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