Quick Takes on Companies and Ideas at the 2009 Location Intelligence Conference

By Adena Schutzberg

Here are some tidbits about several "new to me" companies and key ideas from presentations I found at our Location Intelligence Conference held at the beginning of October.

Seaglex Software
Seaglex Software is in the same space as MetaCarta; it offers "a set of technologies that help companies to collect, categorize, and geo-tag unstructured content - Web pages, news articles, documents, and other textual data." The distinguisher? It catalogs and geocodes specific street-level address information - making it great for hyperlocal apps. If you've looked at some of the tools that geocode news you've likely run into articles that are geocoded to just the city and sometimes to the "wrong" city, one that just happens to be mentioned in the text. Seaglex's app didn't do that in the demos I saw.

Trillium Software
Trillium Software is the address cleansing/geocoding part of Harte-Hanks. Now, if you think all of these offerings are the same, Trillium notes it has worldwide geocoding. Oh, and Pitney Bowes licenses its technology.

Yuri Software
Yuri Software is a new player in the address cleansing, validation, standardization and geocoding space. I asked Yuri himself about how the offering differs from those of other players. He didn't hesitate a bit in stating that it's better, faster and cheaper. I have to respect anyone who is that confident.

SpatialKey is a software product of Universal Mind. I will use the shorthand and describe SpatialKey as a "dashboard" for location intelligence. The very slick Rich Internet Application (RIA)/Cloud/Software as a Service (SaaS) enterprise solution garnered a lot of questions during a demo in the "What's in Your Lab?" session.

Infusion Development
Infusion Development brought its Microsoft Surface hardware and Falcon Eye mapping app for attendees to test. I learned that the biggest challenge of this surface is getting adults to touch it! Kids have no such problem. I confess I was drawn in by the water and rocks app they were running during the opening reception. You could "touch" the water's surface and make ripples - you were literally drawn in to touch it! The best news about Surface? The interface is in Windows 7 and the core hardware is coming down to about $12,500. Developers just need to port their apps to the interface. Infusion can, among other things, develop an app for you. If you've not played with a surface yet, be sure to do so soon. They are going to be far more visible in the coming months.

First of all, Web-GIS provider eSpatial's CEO, Philip O'Doherty, won the first Location Intelligence 5K (he started late and caught all of us who left earlier). O'Doherty was on one of the "cloud panels" and highlighted some key ideas related to risk. First, cloud computing is very low risk for the users. They are investing in no hardware and the app provider (companies like eSpatial) must have something working on "day one." Contrast that with buying in-house hardware and software - which may never be up and running. (I suspect many readers have seen that happen in their careers...) Second, as the app provider, the income is typically slow to trickle in at first, so there is considerable risk. Still, as the app gets used and spreads into the enterprise, income goes up and stabilizes. eSpatial is in the space, so keep it in mind. Keep an eye out for an interview here with O'Doherty about his vision for Web GIS.

I see press releases from Appistry now and then, and I only vaguely knew they did "cloud things" for the likes of GeoEye. I didn't know their cloud platform, CloudIQ, was eight years old! Mark Sundt, vice president of Professional Services, shared some really interesting things about Appistry customers: they turn to Appistry since don't trust the Googles and Amazons. In particular, customers want to implement clouds in their own data centers. Appistry gives them the tools to do just that. Some players will one day move the implementation from a local or hybrid (a mix of some local and cloud hosted data/apps) to a fully externally hosted cloud.

Zipano Technologies
Zipano Technologies believes that the more control users have over their information, the more likely they are to share it. That's the premise of Zipano's personal privacy platform, which is shown off in the company's Loccacino app for Facebook (Facebook login required). The company was just featured in ReadWriteWeb. Watch for an interview here with CEO Ziv Baum on the topic.

WeoGeo is not new to me (or likely to many readers) but since it's out in front in the geospatial use of cloud, it's always worthwhile to see what's on the mind of CEO Paul Bissett. He spoke in one of the cloud panels about latency and how it is fine for slow things you don't do too often (like backing up your hard drive), but is a real challenge when you need information right away, as you might using a local application. Thus he concluded: "The Internet-as-the-computer to replace your desktop is still some time away, maybe as long as 3-5 years." You can read more of his thoughts, shared at the conference in this blog post.

Still a new name here in the states, Automotive Navigation Data, or AND, is sometimes thought of as the #3 data provider (after NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas). What many don't know is that AND has a very different licensing model, which CEO Maarten Oldenhof shared in the closing session of the conference. There are no restrictions on data usage (there's no difference if the data are view only or used for navigation), and there are no time limit or hit/transaction restrictions. Instead, there's a simple "price per device" on which the data are used. He closed the conference this way, referring to his company's data products: "I hope it will help you with your map... at a very different price than you're used to." Keep an eye out for an audio interview with Oldenhof that Directions will publish soon.

Pitney Bowes Business Insights (PBBI)
PBBI staffers with MapInfo experience have been testing out the cloud. Thomas Citriniti, product evangelist (thanks for running the 5K with me!), offered this stark statement, which I paraphrase, on one cloud panel: The missing piece in cloud computing is the absence of location intelligent capabilities in large platforms.

OpenStreetMap (OSM) founder, Steve Coast, opened the conference and touched on many, many significant issues. The one that sticks with me: "We trust our contributors." The comparison of OSM to Linux and Wikipedia may make some nervous, depending on their feelings about that operating system and encyclopedia. As a user of both of those things, his discussion made me more confident in the vision and inevitable growth and usage of OSM.

Waze, which I've written about before (1, 2), is a traffic and data collection solution based on crowdsourcing. Di-Ann Eisnor is the community cartographer (she really likes that title) and she gave a great history of crowdsourcing, offering lots of interesting examples (Zappos Shoe Map, Trendsmap, Wikicity). She made one point, in particular, that stood out: the need for crowdsourced apps to be transparent. She noted how important it is that those creating crowdsource-based apps make it clear exactly what data are being shared. The Waze business model, which has captured the interest of many, involves creating, then selling, the crowdsourced basemap.

Scott Sedlick, Inrix's vice president of marketing, followed Eisnor's discussion and confirmed his company's commitment to crowdsourcing. What was very different was the approach. As presented by Eisnor, Waze has a very low key, "participate if you like," "we are not perfect," sort of feel. Sedlick's presentation was far more corporate and button-down. I think we need both types of companies to explore, use and grow crowdsourcing. Inrix has its own free iPhone traffic app.

Published Friday, October 30th, 2009

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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