Travel a Key Theme for Two Speakers at Location Intelligence Conference

By Nora Parker

Fran Marshall of National Geographic Maps and Chris Ackermann of the Travel Channel are speakers at the Location Intelligence Conference, which takes place this year in Santa Clara, CA, April 28-30. They'll be sharing insights from projects that make information about places both far and near more accessible to more people, and also enhance the bottom line.

National Geographic Maps' president Fran Marshall
Marshall is president of National Geographic Maps (NatGeo Maps), headquartered in Evergreen, CO. She and her colleague Dave Wright, director of professional sales, joined me for a conversation. NatGeo Maps offers both paper and Web-based map products to consumers and professional organizations. Marshall's presentation at the Location Intelligence Conference will focus on NatGeo Maps' new product, Meta Lens. "We've been around for 120 years, and have volumes of rich multi-media assets in the archive … this solution enables the georeferencing and visualization of all media types - photos, text, video, etc.," said Marshall. "The idea here is, if a picture is worth a thousand words, what's the value of one that's been georeferenced?"

Meta Lens, developed in partnership with Clear Path Labs in Ft. Collins, CO., is an interactive tool that lets internal divisions at National Geographic, its partners and grantees (those who receive grants from National Geographic) access archival materials and input new material about locations. "We have a real-time collaborative platform that our staff and our contractors can work on," said Wright. This tool enables a tremendous boost in productivity within National Geographic, but more than that, explained Marshall, "If this is valuable to us, guess what, this would be of value to other companies as well."

"The interest generated by products like Flickr is a testament to location-based media, and the value of being able to leverage those assets," said Wright. NatGeo Maps launched Meta Lens in two versions designed to be used to manage assets for other companies. Meta Lens ASP is a software-as-a-service model, said Wright, which can be accessed as a licensed product, possibly even including National Geographic content. Additionally, there's an appliance NatGeo Maps is offering called the Meta Lens Enterprise Appliance, which is a physical server that works better for companies that need to manage their digital assets behind a fire wall.

Chris Ackermann, director of strategy, interactive media, The Travel Channel
Chris Ackermann is director of strategy, interactive media at The Travel Channel. He's a location-based services (LBS) industry veteran, with product manager experience at both Zoombak and Spirent Communications. Ackermann joined The Travel Channel in Manhattan, NY six months ago. "I've kind of come full circle, working earlier in my career on the technology side, and now I'm on the consumer side - it's exciting to finally see things happening in the LBS space after the many false starts," he said

By its very nature, the Travel Channel's content is all about location. Discussing the company's LBS strategy, Ackermann explained, "It's a great opportunity for us to put that content into consumers' hands, expanding The Travel Channel experience beyond the television and desktop and out into the real world." Since he joined the company, it has been taking a hard look at what kind of content is appropriate to put into travelers' hands via cell phones, personal navigation devices or car-based systems. "We want to build brand awareness - our vision is to become the preeminent travel media brand, and LBS is a huge enabler of that vision," he said.

The Travel Channel's strategy is to try to own all four parts of a travel cycle: inspiration, research, travel and sharing. "Today we do a great job on the front end [inspiration and research] through our television and online resources but have a void in our offering to travelers while they're out on the journey and documenting their trip," he explained. The services Ackermann is helping to build will provide travelers with information and resources interactively while they are on a trip, and help them document their trip via geotagging of photos and location-based blogging.

Ackermann could not speak more specifically about the services he plans to demonstrate at the conference, since some agreements are still in negotiations. "I can't wait to be at the conference and show people what we're doing from a media perspective - it's a unique mobile experience around place-based content," he said.

Both NatGeo Maps and The Travel Channel expect to reap significant gains from these initiatives. Their repurposing of existing content for gain will be relevant to many different industries.

Published Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Written by Nora Parker

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