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What You Need to Know About Digital Maps

Years ago, families never left for vacation without stacks of folded paper maps to guide them to their destinations. Today, digital mapping offers a faster and more convenient option that not only maps a route, but also provides real-time information about the weather, traffic conditions, and other data. What do the current digital map technologies offer, and where is the industry heading?

Integrated Digital Maps Pervade Consumers’ Lives

Image via Flickr by Marcin Wichary

Consumers can access digital maps via their cell phones, tablets, and GPS systems. They can also use search engines like Google to view mapping data faster online. Consumers rely on digital maps to find local restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and other amenities. Judging by the speed of progress, tomorrow’s GIST graduates will take this technology even further.

In addition to standalone applications, mapping software comes integrated with many cars. Writing for Forbes, Doug Newcomb reveals that the latest digital mapping technology can anticipate upcoming hills and instruct a car to adjust its fuel economy. The power behind digital maps has inspired German automakers to make a play for Here, Nokia’s mapping software.

The Here sale netted $3 billion for Nokia, according to TNW News. The goal lies in automated driving. Audi, BMW, and Mercedes hope to use the technology to inform self-driving cars. An auto-piloted car would need access to high-level information, from the location of potholes in the street to the precise locations of curves and intersections.

Digital Mapping Can Shave Precious Seconds off Commercial Drivers’ Routes

Here isn’t the only digital mapping software on the table. Collecting map data from consumers’ vehicles can help automakers better anticipate drivers’ needs and improve their existing map software, according to Newcomb. However, logistics companies can also benefit tremendously from digital maps.

Mark Scott of the New York Times reports that Uber has signed a contract with mapping company TomTom to use the mapping software in their smartphone apps. Uber relies on thousands of motorists around the world to serve as taxis for consumers. Powerful digital mapping software allows them to transport people from one place to another much faster than they could otherwise.

Infinite Commercial Applications Exist for Mapping Software

Most people think of digital maps in terms of transportation and logistics, but other industries can benefit just as much from the technology. Michael S. Goldberg, writing for CIO magazine, reports that retail giant Walgreens uses a robust geographic information system called WalMap to decide where the pharmacy giant should open new stores.

Digital maps also have a place in public safety. The Tampa Tribune reports that geologists and mapmakers have collaborated on digital maps to identify sinkhole locations in Florida. Specifically, the project relies on digital elevation maps combined with aerial photography.

Similarly, Twin Falls, Idaho, has begun digitally mapping the city’s streets. City officials hope to address infrastructure problems and develop the most cost-efficient and timely maintenance schedule possible, according to KMVT, a local news station.

Digital mapping offers consumers, businesses, and governments the opportunity to learn more about the world and its occupants than ever before. It’s become a competitive market that drives billion-dollar deals and often involves bidding wars among the world’s most successful companies.