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Mapping companies that are improving your everyday life - Part 2

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satellite view of the world
PUBLISHED
December 22, 2021
BY
Alan Yu

Mapping may have started as a simple way of figuring out how to get from location A to location B, but it has now evolved into a staple part of life. But now, the future of new GIS applications such as Mapbox and Niantic, uncover what they are doing to improve our everyday lives.

Powering Location-based Services

Mapbox

When you use Instacart to deliver a big bag of groceries to your home in a matter of hours, have you ever wondered who is behind the elegant delivery tracking window? Mapbox is. Mapbox is the platform that powers the location technology in apps. Developers use them to add live location into their applications, such as embedded maps, navigation, and search services to mobile and web applications, logistics networks, and automotive navigation systems. 

Thanks to Mapbox, Instacart can display the best routes for the deliveries so you can watch how your groceries travel right to your doorstep from a live map. Snap is another early customer of Mapbox. Snap built Snap Map, a real-time heatmap of the trending events across the globe. Snapchat users can search across all places to view the stories that interest them. The more snaps submitted in an area the hotter it gets on the map, breaking the news before it hits the press. Mapbox is used in more than two million location-based services. This means over 600 million people worldwide touch Mapbox maps every month and a great number of them possibly never heard about them.

Figure 1. Instacart app showing the delivery time of a grocery order using Mapbox’s location technology

Amazon

Like Mapbox, Amazon also provides a wide range of valuable location services for developers to integrate into their location-based applications. First offered in December 2020, Amazon Location Services can help visualize location information, view satellite imagery, offer POI search functionality, estimate delivery arrival time, track device locations, and create geofences to detect and act when a tracked device enters or exits a predefined area. 

An excellent use of geofencing is in fast food restaurant apps like McDonald’s and Wendy’s. When an order is placed, the restaurant does not start preparing the food until the customer physically arrives at the store to guarantee its freshness and when the customer arrives in a car, the restaurant staff can meet them at the parking lot, saving the customers a lot of time and hassle.

 

City Planning

Esri

Esri is the first company in the world to create a commercial GIS system. Founded in 1969, Esri has spent over five decades harnessing the power of mapping and evolved it into incredible analytical tools that uncover meaning and insights from data. The company’s famous ArcGIS tools have helped many industries to form their own framework for understanding location data. 

One of GIS’s most common use cases is to help urban planners, professional designers and officials transform their city, making it attractive for GIS investment. Through ArcGIS, professionals can collaborate on scenario planning, impact assessment, housing availability monitoring, economic resources distribution and many more. Having a digital twin of the citywide infrastructure with scenario simulation capabilities on land-use plans changes, zoning codes updates and development proposals gives them a holistic view of current or future development efforts, helps them navigate uncertainty in short-term changes while balancing long-term outcomes and supports them to make the most informed city planning decisions. GIS companies are truly revolutionizing the way we use maps.

Figure 2. Esri ArcGIS Urban showing the citywide landscape and location data points

 

AllVision

AllVision specializes in providing city governments high definition, time-based inventories for infrastructure, mobility, and transportation and have created a GIS platform to view and manage all of the 3D assets. The company partners with many autonomous vehicle companies and uses data collected from their LIDAR sensors. 

The inventory data AllVision provides can help the government carry out a lot of its city planning duties including improving technical turnover in high traffic commercial zones, monitoring vegetation encroachment on power lines, or servicing and maintaining assets inventories. 

The City of Pittsburg used to not know where all its 60,000+ streetlights are, resulting in poor maintenance and constant light deficiencies across the city. AllVision helped the local government address this important issue by tracking down the city’s streetlights, recording their precise locations and digitizing all of them.

 

Autonomous Driving

DeepMap

Safety is of uttermost importance for all future autonomous car owners. DeepMap (recently acquired by Nvidia) is a mapping company that focuses on accelerating safe autonomy development. The company provides the world’s top autonomous mapping and localization solutions necessary for self-driving vehicles to navigate in a complex and unpredictable environment. 

DeepMap’s GIS can offer precise high-definition (HD) mapping, ultra-accurate real-time localization, and the serving infrastructure to all any autonomous car platform with centimeter-level precision, near real-time updates to reflect changes in the physical world, and extreme awareness of the position of the car in 3D space.

Figure 3. DeepMap showing HD maps and the car’s position in the 3D space 

 

Social Distancing and Personal Safety

As the pandemic continues across the country, maps became an indispensable tool for policymakers, not only to control the spread of the virus but also to better understand and alleviate its many wide-ranging impacts. Collating and visualizing the area data are crucial for planners, public health organizations, and social welfare professionals who need to prioritize resources to deploy vaccinations and to set up social distancing. 

Epistemix

Epistemix is an epidemic GIS mapping company that was established to help all these stakeholders make informed decisions where a single decision can make an extraordinary impact and save lives. It has a proprietary framework to simulate how epidemic spread through populations and on different conditions, including diseases, ideas, behaviors, attitudes, economic status, etc., hence can support a state governor adjusting COVID-19 social distancing policies, a hospital forecasting ICU needs, or a vaccination site manager balancing operational capacity.

Citizen

In cities and areas with higher crime rates, Citizen has become a life-saving app for a lot of people. Citizen developed a personal safety network GIS application that alerts users of all the real-time events that are happening around you, reported by 911 and other users, making them hyper situationally aware so they can avoid danger from miles away. Users can listen to the police radio recordings, see live incidents unfold and get the real story coverage from people on the scene. They can also connect with their family, friends and neighbors and watch out for them.

Figure 4. Citizen app showing safety alerts and live video coverage of a nearby event

Gaming

Niantic

Niantic brought the world one of its most famous mobile games – Pokémon Go as a game developing company. The game’s wild success demonstrated the vast potential of location-based games. While more than hundreds of millions of people around the world have enjoyed this novel game and sharing information in this global GIS application,  Niantic has quietly transformed into a mapping company and established itself as a leader in the AR mapping industry. 

The company has recently unveiled advancements made in building a 3D map of the world that can contextualize objects and materials like water, sky, buildings, and ground in real time. For the public, the result is an evolution of interactive experiences that feature seamless convergence between the real world and the digital twin. 

A developed digital world that mirrors our own but amplified by imagination seen through the next generation of AR devices, can possibly bring forth a plethora of fully immersive location-based gaming that redefines how we interact with the world and each other.

Figure 5. Niantic’s Pokémon GO app showing nearby Pokémon activities and tournament arenas


The companies listed above are just a few examples out of a sea of excellent GIS mapping companies that have great impacts on our daily lives. Maps are now changing how we live more frequently than ever. With technology advancements accelerating, Maps are evolving from an information system to a global medium that connects us to everything and everyone around us. In the past it only tells you which locations we can go, and now it shows us all the possibilities with what we can do everyday on our lovely planet.