The mapping war gives new direction to startup opportunities

Digital maps have already changed how we navigate. Now, mapping innovations could alter the way we see the world and provide new startup prospects.


The days of squinting at a paper map, trying to figure out where to go, have long passed. It is easier to find your way than ever before, and the use of GPS devices and satellites has become so common that much of the younger generation doesn’t even know how to read a traditional map. As technology evolves, digital maps and navigation systems are no longer just a way to get around.

Many organisations are now finding ingenious new ways to utilise digital maps, mapping previously unrecorded areas and incorporating augmented reality elements. As these innovations begin hitting the market, mapping technology provides a lot of potential for business startups and well as new IT job opportunities. For inspiration, here are some of the interesting ways satellite navigation is being used right now.

1. Indoor maps – never get lost in an airport again!

Using satellite maps to navigate in the outdoors has become commonplace, but what about when you’re inside? Many of us spend a lot of our lives indoors, with buildings becoming increasingly large and complicated, it’s almost as easy to get lost inside some places as it is outside. Take for instance the notoriously confusing Dubai airport, which is often a big challenge for inexperienced travellers who do not speak the language. What if you could pull out your phone and find out exactly where you need to go?

This is what companies such as Google are now doing. A new system update allows users to upload the floor plan of a building in any country that has indoor Maps available. The floor plan then becomes available to anyone using Google Maps. There are floor plans available for a variety of buildings all over the world, including airports and malls, and the function is available on both PCs and Apple or Android smart devices. There are a number of other companies developing this capability, including Apple, Cisco and Qualcomm.

2. Uber driving the independent maps market

Meanwhile, independent global taxi network Uber, which up till now has been running off Google Maps, is investing $500 million into creating it’s own map system. This project may be due to the unique requirements of Uber, which are no longer being met by their existing system. Uber has no use for the remote locations recorded on Google Maps, but they do need a lot more detail about urban areas including drop off points and patterns in traffic. Having it’s own map system lets Uber deliver a more specialised and secure service to it’s customers, as it won’t be running on an open, external API.

It’s possible this move by Uber is a bid to mitigate it’s reliance on Google, which would likely be a competitor in the autonomous vehicle market later down the track. If more companies follow Uber’s lead, more software developer roles will soon become available as more businesses create their own systems.

3. Pokemon Go maximising on maps

While there are a lot of applications that use an enhanced version of Google Maps for location services, the viral sensation Pokemon Go has made augmented reality a household name. The mobile app layers digital elements over the real environment to allow players to explore their physical world and catch digitised Pokemon.

The success of the app has lead to a surge of cheat apps that piggyback off the Pokemon Go map to show users where they can find rare Pokemon. A notable example is Pokevision, an application that grabs data from the original game’s API to reveal the location of Pokemon as they spawn. Understandably, the developer of Pokemon Go, Niantic, quickly sought to outlaw the spinoffs, but it goes to show how readily savvy professionals in app developer roles can take advantage of a trending technology.

4. Project Tango, dance of the tech giants

In a cutting-edge approach to augmented reality, Google is taking satellite navigation to a whole new level. The new project, dubbed “Tango” integrates virtual reality elements with advanced mapping technology, letting people experience and interact with their world in a revolutionary way. Users hold up their phone to see their environment through the screen, accompanied by digital objects and information to engage with. Google claims there are a range of possible applications for the innovation, including playing with virtual toys and pets, virtually designing a room, and exploring indoor locations such as museums with extra information supplied by the app.

These are just some of the groundbreaking ways that major corporations are using maps right now. With the speed that this technology is developing, it is ripe with opportunity for businesses to take hold of. If you are an entrepreneur or a tech professional looking for somewhere new to take your IT career, innovative mapping technologies may be just the place to start.