With geo-targeting and location-specific data becoming more and more accessible and relevant, Louisville-based YourMapper.com and off-shoot GovMapper.com are suddenly becoming important players in the race to have the world’s largest online mapping platform. I’m not talking about Google Maps. I’m talking about laying data over Google or other mapping systems.
YourMapper.com essentially collects geographically-tied data and puts it in map form. You can supply the service with your data and they will turn it into a maps mashup you can use on your website. All of that information becomes instantly subscribe-able via RSS feeds, mobile updates and more, turning your data into a highly portable, extremely useful product.
Let’s say you have a large transportation force distributing products and services around the country. You have GPS devices on your vehicles and data entry points at every link in the distribution chain. Exporting your data to YourMapper.com can allow you to display that information, in as real time as you can provide it, on your website for your employees, or even customers to see AND communicate any set of that data to the appropriate channels along the way. Your regional sales force can now have UPS-like tracking information available for internal or even external use.
But YourMapper.com is more than just a place to get cool maps or your site. That’s just one of their commercial applications. What Michael Schnuerle, the founder and CEO, is trying to do with YourMapper and GovMapper is become a public information source. From their About Page:
Your Mapper is a news organization dedicated to bringing your information about what is around your home, office, and neighborhood. We gather geographic-based information that has either never seen the light of day, or has never been effectively placed on map. We want you to truly know your street and neighborhood, not just your zip code and city. Mapping data in your town is our specialty.
According to Schnuerle, there are terabytes or more of information locked up in government, municipal and even corporate archives, relevant to geo-based information, that the public has never seen. He hopes his platform provides a public resource as he unifies information from around the country or even world.
With the launch of GovMapper.com, Schnuerle is taking his public service offering another step further by specifically targeting cities, counties, states and other government agencies, allowing them a portal to pump their data into his system and get useful, public information resources for their websites in return. If the government agencies (or commercial interests for that matter) supply GovMapper or YourMapper with OMG Standard information (Open Municipal GeoData, not Oh My God!), there’s literally no cost to the organization to create the map. Map usage does have volume-based fees, but if anything, they’re ridiculously reasonable.
The reason Schnuerle’s efforts fascinate me are two-fold. First, the unification and standardization of data produces unimaginable layers of more useful information and better use of that data. I can look at Schnuerle’s original project, Louisville’s MetroMapper.org, and see real time traffic updates including traffic cams, homes for sale plotted on a map complete with price and contact information, residences of local sex offenders, locations of known meth labs, toxic pollution levels and more. Imagine overlaying several of these information bits and extracting insights about neighborhoods, municipal needs or even geo-targeting for marketing.
What YourMapper is becoming is something very valuable.
The second reason I’m fascinated by the continued growth of Schnuerle’s tool is silly, but still relevant. For my 2,000th Tweet on Twitter, in March of 2008, I jokingly said I would sell it to the first person to deposit $5.00 in my PayPal account. Schnuerle took me up on it because he was trying to drive votes in a contest to win a trip to Silicon Valley to present his mapping concept to the Netsquared Mashup Challenge. I offered up what we think is the first openly paid Tweet, he got enough votes to go, earned some seed money and was able to grow his business as a result. I reported on the experiment afterwards. I had little to do with his success, but we had fun playing around with paid Tweets and helped him garner some votes in the process. Plus, Mashable picked it as one of “16 Great Twitter Moments.” Who knew?
What I would challenge each of you to do is think of ways you can take data for your company or clients and use it efficiently in a mapping function. You’re probably starting to think that way for iPhone and other smart phone apps anyway. Why not pull back from the mobile box for a moment and think of what efficiencies can be had by including mapping in your internal or external communications arsenal. My thoughts:
- Map locations of retailers that carry your product
- Map physicians and hospitals within your insurance or service network
- Map ATM locations, both bank-owned and partner networked
- Map locations of your outdoor advertisements to see exactly what geography you’re targeting
- Map positive and negative reports to your customer service center
Please add to that list with your thoughts in the comments.
Related articles by Jason Falls, with Zemanta
- Google Maps: 100+ Best Tools & Mashups (Mashable)
- Data Visualization From Around The Web (PSFK)
- Mapping A Better World (The Economist)
- The One Thing I Love About Louisville: Michael Schnuerle (Consuming Louisville)