Geo and the Mobile Industry: Thoughts following the Mobile World Congress

Miguel Arias - 4YFN

Two weeks ago the CartoDB team spent a very intense week in Barcelona, participating in the Mobile World Congress and 4YFN events at two different booths. We are certainly blessed to have such a conference take place so close to our Madrid offices, with so many relevant enterprise actors from all over the world passing through.

It is quite surprising that considering how important location-based services have become for the mobile industry, geolocation and geo-trends weren’t the main focus of the event. Most of the discussions at MWC still centered around devices and brand new product launches, while mapping companies had a somewhat contained presence.

We tried to shake things up a bit, organizing a lively panel with the CEOs of Mapbox Eric Gundersen, Mapillary Jan Erik Solem, VP Product of Factual Tyler Bell and our very own CEO, Javier de la Torre. We had a small but truly engaged audience and discussed some of the most relevant challenges facing our industry.

##Is there life beyond Google?

All the mapping companies that presented have services that rival or coexist with Google location-based services and products. And it is surely hard to compete with one of the industry’s largest players, but collaborative approaches both in data collection and code development are closing the gap between those billions of dollars of investment and the effort of talented individuals teaming up to innovate rapidly.

Google’s recent efforts to focus on their location-based service APIs and end consumers will surely impact business decisions for many corporations looking for new platforms in 2015.

##Where is data coming from?

The holy grail of many enterprise mapping needs starts with access to clean, curated, and relevant data, which can bring context to an analysis or story that our users want to share.

New data services are proliferating, giving people access to social media interactions, satellite imagery, and open data demographics, and enabling seamless and faster access to data sources; our companies and end customers/users are certainly benefiting from this.

In the seventies Waldo Tobler said, “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” By giving context to enterprise data and allowing the analysis of trends under a location prism, new generation mapping platforms are putting a powerful tool in the hands of business professionals who were not necessarily mappers before.

##Big data, the internet of things, and maps.

Trillions of interactions collected on social media networks and millions of sensors connected to the Internet generate an increasing wealth of data being measured and stored every second. Luckily, most of this information is location-aware, allowing mapping platforms to provide context and ease the understanding of this data.

This week we announced our collaboration with Telefonica to connect their IoT/Smartcities platform to CartoDB under NGIS FIWARE standards. By supporting these standards, and thanks to the integration, specific solutions can be built by a whole ecosystem of developers to help cities to act on their data and share this with their citizens.

##Uber and deCarta—what is this about?

The geo crew at MWC was abuzz with the news of the first Uber acquisition ever. Uber moving into location-based services is certainly a big deal, considering their close relationship with Google. But if we consider how core, actually, location services are for Uber’s business model—in terms of route planning, driver management, overall efficiency of daily operations—it certainly makes tons of sense for them to stay as independent from Google as possible.

What will this mean for the industry? Is Uber’s acquisition appetite complete with the deCarta acquisition? Was Uber mostly looking to amplify its data-gathering capabilities and display tools or is there more to its strategic planning? And more important, what does this mean for other big players that rely on third-party location services? Will Facebook, Twitter et al. try to build their own capabilities or work more closely with the new industry actors that enable a more comprehensive (and cost-effective, may I add) access to LBS and analysis tools.

Among the incumbents, ESRI is acting fast to position itself as the most viable enterprise-y alternative, but as we noted during MWC, the future is all about the cloud, web, and mobile, and big challenges lie ahead of this transition for legacy-heavy corporations. TomTom will now have to find a new strategic LBS partner and Nokia’s HERE is launching new products to leverage on their wealth of location-based data.

##Mobile mapping

We had more requests for information than ever before about the use of CartoDB as a mapping platform to power mobile apps. And it was very motivating to see firsthand the new cool apps for business intelligence, real estate, and social media analysis being created on top of CartoDB by our community.

Mobile is a crucial part of the mapping experience, and we are working hard to empower developers with more tools to easily integrate our mapping capabilities into their apps and also rethink how maps will be consumed on smaller screens.

Kudos to our team for a great performance, and many thanks to the vibrant mapping community in Barcelona for organizing such an insightful and fun GeoBeers.

Happy mapping!

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