MapInfo Releases StreetPro in the Asia/Pacific Region

By Nora Parker


Ed.Note.We recently received a press release from MapInfo announcing that StreetPro was available for Malaysia. We couldn't help but feel curious about the status of the StreetPro product line in the Asia/Pacific region.Wal Mayr, Director of Products, and Sean Richards, Product Manager, both of MapInfo Asia/Pacific, kindly answered many questions for us.

MapInfo currently has StreetPro products (street centerline files with street name and address information) available for Australia, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand (samples can be viewed, below). Next to be released will be China, Hong Kong and Vietnam. Mayr and Richards emphasize that developing these databases in the Asia/Pacific region is an evolutionary process - the databases are perhaps not as complete and accurate as would be the case in other regions of the globe, but it is the best available data, and will improve over time.

There has been a tremendous investment in developing this data in the Asia/Pacific region.In the United States and Canada, for example, government agencies first developed this data and it was relatively "ready to go" as GIS applications developed that could make use of it.The situation is the opposite in the Asia/Pacific region, Mayr explained.There was a need to "make" the data first before applications could develop around it, at an enormous and on-going cost.However, as multi-national companies look to expand into the region, they have demanded this data - they've become used to accessing it elsewhere on the globe - and so the business case has been made for its development.

Here are answers to some specific questions asked by Directions Magazine.

Directions: Can you help our North American and European readers understand how a street database is created in the Asia Pacific region?

MapInfo: Products like StreetPro are created using similar means to those in the US and Europe.Sources such as government, satellite imagery, field capture and specialised content aggregators were used in the compilation process of the StreetPro data product suite across Asia.The key ingredients are local knowledge and skills to tie all of these disparate parts together.MapInfo and its Asian partner network together provided the local knowledge and associated skills to carry out this enormous task.Standardised MapInfo production methodologies were employed to ensure a standard look and feel and utility across the many and varied countries in the region.

We have worked with key strategic partners in each country to develop the data.Each country is a unique challenge, and methods that work in one area may not work in another.

Directions: Is it very different country to country, or are similar processes involved?

MapInfo: Each country in Asia is different when it comes to administrative structures, source data availability and military restrictions.However we apply the same methodology in the compilation of all of MapInfo StreetPro's in Asia.This ensures a level of uniformity and consistency, which is very important to our customers.

Variations do occur.For example there are a significant proportion of metropolitan roads in India that are not physically named, let along addressed.In Singapore the 6-digit postcode is regularly used as the principle address reference.In New Zealand, post codes are almost never used in a common address reference.All of these factors need to be considered when compiling StreetPro for each of these countries to ensure maximum utility and value.

StreetPro India (click image for larger view).
StreetPro Malaysia (click image for larger view).

StreetPro Singapore (click image for larger view). StreetPro Thailand (click image for larger view).

Directions: To what extent are government data available as a basis for such a product?

MapInfo: Government data is, on the whole, an important component in the compilation of our Asian products.However, this data is very raw and needs to be significantly supplemented and value added before it is of commercial grade suitable for business analysis use.We found that there was good progress in the capture and improvement of Government foundation data, however, it is basically a matter of continuing evolution.

In relative terms street and geocoding data is well behind regions such as Australia and New Zealand, North America and Europe, and probably further behind in a routing sense.However, the gap is closing quickly as market demand in this fast growing region justifies further investment and speeding up of the "evolutionary" process.

Directions: What are the major challenges in creating and maintaining such a database in this region?

MapInfo: Unfortunately one of the biggest challenges we have relates to data piracy. Basically, data custodians and value-adders are very wary of releasing their intellectual property on the open market.This has been a major impediment in our progress to establish our Asia Pacific data portfolio and has taken years to assure custodians and stakeholders that the rewards outweigh the risks.

Military restrictions have also made our journey very interesting.Numerous countries have military related data access restrictions in place.These restrictions come in the form of only certain scales of data being available, to data warping being integrated, to a total ban of any data exporting.As frustrating as these restrictions are, it is certainly understandable why such restrictions are in place.The irony is we are finding significant demand for these data products by organizations driven to ensure security for their citizens in those countries.

Here is an anomaly that you would not be likely to find elsewhere.In China, in order to work around issues relating to release of data assets, two versions of StreetPro will be released - one for use outside the country, and a "premium" version that can be used inside the country.

Directions: What about street naming/numbering conventions?

MapInfo: Street numbering systems in Asia are generally unstructured. Street numbering does exist in various forms, in some parts of some countries. However, it is not consistent at a regional level and also very costly to capture and maintain.Heavy investment has been made to obtain the best available addressing, however sometimes this is restricted to a street name within a local geo-coding polygon.Today, that is primarily in the form of detailed streets within small administrative boundaries or postcode boundaries. There are situations where we have geocoding "nirvana"; in Singapore with the 6-digit postcodes which basically relate to an individual address. But, in the main, we need to rely on searching streets or points of interest, such as building names, within small administrative boundaries - such as Kelurahan in Indonesia, Kampung in Malaysia or Tambon in Thailand.

Directions: Can the street databases be used in geocoding an address to interpolate an x,y coordinate?

MapInfo: Users of StreetPro can leverage the geocoding facilities of most spatial systems to establish an X and Y coordinate for a nominated address.The resolution of that X and Y coordinate will vary from country to country.Our objective is to provide the best possible geocoding on the market.With increased use and subsequent investment we will continue to improve geocoding precision. MapInfo is responding to significant and growing demand and sees its role as providing this present "best of market" base which in turn will act as a catalyst for spatial industry growth in the region.

Directions: Are street databases commonly used in this region, or are they still relatively rare? Or does that vary from country to country? What are the key uses?

MapInfo: Street databases are not commonly used in Asia.In fact, the use of spatial technology in business analytics is not common.However, that situation is changing.Business is going global at an exponential rate. Organizations want to use their existing expertise in spatially orientated business analytics to evaluate new markets in Asia. These organizations need consistent, high quality data products. MapInfo has invested over three years into the establishment of the Asian StreetPro range of products.However as the evolutionary process has really only just started it is our intention to continue to invest strongly in the quality, geocoding precision and coverage of our Asian data.

Published Thursday, October 14th, 2004

Written by Nora Parker

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