deCarta Tackles Developers Capitalizing on Web 2.0

By Joe Francica

deCarta logoYou may not be familiar with the company called deCarta (or Telcontar, as the company was formerly known), but you have probably used its product. deCarta’s geospatial platform, which generates maps, routes and spatial queries, is at the core of some very well-known applications, including Internet mapping sites Google, Yahoo! and, as well as wireless applications such as TeleNav and Networks in Motion. In a world that often focuses on the application, deCarta has quietly made a nice business providing the underlying technology to some big name players. On October 4, deCarta will host its second Developers Conference in San Francisco. Directions Magazine Editor-in-chief Joe Francica spoke to Kim Fennell, president and CEO of deCarta, about trends in the industry, deCarta’s growing Partner Program and the upcoming devCON'06 conference.

Joe Francica (JF): What kind of “buzz” are you experiencing in the market right now?

Kim Fennell, president and CEO of deCarta
Kim Fennell (KF):
Internet mapping and mash-ups have sparked a lot of interest in how maps can be used to improve local search. Now, all kinds of enterprises and entrepreneurs are recognizing the advantages of geospatial technology embedded in their applications. Everyone from developers to C-level executives are coming to us for the tools, ideas and know-how to build LBS applications that unlock compelling new services and business opportunities.

JF: As a platform provider, how are you advancing your product and distinguishing yourself from other GIS servers?

The functionality we’re adding to our platform is targeted toward very specific needs of the mobile location and Internet application audience. As an example, we recently added a very advanced traffic capability that we believe will make traffic-enabled routing a reality. As we add functionality to the server, we also expose it through our Web services API making it easier, faster and more flexible for developers to integrate LBS into their applications. There has been a lot of evolution in the user experience as well. We’re also continuously improving and expanding our AJAX framework, which is particularly significant to any developer deploying browser-based solutions and wanting to provide a compelling desktop-like experience.

JF: deCarta has recently launched a hosted mapping service. Does this tie in to the trend toward Web 2.0 business models?

As the demand for location spreads to a broader market, it’s not always possible to assume in-house expertise in mapping and location. This limits the market and slows innovation. The promise of Web 2.0 is about how complex applications can be rolled out using loosely coupled application components from various sources. Behind the scenes, you’ve got practically an unlimited combination of solution providers working together to deliver a new product. But instead of all the complex software components, workstations and labor-intensive configurations, the technical ecosystem is dramatically streamlined. That means we’re in a position now to deploy the same solution to a much wider audience.

JF: Mashups were all the rage last year with many applications from software developers doing great things on a whim. Now what?

Already, we’re past the experimental phase and seeing developers with specific industry knowledge creating real-world solutions that address specific industry needs. deCarta brings a lot of depth and experience in geospatial solutions and relies on our partners to bring expertise in their specific markets. The developers are now free to focus on their areas of expertise, which is why we’re seeing such an explosion of applications tied to specific vertical industries, such as travel, hospitality and real estate.

JF: What advantages do you think developers will realize by going to a hosted Web service?

The hosted Web service combines the company’s flagship Drill Down Server along with map data from leading providers allowing developers to commercialize sophisticated, custom-branded, location-enabled Internet and mobile applications quickly by the Web Services API. Developers can build their applications without having to manage the operational aspects of hosting their own geospatial platform. It effectively broadens the market appeal of our platform.

JF: Going after developers rather than the end user seems to be a more risky strategy, given the limited audience. What kind of support are you offering them?

About 18 months ago, we launched the deCarta Developer Zone. We think the DevZone has been popular because it helps developers create pre-commercial applications exceptionally fast, and provides a virtually no-cost, risk-free opportunity to explore all the possibilities and new business opportunities of LBS. They can then transition to the hosted Web services for commercial deployment. As a result, there has been a huge spike in the number of partners we’re working with. We recently signed on our 500th developer and are adding new developers at a rate of over 10 a week.

JF: Do you see interest in the hosted service from value-added resellers (VAR) and systems integrators?

Of the 500 people in our DevZone, a majority are VARs and systems integrators. We look to these partners to provide both the technical innovation and know-how to leverage our capabilities. We also look at many of them as our business partners. In fact, we’ve received a lot of interest from many of our developers to have deCarta shorten their time to market so they can monetize their investments. Without a clear route to market, and the opportunity for them to make money, their work would be wasted.

JF: deCarta is hosting a developer conference? I assume this will be a chance for a “deep dive” into your API?

Make no mistake; first and foremost, we cater to the developer. Our developer conference this year will include richer technical tracks, but we’ll also have more content for those who want to get a broader perspective both from a technical and business standpoint. Attendees will learn about our newest platform capabilities, get to know our engineers, network with other potential partners, exchange their views on the markets, where the LBS business opportunities are today, where they’ll be tomorrow, and a whole lot more. Attendees won’t be getting a sales or marketing pitch. They’ll get the real technical low-down from the engineers themselves and a golden opportunity to interact directly with them. Early registration figures show we’ll probably double the attendance of last year.

JF: Kim, thanks very much for your time and the information about deCarta.

Published Friday, September 8th, 2006

Written by Joe Francica

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