GIS Monitor July 5, 2001


-Vindigo and MapInfo Fight Economic Downturn
-GPS Tracking Yields $450 In Fines for Car Renter
-YAHOO! to Show Visitors Localized Ads

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Vindigo, the company that helps you find restaurants and entertainment on your Palm device, announced a layoff for 5 of their 35 employees. The company also received additional funding of $6.2 million.

The company is likely suffering from the downturn in online advertising, a principle revenue source. The wireless version of the product, requiring no “syncing” is being tested and new platform support is expected soon. Pocket PC, I’ll suggest, is the next logical step.

MapInfo warned that it would not meet expectation of about 19 cents per share this quarter, but instead would break even. The company blamed softening economies worldwide as well as lowered spending on information technology in the telecommunications industry. Shares closed down more than 10%, just under $20, on Monday, the day of the announcement, and continued to drop as the week progressed. The stock has fluctuated between $15 and $52 this year. The company conference call is scheduled for July 19.

The past few months have been relatively quiet for MapInfo. There were a few small product releases, MapInfo 6.5, DeciBel Planner 2.5, and StreetPro Canada. The big news was MapInfo’s teaming with Motorola for location-based services (LBS) and the huge savings the British Telecom realized using MapInfo solutions. Still, no huge contracts materialized as the wireless industry had its own shakeout and more competitors enter LBS. The company is expecting to build a new facility next to its existing one in Troy, at the cost of $17.5 million.

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Yahoo! will use Akamai’s EdgeScape technology to provide localized ads. The two companies have worked together before. Akamai (that means “smart”) claims its locations are about 98% accurate. “Misses” are attributed to proprietary servers (like AOL’s) which provide “erroneous” locations since all users appear to be from Virginia.

This falls under the heading of “geotargeting,” which the GIS Monitor has covered for some time. This is the technology to determine the geographic location of a website visitor. The compelling uses are providing localized ads (if I’m in Boston, show me ads for Boston restaurants) and preventing material from crossing borders (such as broadcast programming prohibited from certain geographies).

Yahoo hopes to attract advertisers looking to serve specific geographies, and better serve their many national/international ones. National chains can highlight different “specials” that occur in local areas. In Boston McDonald’s may offer their lobster sandwich (they do, really), but McRib may appear in Atlanta. With the new technology in place, visitors from those cities would see a different McDonald’s ad.


James Turner rented a car from Acme rental in New Haven, CT. After returning it he found his account had been charged an extra $450 for speeding three times in the rented vehicle. He is suing Acme and has filed a claim with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection.

Acme’s lawyer says the company made it clear in the contract that GPS was installed in the car and that those who did speed would be charged. He also noted that the policy is in bold at the top of the agreement. Acme uses tracking services from AirIQ to document and then charge for customer’s “need for speed” and to track stolen vehicles.

Acme, according to one report, fines motorists who drive faster than 79 mph for two minutes or longer. Turner’s lawyer said her client drove 78 mph on two occasions and 83 mph once. Still, privacy advocates are all over this case. Concerned drivers point out that if law enforcement catches a speeder, and presents a ticket AND the rental car company fines the driver, the driver may have to pay twice. The outcome of this case will have a bearing on all sorts of location-based information services on the brink of release.

The rental car company wants to keep its car in decent shape, be sure they travel where they are authorized and generally discourage dangerous driving. For example, in California, most cars are NOT to be driven into Mexico without extra charges.

Mr. Turner has a point, too. What information exactly does the company have? Do they know exactly where he went? Or only when and where he drove over 79 mph?

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection ruled on Monday that the company does have a right to track drivers by GPS. However, it cannot charge a penalty when no damage is done. The commission is encouraging ACME to sign a cease and desist order on the charges, and to repay two dozen drivers similarly fined.

I’m no legal expert but my guess is that this case will encourage formal disclosure statements about what information will gathered via an on-board GPS, how it will be used, how long it will be stored, and if it will be shared with any other parties. This will not be so different from the statements we all receive from our banks and other companies regarding how personal information will and will not be used.

The case is scheduled for a court hearing Aug. 31.


-PC Expo, renamed TechXNY, was held last week. There was so little buzz I almost didn’t notice! That said, one technology might escape and stay with us: the Secure Digital memory card, aka, the SD card. The postage stamp size disks were once only used in digital cameras, but now are finding a home holding data in PDAs. Holding from 16 to 128 Mb, they are perfect for music and maps. Rand McNally will release a 16 Mb card with maps of the lower 48 US states this fall for about $40. The big question: Will we carry all this data, or use a quick wireless connection to a server that holds it for us?

-The Open GIS Consortium released version 1.1 of its Web Map Server Specification. As one reader put it, it’s a “well guarded secret.” Consider it exposed!

-Autodesk has a whole fleet of new online and live seminars running in July. Topics of interest to GIS people include communications, utilities, land solutions and local government.

-Manifold’s e-mail list is up and running at Directions Magazine.

-It’s time to pay up for web content and e-mail service:, a news site, will now charge $3.95/month. Free e-mail provider Netaddress, is no longer free. On the get it for nothing front: Barnes and Noble has followed Amazon with free shipping on two or more items.

-Jim Ellis, one of the team that created what is now “USENET” died last week at 45. Ellis and another Duke graduate student, Tom Truscott, thought of hooking together computers to share information back in 1979. The network consisted of two sites at Duke and one at the University of North Carolina. There are now tens of thousands of newsgroups, hosted by uncounted servers. GIS, like many other computer technologies, depended on USENET to build its strong community. Comp.infosystems.gis may be slowing down, but it’s still a key resource.

-Metricom, the company behind the high-speed wireless Ricochet technology, widely used by handhelds, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. In June, the company laid off approximately 23 percent of the company's staff or 139 employees. Metricom hoped to stay afloat until August. I heard about Richochet for the first time at Geo Spatial World.

-I noted a few weeks back the demise of Business 2.0, one of my favorite “new economy” magazines. It will merge with eCompanyNow, a parallel offering. eCompany’s parent, AOL/Time Warner, now owns B2.


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