Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Google's approach to user generated map updates not working?

My friend Greg Johnson found this interesting story saying that Google is hiring 300 people for a year to work "to improve the accuracy of Google Maps", though the commentary is rather uninformed (IMHO!). It doesn't discuss the fact that Google ditched Tele Atlas in the US 7 months ago to use their own data, and were widely perceived as having taken quite a step back in terms of data quality, as reported by various people including me, James, Matt, and Maitri. Google's vision seemed to be that they would improve the data quality over time by allowing users to report errors, but I had questioned whether typical users would be motivated to submit error reports, when it was easier to just switch to using Bing or MapQuest or whoever, who used more proven data from Tele Atlas or NAVTEQ. And most people interested in doing their own mapping are more likely to use OpenStreetMap, so they and others can use the raw data they have created (Google's equivalent, Mapmaker, is only available in some countries, and only lets you use raster map tiles derived from the data you have created rather than the raw data, and only under the terms of the Google Maps API which has various restrictions).

The article says that Google is paying $14.50 an hour, so a back of the envelope calculation for 300 people for a year says that they will be spending around $8.5m on labor alone (excluding overheads), which is not a huge deal for Google, but not insignificant either. Perhaps there is some other grand new plan behind this, but I have to think that this indicates that Google has realized they have a lot of work to do to improve their map data.

8 comments:

ebwolf said...

I really wish Google were a little more forthcoming with things. As someone who is actively researching how to best leverage crowd sourced information for formal spatial data infrastructures (like Google Maps or the USGS National Map), understanding Google's problems could help others avoid the same issues. But I guess that's the lament of an academic considering the efforts of a commercial enterprise.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how they will put them to work? Fixing known errors, looking for errors or as probes sent out into the world? I also wonder if Google think that 300 temporary employees working for "a year" will fix their problems. And what will happen when Google realizes that the real world changes and that their streetview derived data is potentially stale? Maybe if Google had a more open policy about freely sharing their data then they would get more help but that of course would defeat the purpose of having volunteers and temp employees create a dataset that is worth a fortune for Google.

Pink Duck said...

I've been waiting for 2.5 years to get Google/TeleAtlas to fix a routing restriction near my home which leads to the occasional private ambulance getting delayed by 8 mins to the nearby major hospital. Just the 5 reports to TeleAtlas and 3 to Google at various points during that period - all unanswered or unactioned. No MapMaker for the UK either to improve upon TeleAtlas' data. Yet Google refuse to make use of OpenStreetMap for the UK or contribute to its data. I guess I'll just continue on voluntarily improving my local area until the day arrives when crowd-sourced data wins out overall.

polydor said...

@Pink Duck
With the 'IQ Routes' option of tomtom, these kind of issues should be automatically detected. Route calculations based on IQ-routes-data will plan more optimal routes then. Do you have experience with tomtom IQ-routes?

atanas entchev said...

Google bit more than they could chew by ditching Tele Atlas, also with adding the parcel layer to Maps (maintenance?). It's probably an unavoidable trap to fall in, when everything else seems to come so easy and everything you touch turns to gold.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting... I live in the bay area and a google recruiter sent me an email thru linkedin asking if I was interested in a job...

Who wouldnt want to work in a wherehouse with 299 other people correcting data?

Why dont they outsource it?

Anonymous said...

$8.5 mil is likely quite a bit less than the yearly lease cost from T/A.

Luiz Amadeu Coutinho said...

Oh yeah

Google is recruiting.

View the job oportunity in Ireland.

http://www.cv-library.co.uk/uk-jobs/109156422/Dublin-City-Centre-Non-UK/GIS-or-Mapping-or-Geography-Lovers.html

Luiz Amadeu Coutinho
http://geoinformacaonline.com