New CloudMade Offerings Address Challenges of 2013's Location-based Services

April 3, 2013

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CloudMade is best known for making OpenStreetMap a more valuable data platform for software developers. In February, the company enhanced its offerings to address the needs of today’s location-based services developers. Directions Magazine interviewed Nick Black, CloudMade co-founder and VP Product, to explore the CloudMade 2013 vision.

Directions Magazine (DM): The Hybrid (see graphic below) offering is a data-as-a-service solution for developers. Can you outline all the different meanings of “hybrid”? Does this mean that CloudMade is now a data aggregator?
NIck Black (NB): Hybrid is the product name and it takes its name from the use case we've built for. "Hybrid" mode is all about "intermittent connectivity" and "pervasive location" - a key trend we believe will shape the requirements of device OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] throughout the rest of the decade. For a device OEM, CloudMade's Hybrid product does three major things:
  • Keeps location content, from POIs [points of interest] to weather feeds to gas prices to reviews to road networks, up-to-date and in-sync. It does this through any network connection - that could be a PND [personal navigation device] tethered to a smartphone via Bluetooth or a tablet connected to the Internet via WiFi or a smartphone connected over a 3G or 4G connection.
  • Lets the OEM create user experiences that include a huge depth and breadth of data from different sources, all aggregated into one user experience. This point is really important for us - we think that there's going to be more and more geo data available in the coming years and that users will want to access these data from a single interface, not have to go into a specific app to search for content.
  • Lets the OEM deploy global solutions that are future proof and include localized data sources (e.g. the local equivalents of Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook) across different markets. An OEM using CloudMade's Hybrid only writes against one API for hundreds or thousands of different data sources - a major selling point in today's global consumer electronics market. 
So aggregation is one of the problems we solved for customers like Magellan [see below], but is only one part of the puzzle.
DM: A clever commenter at All Points Blog asked if Mapsafe (see graphic below) is the new Fire Eagle. Is that a reasonable comparison? Why or why not?  
NB: Mapsafe is a B2B [business-to-business] product designed to allow OEMs, enterprises and developers to quickly, easily and securely create location-based experiences that cross multiple devices, screens and apps. Our customers use Mapsafe to facilitate use cases like the sharing and synchronization of a user's favorite routes, recent destinations, address book or to-do lists across their different apps and devices in their own ecosystem. An extension of this use case is one where the end user (our customer's customer) can grant access to the location in their Mapsafe to third-party applications, as Magellan Active has done with its Fitness developer API. This is just like the permission granting that Twitter and Facebook users are used to. Fire Eagle also used this model of permission granting, but that's where the similarity ends. Mapsafe is B2B; Fire Eagle was B2C [business to consumer]. Mapsafe stores and grants access to any geo content; Fire Eagle was about the current location of a user. 
DM: What are the biggest changes developers will see between the old software development kit (SDK) and the new Cross Platform SDK? What were the most difficult changes to implement?
NB: The new generation of CloudMade SDKs are built for the mobile environment in 2013 - one in which connectivity is intermittent, location is pervasive, users demand lightning fast response times and one where the availability of geo-content is vast, and fragmented. From the developers, OEMs and enterprises we work with we learned a lot about both the limitations of, and the opportunities afforded to, modern mobile devices and we've designed a cloud-device architecture around both the opportunities and the constraints of the modern mobile environment. Our Hybrid system keeps data locally on a device so that access is lightning fast, passing queries out to Web services where available. Mapsafe allows the location experience to persist between devices - reducing frictions for our OEMs’ customers when they move between different devices. The CloudMade SDKs themselves are a culmination of five years of work with our customers and provide the most comprehensive toolkit that any developer of location aware apps and experiences will need. 
DM: Magellan’s SmartGPS (coming this spring, see graphic below) seems to be the poster child for Hybrid and Mapsafe. How did that relationship come about? What has CloudMade learned by working with Magellan?
NB: We're big believers in working closely with our customers from the very beginning of the product lifecycle. I don't like to sit in an office thinking up new use cases in isolation - that rarely leads to great products. If I'm building a consumer product I talk with the end users as soon as I think I've identified a need or made a few UI [user interface] sketches. When it’s a B2B product I want to work closely with both the end users, our customer (the OEM, developer or enterprise) and other parts of the ecosystem, like data providers, component providers and other software providers.
So even before the SmartGPS features existed we sat down with Magellan's product and design teams and started sketching, white boarding, talking and specing out use cases to figure out why the product would make an impact, how we'd jointly change people's lives. We'd talk a lot about how the product was going to make a difference in the world. Throughout the product lifecycle we've worked together to explore use cases, design SmartGPS's signature user interface, test and iterate the use cases, and of course build an exciting roadmap of features still to come.
DM: Zigi, which launched last October as a separate brand, is a location-based solution for game developers to monetize their efforts and for brands to drive traffic to retail stores. How is that going? What is its current relationship, both staff and technology-wise, to CloudMade?
NB: We're not ready to talk about Zigi right now - only to say that we're working with the biggest retail brands and the biggest game publishers to bring some very exciting campaigns to market. 2013 is going to be a very exciting year for CloudMade, Zigi and the mobile advertising landscape.

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