When I first was reflecting on the Where2.0 2011 conference, I had the impression that there were no real highlights and hardly any new trends. Navteq was announcing their 3D cities in an attempt to catch up with Google. Microsoft are advancing their map technology and announcing some major players are to switch from Google to Bing maps. Google launched Earth Builder – a tool to bring geographic data from non-profit organizations into the cloud, directly competing with ESRI’s ArcGIS online. Hardly any breaking news here.
However, there is one trend that becomes clear: all players are entering or strengthening their crowdsourcing initiatives for building maps. Often this approach was just mentioned as incidental or sold differently to audience: Google has extended Map Maker from the remote countries to the US. Similarly, Navteq has launched a Wiki-map approach in Ethiopia, following the path taken by Google and trying this approach in remote countries first.
Microsoft launched Photosynth, a free tool on the iPhone to generate geocoded panorama images. It was not mentioned explicit but it seems it is intended to advance the Google ‘StreetView’ approach to places that cannot be covered by cars; especially indoors.
I wonder if the users are willing to do mapping efforts for the big corporations that keep the map data under a commercial license. Google is trying to shift respectively, extending the mapping efforts from India, where costs are low, to volunteers that work for free. The question is if people (and organizations) will just make sure that their home place is shown correctly or if people are indeed willing to bring the commercial maps to a new level of detail as it is seen in OpenStreetMap.