On Monday Tele Atlas announced a new Web tool that allows users to report potential errors in the company's mapping database. Evan Shelby, product manager for the application gave me a short tour of called Map Insight, which has been released in limited availability. That means Tele Atlas is looking for feedback as it plans for a more expansive release later this year.
Not surprisingly, the application begins with a map on the right and tools to find locations on the left. The tools include inputting an address for any of the countries Tele Atlas supports (likely easier for consumers) or keying in latitude/longitude pairs (likely easier for GIS or GPS users). There are tools to zoom in or out or focus on a box. The user can then click on a map location to pinpoint the location of a potential error. From here there are two options: describe the error or note that the "issue appears fixed." The second option likely means that the version of the data that the user was viewing is not as up-to-date as the one on the Map Insight website. Shelby explained that the latest production version of Tele Atlas' data is on the website. That's the latest one to have gone through all the Q/A checks. The dataset does not include changes made the day before, for example; those are in the "work dataset," the one the company is working on now.
If the issue is not resolved, the user is presented with a list of options to describe the problem. Once a selection is made, a form for just that sort of problem is presented. All the fields are optional since Tele Atlas assumes that the problem is in the center of the map, so ideally no further information is needed. Still, the user can name the street or in this example the Point of Interest and on which website/device the error was found and include an e-mail address to get further information on issue. Shelby makes it clear that Tele Atlas wants to make reporting issues as simple as possible and thus limits the amount of text that needs to be input.
He notes that knowing from which device/website the error comes allows Tele Atlas to communicate back to its partners about updates or perhaps faulty routing algorithms. When it comes to feedback, he notes that for those who submit input, the plan is to provide feedback to them in the form of e-mail, so they can understand how their input will be reflected in our database.
Tele Atlas collects all the submissions in a database and essentially mines it to look for patterns. Are there a lot of addressing errors in Seattle? Could there be a systemic problem there? That would be easier to fix in one correction that addressing each error one by one. Are there a number of missing roads in Las Vegas? Could an entire new development simply not be included? The database and some smart business logic will help find these and other patterns.
The site uses ESRI technology (GDT, now Tele Atlas, is a longtime ESRI user). Most partners are expected to link to the Map Insight site, but other forms of integration are possible, too. Considering the size of the database and the number of Tele Atlas data users across the world, this website could expect quite a lot of traffic. Tele Atlas thought of that and has the site hosted offsite on a high availability network with high redundancy.
What's ahead in the full release? More streamlining based on user feedback, support for many languages and more. For now, Tele Atlas is looking for users to give the application a try, report known errors and provide suggestions to make the process even easier.