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It’s no longer easy to get lost. Quite the opposite, we expect and rely on maps for our most common Internet tasks from basic directions to on-demand transportation, discovering a new restaurant or finding a new friend.

And the battle is on between the biggest public and private companies in the world to shore up mapping data and geo-savvy engineering talent. From there, the race continues to deliver the best mapping apps.

In August, a consortium of the largest German automakers including Audi, BMW, and Daimler (Mercedes) bought Nokia’s Here mapping unit, the largest competitor to Google Maps, for $3.1 billion.

A New York Times story on the deal noted that, “amid a general scramble for talent, Google, the Internet search company, has undergone specific raids from unicorns for engineers who specialize in crucial technologies like mapping.”

Wrapping our planet in mobile devices gave birth to a new geographic landscape, one where location meets commerce and maps play a critical role. In addition to automakers like the German consortium having a stake in owning and controlling mapping data and driver user experiences, the largest private companies, like Uber and Airbnb, depend on maps as an integral part of their applications.

That’s one reason purveyors of custom maps like Mapbox have emerged to handle mapping applications for companies like Foursquare, Pinterest, and Mapquest. Mapbox raised $52.6 million last summer to continue its quest.

Mapbox and many others in the industry have benefitted from the data provided by OpenStreetMap, a collection of mapping data free to use under an open license. Of course some of the largest technology companies in the world besides Google maintain their own mapping units including Microsoft (Bing Maps) and Apple Maps.

Investment in the Internet of Things combined with mobile device proliferation are creating a perfect storm of geolocation information to be captured and put to use. Much of this will require an analytics infrastructure with geospatial intelligence to realize its value.

In a post titled, Add Location to Your Analytics, Gartner notes:

The Internet of Things (IoT) and digital business will produce an unprecedented amount of location-referenced data, particularly as 25 billion devices become connected by 2020, according to Gartner estimates.

And more specifically:

Dynamic use cases require a significantly different technology that is able to handle the spatial processing and analytics in (near) real time.

Of course, geospatial solutions have been around for some time, and database providers often partner with the largest private geospatial company, Esri, to bring them to market. In particular, companies developing in-memory databases like SAP and MemSQL have showcased work with Esri. By combining the best in geospatial functions with real-time, in-memory performance, application makers can deliver app-specific maps with unprecedented level of consumer interaction.

Google’s balloons and Facebook’s solar powered drones may soon eliminate the dead zones from our planet, perhaps removing the word “lost” from our vocabulary entirely. Similarly, improvements in interior mapping technology guarantee location specific details down to meters. As we head to this near-certain future, maps, and the rich, contextual information they provide, appear to be a secret weapon to delivering breakout application experiences.

Gary Orenstein is chief marketing officer at MemSQL.


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