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Crowd-sourcing for real-time navigation maps

Rasheed Kappan, Bangalore, Dec 24, 2013, DHNS : 1:54 IST

Navigating the labyrinthine, often unnamed streets of Bangalore might have been every address-hunter’s worst nightmare.

But the smartphones packed with cool map applications and stand-alone navigation devices on cars now offer a rescue route, a point-by-point guide to destinations across the City. Yet, you could still get lost if the maps aren’t accurate enough, the data not up-to-date enough and the mapping software not adequately dynamic.

Crowd-sourcing. This is one route favoured by map-makers to plug loopholes of accuracy. Simply put, they rely on users to provide data about a new restaurant, a new construction or a new change in traffic direction. Pioneering the trend, Google Maps had allowed independent users to pack its basic map with a mindboggling range of Points of Interest (POI). But Bangalore’s changing one-way systems always posed a tough challenge. The mapmakers had to combine real-time data sourced from the crowds with inhouse research.

For instance, the HERE Maps -- accessible on most Nokia Windows phones -- recently launched a community mapping pilot programme in India, mixing industrial map data collection methods with a crowd mapping initiative. Inputs from residents are used to make the maps fresh and precise with locally relevant information.

HERE has also engaged over a thousand people to work on the maps directly with local experts from more than a dozen universities across the country. The City-based Mount Carmel College is part of this network.

Insider knowledge

“Using Map Creator, a HERE tool that allows people to add missing streets, bridges, POIs and other information to the map, these local experts can share insider knowledge of the areas they know like the back of their hand and, in turn, put their communities on the map,” Christof Hellmis, vice president, Map Platform, HERE Maps, told Deccan Herald.

To maintain accuracy and ensure map quality, HERE has built a community map moderation system that allows both the HERE team and the community to verify edits before integrating them into the base map. “Once integrated, these changes will become available within days to all users across the wide range of HERE customers, including automakers, personal navigation device manufactures, mobile device makers and web and enterprise clients.”

Venue mapping

In Bangalore, the 3D mapping of important landmarks will add a new dimension to navigation. The process, called Venue Mapping, is gaining momentum, with HERE showcasing detailed floor-by-floor navigation of a new mall on MG Road.

Countrywide, HERE has already mapped 1,873 landmarks in 3D, besides 7,000 railway stations and eight million points of interest.

The data verification exercise is a comprehensive, full-time job that involves a big army of vehicles, cameras and men.

HERE Drive vehicles, equipped with aerial imagery sourced from ISRO and other agencies, fan out to check width of roads, speed limits, traffic lights and 200 other attributes. Seven cameras are mounted atop each of the Drive vehicles capturing videos.

“Up to 800GB of data can be stored and transferred to a central server,” informed a field personnel. The data, he was quick to add, is captured only after securing permission from the Ministry of Defence and Survey of India.

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