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“There were two things that drove the creation of the tool and the programme,” Reno explains. “First, if people find mistakes on the map, or things that need to be updated, then they can do something about it – report a map problem or edit the map directly via our HERE Map Creator tool. Thus the map can be more accurate and fresher for all.
“The second reason is that we can’t be everywhere, all the time. Map-making is a very costly and human-intensive endeavour. The system operates as a form of alert for us, so we know which area needs attention most.” Suggested edits are moderated and ratified by both expert community groups and HERE map field agents.
Since the programme started last year, enthusiasm from mapping communities worldwide has been very high.
HERE is working with over 3,000 active expert users in around 300 communities across the world.
And their activity is escalating rapidly.
The number of community edits has doubled in each month of 2014 so far.
But the programme – both the app and the community management – is still in a period of rapid development and refinement.
“We’re currently in what we think of as a public beta phase with Map Creator and the community effort around it. There are still things that frustrate us. There is still a lag between changes being reported and edited and those that are being integrated directly into the maps people see on their devices, on the web or in the car.
“This is a complex issue and we’re working hard to address the problem to close that loop and make the process faster.” (More on this below)
There’s a real necessity to balance caution against openness, though.
This is especially true when it comes to alterations to maps in places where those maps are already very complete, with many layers of information – transit, traffic flow, speed limits, lane markings and more.
These are industrial grade navigation maps; maps that might soon tell your car which way to go. Their accuracy is vital, and increasing. For that reason, the programme in such countries is more restricted as to who can make edits. However, feedback from users reporting map problems from the web or mobile phones is very valuable – acting as sort of a heat map which highlights areas that need fixing or updating.
“But in other areas of the world such as emerging and developing countries where the depth of our map content may not be as complete as those in the industrialized world,” Reno continues, “the map is more of an open canvas where there’s a greater opportunity for our expert communities to edit the map and restrictions for integration are lighter. And that’s where our expert communities are making the most impact.”
Senior Product Manager Cory Hohs and Community Manager Frank Wassermann explain that the group wants to be able to do more to help, reward and incentivise contributors from expert communities.
“We get a lot of feedback from contributors asking when their updates will be available to view. As we want to make sure the quality of the information very high, the process is currently slower than we or they would like.
“However, we are offering a special community mapping program to our selected expert communities managed by our regional map field agents. This expert map community program includes hands-on map making training, extended access to HERE Map Platform APIs, and free access to certain HERE Map data in multiple formats as well as a copy of their own map contributions. This also enables our expert communities to create new mapping projects or applications if they choose," says Cory.
“HERE is unique in offering this level of support and interaction with contributors.”
One project that illustrates the level of community involvement we’re reaching was a recent collaboration with the Philippines operator Smart. Frank Wasserman tells us:
“We worked with Smart on a project for schools called ‘Put my country on the map’. Smart ran the programme; we provided the tools and infrastructure; and the schools submitted the data.
“And it was a win for everyone involved. Smart got publicity; we got better data and the school students won prizes. Plus the data was turned into an interactive map online to which the children could add their own choice of YouTube videos.”
“This is the power of the community," Reno concludes. "We are very appreciative and thankful to our mapping community and to the contributions they have made which benefit all users."
HERE thinks community mapping will ultimately speed up the creation of new maps, and the frequent upkeep of existing maps. What’s not to like about that?
image credit: Doon Po Sa Amin