Digital Maps and Augmented Reality

Over the years we have seen a huge range of applications cropping up that use digital maps. From previously being the domain of architects and planners to becoming commercially available for route planning and GPS software, to now being something that anyone can use through APIs, digital maps are ubiquitous.

There are also numerous augmented reality games for people to play with. One of the first to really get attention was “Zombies, Run!” a game which encourages people to run around their neighbourhoods for exercise, by pretending that they are being chased by zombies and having to find supply caches or drop off messages at certain points.

Other popular and high profile games based on electronic mapping systems include Ingress – an augmented reality game where players fight for control of popular, well-known monuments in their area, and of course Pokemon Go – the game that built on the Ingress technology but made it more accessible, and that benefited massively from the power the Pokemon brand name.

Others have come along since and imitated what Pokemon did with online maps. There is a Jurassic Park game which is superficially similar, and allows them to ‘fly’ around the local area and catch dinosaurs. The build quality, polish, and community around Pokemon means that no imitation game is likely to beat it as the market leader, however.

In the UK, Ordnance Survey is the market leader for maps. Many of their maps were drawn the old-fashioned way and then digitized. They are now updated with satellite data. Internationally, there are other organizations that play a similar role. There is also Open Street Map, an open source, wiki-style map that anyone can edit and that relies on crowdsourced contributions to ensure that the map is accurate and up to date. Even Google Maps, to an extent, relies on volunteer contributions to ensure that it is as up to date as possible, because it offers far more than just simple ‘this street is at this lat/long’ data. Google Maps collects {data|information] about which shop occupies which building, and their opening hours, as well as reviews, and a street view that lets people see what each building looks like.

That’s where digital features are really starting to come in handy. Now maps can be used far more intelligently, to plan trips, calculate routes, and make shopping decisions.

The business applications of maps are still there of course. If you’re trying to acquire a new building and you want to get planning permission to make changes to it, or you want to know if the building is in a flood area, you can find out those things by using digital mapping systems. You can also use maps to find own who owns certain pieces of land, and you can use maps to identify potential issues such as contamination, or even to look into school catchment areas and other problems that are matters of public record. We have access to a lot of data, and now have the computing power to use it to our advantage.

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