Maps. The Killer App.

Will mapping be the killer app of the decade?

I believe that mapping is going to have a dramatic effect in the property industry like we have never seen before. At the forefront of this technology is Google who are absolutely pushing the boundaries of this capability along with 900,000 other independent developers and companies who are also following suit.

Yesterday I attended the Google Atmosphere Maps event which was a half-day update to “help business owners discover a more visual, more natural way to transform business planning, gain real-time insight and dramatically increase customer engagement”.


So why would property development industry care about such a topic? The simple answer is data. In today’s world, data is king. Mapping is an incredibly rich source of visual information that can be used in all sorts of ways by visitors, customers, consultants, contractors, suppliers, authorities, facility manager managers, asset fund managers and so on.

Maps allow people to overlay abstract information that is otherwise locked away in spreadsheets and databases to visually display data in an instantly recognisable form that can be navigated and interpreted with little or no training. Using maps, information can turn to knowledge and more informed decision-making resulting in better user experiences, as many case studies at the Atmosphere event highlighted.

The Google map event highlighted just how far the technology has evolved in just 7 years from when they first started. Today, we have progressed from a world of ungainly physical maps of various scales and folding techniques (that would confound an origami expert), quickly bypassed dedicated GPS navigation devices (sorry Harvey Norman), to now be able to use the smart phone in your hip pocket to get turn by turn navigation from a real time generated map.

Google’s mapping guru Louis Perrochon, who is the Engineering Director of Google Maps & Earth Enterprise, explained the technology behind Google Maps and Google Earth to the audience. And it’s truly phenomenal.

Google maps backpack.jpg

Google currently has a image database of 20 Petabytes (20 million gigabytes) which is mashed together in real-time with 47 million Km of road data, traffic conditions, business locations and street-view imagery it has gathered for 187 countries. All of this information is accessed by over a billion users a month with the servers maintaining an uptime availability of 99.995% and capable of serving individual, real-time generated map tiles in an average of under 10 milliseconds. Every year over 19 million kilometres a year of mapping data is surveyed, added or updated by various means such as cars, trikes and backpacks. The pace of accumulation of data is staggering…and you wonder why Apple struggled in their first iteration of their mapping product.

A number of case studies were presented at the event including Allianz Roadside assist, Fortescue mining, ICON Health and Fitness and Ergon Energy.

  • Allianz are using mapping to help stranded motorists recognize where are using streetview and to accurately dispatch service vehicles. Result: massive improvements in customer service.
  • ICON Health and Fitness  has an amazing integration of Google maps and streetview into exercise bikes and treadmills called iFit ( Result: a phenomenal first person experience to exercise virtually on any road in the world with the machines matching the incline of the street up to 40 degrees!
  • Fortesque metals recognized mapping data would be their strategic point of difference. They generate over a Petabyte of their own mapping data and mash it up using Google Earth to overlay every type of data you could possibly imagine including: flora and fauna, indigenous sites, evacuation route, blast zones, safety signage etc. Result: massively accurate and detailed data resulting in huge gains in operational efficiency and risk mitigation.
  • Ergon Energy has embarked on one of the most innovative mapping exercises in the world where they are mapping every area of their 150,000km of assets the cover 97% of Queensland down to centimeter accuracy in a program known as ROAMES Remote Observation Automated Modelling Economic Simulation Result: A mashup of mapping, LIDAR scanning and massive databases of data they have been able reduce a $100M annual vegetation pruning bill down by 20%.

So how could mapping be used in property development? The only limitation is your imagination:

Simulation of building placement for planning
Indoor mapping of buildings, campuses and precincts.
Retail centre strategic planning
Construction site safety planning and management
Portfolio asset management
Facilities asset management
Augmented reality visualization
Mobile applications

The Google Atmosphere mantra said it all. “Know Sooner. Plan Smarter. Engage Faster.”  So what are your thoughts on how mapping could be used for your property development?

EventsMeld Strategies