The future of digital maps for location-based apps is in the hands of the users - literally.
Digital maps rely on a lot of different sources to make them as accurate as possible, from satellite images and government agencies to package delivery services and mobile mapping vans. But increasingly they're also relying on passive sources like probe data collected in vehicle navigation systems that can be shared by users.
Digital mapping specialist Tele Atlas has gained access to the latter via new owner Tom Tom, which tracks its GPS devices that gather and store data, including traveling speeds based on GPS time stamps.
"When you collect all this data, you get a highly accurate GPS log because you can combine entries from multiple users on the same track and average out the results," said Arnout Desmet, APAC South managing director for Tele Atlas.
The data is collected anonymously on an opt-in basis (with the majority of users typically choosing to do so), and can serve as the basis for calculating other things such as traffic patterns at certain times of day, which could help map apps calculate driving directions that avoid traffic bottlenecks.
Tele Atlas says the next level will be direct user input, in which they can use a navigation panel or PND to enter their own comments and corrections wiki-style and submit them to the mapping company.
"When they come across a problem like a street sign with the wrong name or if street directions change, users can correct it on their own map and then share it with others," Desmet said. He added that the same data-mining techniques that correlate passive probe data can also be used to filter and validate user corrections to make sure they aren't erroneous or pranks.
Desmet also said that Tele Atlas is doing research on developing a mobile device version for pedestrians, although that presents its own unique challenges such as indoor usage that renders GPS useless.