MapQuest.com is well known for providing maps and driving directions on the web for travelers and general information on points of interest, business locations, and other attractions.However, the company is trying to penetrate the enterprise market with more location services.Directions Magazine editor Joe Francica (JF) interviewed Walt Doyle (WD), Vice President of MapQuest (pictured below), regarding the products and services offered to businesses and the recent release of MapQuest's Enterprise Server 2.0.
JF: Briefly, describe the focus of the enterprise solution that MapQuest offers to businesses.
WD: As you know, we have actually been in the business solutions space since 1996.And over the past couple of years, we have looked at the market and found two common needs: One that we have been addressing for a long time and the second, which has been more of a recent phenomenon.
The first need that we found is that companies continue to have a need for location-based services ranging from website applications, like the store locators, to more complex applications such as tracking and managing inventory and logistics on a location or geographics basis.We also found that many companies out there, the larger enterprises, want to have full control over their software and data, where they have a great deal of flexibility in their operating environment.
So, what we did, is we kind of came back to our drawing table, from a development cycle, and said, what do we have today and what can we have to build a solution that will fit into this market.And MapQuest Enterprise Server 2.0 is really the achievement; our response to this market need. Essentially, what it is is a high performance, platform agnostic software that resides behind the firewall at the customer site.Customers do not need to speak to a third-party host; it is not an ASP-based product; it places the security and performance within the control of the customer. We found that this was a big desire from particularly the large enterprise. They want full control of their product with a very scalable product.
We leverage multiple data providers to produce a very high quality output with a minimum amount of development against the core data sets enhancing the development speed at which people can bring an application to market. The benefit of this is that our customers can now develop a simple or complex application against a high performance mapping and routing and geocoding spatial search engine in Linux, Solaris, or Windows.They can develop an ADP Java COM or easily interface to XML SOAP.And again, they can do this with a product that is 100% resident on their premise.Additionally, what we are very proud of with this product is that we believe it is the most scalable LBS product on the market.By way of example, it is the same product that we use to power MapQuest.com where we serve roughly 20 million maps and 5 million routes per day.So, that's why we built this product to fill out that gap as we saw in the marketplace.It is not a product for everyone but certainly for some of the larger enterprises we believe it is a perfect fit and have had great response from the marketplace.
JF: Is the system that you deliver an entirely "homegrown"
system or does it use other vendor solutions?
WD: There are some elements of third party software.
JF: You also that it was not an ASP solution and it was behind
the firewall.Are you finding that the market is just not ready for a hosted
solution or that they find that they would rather manage this type of solution
WD: We're finding a bit of both.And actually we offer a three solutions; an API solution that is an ASP.MapQuest Enterprise Server is not.And the reason we have different operating systems is that customers vary, particularly on the larger enterprise market where people have security concerns, scalability concerns and want broader flexibility in development. Many of them don't want to speak to a third-party host, or host their data at a third-party host.
JF: In general, the businesses that are your customers, are
you find that this solution is an add-on to an existing service that they've
purchased from MapQuest or are they new customers who want an LBS solutions.
WD: We believe the market is growing.We service over 1400 customers right now with one of three products.This product (Enterprise Server), we are actually upgrading some of our existing customers to this product as well as selling new customers onto this product line.
JF: Many of your customers are in the retail or hospitality business.
What is your take on the segment of the business market that is more readily
acceptable of an LBS solution, such as in logistics or supply chain.It
seems as though these types of companies are in the market for such solutions.
WD: We have a large customer segment that chooses our store locator product.We are finding that the market is growing in certain segments.One of them certainly is within the asset tracking or fleet management market.We are also finding that there are more aggregators that are serving a fractured market.So what you might find is a solution provide to a particular category where our software is a component of that solution; and we are seeing that in areas such as travel and again in supply chain management applications.
JF: Internally at AOL, do they see the benefit of the technology
and are they using it for their own business applications?
WD: My resounding statement about AOL is that we are growing within the organization; they are supporting our operations; we are hiring people within the MapQuest group and are seen as a very effective business unit.
JF: How are you deploying a solution for the wireless consumer market?
WD: We do not offer a service either from MapQuest or have not built an application specifically from our business solutions to service a segment of that market.However, we do work with a number of telcos and system integrators who utilize our product for wireless solutions.
JF: How do you base your fees for Enterprise Server?
WD: You can license our software and there is a charge for transactions.
JF: Whom do you consider your strongest competitor? Microsoft?
WD: We try not to comment on specific competitors.I would say that there are a couple of things that differentiates us from competitors. One is that we've been in this space for a very long time.MapQuest, as an entity, has been in business for over 30 years.Another advantage for any consumer facing application is that we believe we have very strong brand recognition.So that when someone is building or supplying a service that has that consumer-facing interface, the MapQuest brand is one that is easily recognizable and also has a high affinity with quality and understanding. A third area in which we differentiate is that we also offer marketing services.MapQuest.com is a very large consumer website.For some customers in the market, particularly those who are selling a product, getting to that product is secondary to finding that product.So, we have the ability to assist our customers, our software customer, not only with their applications and helping someone plan a trip or find a product, but also getting customers to that product.
A couple of examples of this is that we did a campaign with Krispy Kreme. Everybody loves Krispy Kreme donuts.So they use our software on their site and we help their customers find their product.We also ran an integrated campaign on MapQuest.com in the form of a contest.And the theme was "how far would you drive for a Krispy Kreme donut?" And the results were amazing, both in the response also how far their customers were willing to drive for those donut.
Another example is Amtrak on their website.Our system plays a key role in assisting their customers with planning trips and scheduling.In parallel, we ran a marketing campaign on MapQuest.com that drives traffic to their site.Because users of MapQuest are typically in a trip planning mode, the result has been a strong positive for Amtrak in terms of buyers for their services and that is very unique to us.
JF: You commented that the business is growing and from our magazine's
perspective, we look to see how GIS is moving out from the typical usage
by GIS professionals into the hands of more users of the technology.Are
you seeing this?
WD: I'm not a trend spotter, Joe, but I would say that I believe there is somewhat of a convergence between what is typically seen as the GIS space and what is seen as the LBS space.Software is getting more powerful, that which can be used with a TCP/IP connection.So, where I believe where we are seeing growth is a move into what is typically seen as a more sophisticated space; something that would have been seen as a desktop application specifically.Not one which was networked or available through some sort of an IP connection.
We've started from one end of the spectrum where our software has always been very easy to use and we're making it more sophisticated and adding additional elements to increase the relevance of it within different markets.
MapQuest background: MapQuest.com
currently employs over 325 people, including 70 cartographers/GIS/database
analysts, 90 software/systems/Internet engineers, 110 in sales, marketing
and customers support and 30 administrative personnel.MapQuest.com's headquarters
are located in New York City, NY and has offices in Columbia, MD, Denver,
CO, Mountville, PA, Boston, MA, Atlanta, GA and The Hague, Netherlands.