What I learned at deCarta’s devCON 2007

By Adena Schutzberg

_I attended deCarta's third devCON event for its partners and customers a few weeks ago in San Jose. deCarta, formerly Telcontar, provides a geospatial platform that serves the Web and mobile devices. Here are some of the themes and takeaways I found after decompressing from a busy few days.

Developers love this event
Why? They get to stay "down in the basement and talk tech" while the business folks "shmooze about marketing" upstairs. I attended two of the tech sessions. I got my head mostly around the deCarta Technology 101 session, but a panel on mobile options was very quickly over my head. The business track presented a wide variety of case studies and a solid story on the state of the marketplace.

Connectivity is in
That was perhaps the theme of the event from deCarta's perspective as it was noted by CEO Kim Fennell, his marketing team and his tech teams. More important to customers/partners, perhaps, deCarta is readying technology to support that need, in particular as PNDs become more connected.

The NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas acquisitions were noted in nearly every talk in the business track. I think it was Marc Prioleau who as a joke assured attendees deCarta would not be bidding on Tele Atlas. I did see one company (well two, it's a joint venture) whose parents have a keen interest in location technology companies exploring the event.

Know the stack
After attending FOSS4G and devCON, two very technical events, I feel strongly that those on the business, marketing, or less technical side of the industry need to understand the idea of the technology stack and have some insight into the specific one in use in their organization. Understanding those layers helps illuminate where (1) parts might be swapped out, (2) new APIs used and (3) new partners found.

White labeling means no branding
The term "white label" (definition) came up all the time at the event. That's in part because it's what deCarta does and what many of its clients do. That's good for those doing the re-labeling (putting their logo over the "white label"), but perhaps not so good for deCarta. I met two attendees who registered at the last minute when a colleague or deCarta partner informed them about the company. Both noted they'd never heard of the company before they were asked or told to attend.

deCarta competition?
I asked a few attendees, "Who else does what deCarta does?" From most I received a blank look. From one I got the name of a small company, and a quick, "But it's really slow and doesn't compare."

We partner so you don't have to
The two relationship announcements, with INRIX (press release) and SRC (press release), made in connection with the event are quite telling. While no one said it explicitly, it's my sense that deCarta understands that the more it does to enable access to new tools and new data both from a technical and licensing standpoint, the happier its customers are going to be. Why should every deCarta customer doing routing have to technically enable a connection with, and manage a contract with, a traffic data provider? With a business intelligence solution? The answer is, they shouldn't. deCarta sees that getting out ahead of those sorts of things encourages loyalty to the platform and the company.

Traffic is the new black
Traffic seems to be the hot data flavor these days. It was in many of the examples and demos and the crew from INRIX was out in force speaking about their predictive models and historical data. AirSage was on hand, too. In retrospect I don't believe I saw any weather data companies in attendance.

Some numbers
Number of times I heard the company name ESRI: 3
It was always in the context of, "We use ESRI in the back end to crunch (fill in the blank)."

Number of times I heard "Geography Awareness Week" or "GIS Day" (the event was held across both): 0
I guess this is not that sort of crowd.

Number of times I heard the term "standard" or "open": 1 each
The context for the former was noting that deCarta's solution supports OGC OLS and the latter from a customer, suggesting "staying open" is a best practice.

Number of times I heard the term "open source": 2
In one case it was dismissed; in the other it was mentioned in a hushed tone, but taken seriously.

Number of magicians at this magical event: 4+
Number of parrots used by magicians: 1
Number of $100 bills in the tricks: 1, but we saw it several times.

[Disclosure: deCarta covered Adena Schutzberg's registration, travel and lodging for this event.]

Published Monday, November 26th, 2007

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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