Although the GIS consumption in India is almost negligible, the pace with which the landscapes are moulding, cities are expanding outwards to the greener belts, heavy traffic conditions, emergence of giant flyovers/ Clover leaves, internet & mobile penetration etc etc has brought the need for better driving directions.
Till date the data collectors in India have survived only with the Govt. projects or the enterprise needs & this is the reason why they still lack decent consumer oriented data. Inspite of all this the GIS industry has seen a paradigm shift with some players moving up the value chain. While MapMyIndia offered a service first time relevant to the Indian boundaries, RouteGuru pioneered the idea of driving directions based on landmarks, however, today almost everyone has landmarks to offer while driving the consumers.
Detailed analysis of Yahoo India Maps & Driving Directions
Yahoo’s entry to the focussed driving directions in India at first seemed to be some sort of competition to me but soon I was delighted to realize how things are going to change in this sub-continent very soon w.r.t. GIS demand, consumption & acceptance.
After examining Y!’s recently launched service, it is apparent that they too suffer the several data related issues as does MapMyIndia. No wonder its only the same data vendor behind both of them, however, MapMyIndia still leads here because of the comprehensice feature set they already have & the support of their in-house data no doubt Y! has its own community to back them.
As per my observations, the driving directions by Y! are just average & only good for the Bird’s eye view through maps. Aspects that needs more attention are:
1. Providing landmarks is not the only solution, its the relevancy of the landmarks that eases the navigation. In my experiment with almost 10 routes in Delhi/ Bangalore I struggled to see any decent landmarks. Even if you carry the print-out of the current landmark based directions, it will even be difficult for the local auto-drivers to comprehend where the user is actually routed to? Relevancy of the landmark is something they need to work a lot around.
2. I was left surprised when it din’t recognize the Forum Mall in Bangalore, further trials for other famous POIs revealed the lack of POI names in the database, thus, the landmark names are relevant to the lines (roads) & Polys (localities, sub localities) but not points. Wondering what prevented them from including the point database?.
Also do not be surprised if you find a name for the road next to your house, which you always believed never existed. Now the question comes is, whether is it really helpful in navigating you from one point to the other?
Validation: A route from Kalkaji Mandir to Sukhdev Vihar in Delhi – Anybody can tell you the major landmark between the route is “Modi-Mills Flyover” but Y! tells “Bhakti Vedant Swami Marg flyover“. I have no idea if even the local street hawkers would know about that? Its not only in this particular route but a common problem.
3. On close examination, the shift in the satellite & graphical map images is also quite transparent, which is bound to happen as the data sources for both the images are different. Again wondering what sense would it make to the company?
4. Turn restriction information is something which they also struggle very badly with. It is so common a problem with almost every player today, I urge the data vendors to work little more onto it, however, I’m sure Yahoo must be pushing CEI to enhance the data with such information but then again the relationship between both of them need to be seen owing to the fact that CEI’s arm MapMyIndia stands in direct competition with Yahoo Maps now.
5. The selection of the POIs in the search field is quite non-intuitive & the fuzzy logic too doesn’t impress much.
6. They seem to have fixed this problem now.
The directions w.r.t. the roundabouts is again confusing. Lets say I have to take the 4th turn on the roundabout after I merge onto it from the road I’m coming from, the solution always guide you to take the further next turn i.e. 5th roundabout. This problem is so consistent everywhere that either they have considered the leaving road also as one turn or something which I couldn’t figure out. May be if someone can help me out with this!
7. Looking at the current service, another thought that sorrounds me is that this service is still motivated as a strategic move for the internet major rather than solving the problem in its own respect. Lack of any of the new killer feature surely disappointed me. I was quite sure to learn something new from their release. Anyway!
Some of the interesting things to notice are:
1. Faster Map rendering – The speed with which the map rendering is done is fantastic. This year (during May) Yahoo announced the discontinuation of De-Carta map engine RME to deploy an in-built Map rendering engine. This aspect is surely impressive & feeds confidence in Yahoo’ offering.
2. Soothing UI – Except their own dark red colored image on UI, it is innocent & immitates simplicity – a trend caught attention after Google’s homepage publicity.
3. Via Routing – Shoot a query “From A to B to C” takes the Via-routing considerations. Though it is no big deal but still makes it impressive with the initial offering.
All in all an average service, only good for the bird’s eye view for a route. Dependency on the names of POIs is highly debatable.
How Yahoo Maps will motivate competition?
While Y! Maps have done a good job than what is actually reflect in the analysis, what is to be noted is that it is actually the replica of something that is already in existence & nothing new (something strongly not expected from them & disappointed me). Rather than shrinking the opportunities for others, this offering will actually favor the startups operating in the similar space. Innovation in landmark based driving directions and to capture the confidence of the Indian audience are still a distant achievement.
It also signals an obligation for other horizontal portals like AOL, MSN, Indiatimes & recent entrant MiH to either tie-up with the major (which looks less likely) or to build partnership with the smaller players or may be to completely acquire some promising startup in the space, all of them will now have to pull their socks up!
The other interesting thing is that the landmark based driving directions will now become another phenomena not only in India but globally, we’ll soon have some benchmarks & interesting figures coming from Indian GIS industry in the consumer domain for the other countries to follow. Local search & travel search won’t mean anything without the integration with good driving directions.
More GIS startups, acquisitions & partnerships should soon be seen.
My personal Congratulations & good wishes to Yahoo Maps team!