GIS MONITOR, Dec 14, 2000


-MapInfo Acquires Equifax's Compusearch
-Will LBS Change Behavior?
-A Visit to MapReport
-adAlive Introduces Internet Access-Points for PDAs
-Points of Interest


MapInfo this week bought Compusearch, a data and demographics company. In May, Compusearch was sold to Equifax by R.L. Polk. Equifax took over the Consumer Information Services group of R.L. Polk & Co. and created the Equifax Consumer Information Services to focus on the direct marketing arm of Equifax Inc.

Though MapInfo cited Compusearch’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) apps as a reason for the purchase, the real reason may have been data. Not data in the “traditional” business geographics market analysis, but rather the data resulting from MapInfo’s foray into location based services (LBS). MapInfo wants to provide more services--and data--to vendors in support of LBS and m-commerce.

Compusearch had previously partnered with ESRI and Autodesk, data vendor Etak, and datadase vendor Sybase.


Several recent articles found online question the economic potential of location based services. “Where are they?” says one. “How will privacy be maintained?” demands another. While hardware, software and data vendors scramble to solve technical issues, and figure out which services businesses and consumers want, potential end-users continue to live in a non-LBS world. Will the availability of LBS change behavior when it becomes available?

The question boils down to if, when, and to what extent end-users will favor buying or using products and services found via LBS over traditional ways? And how often, in reality, will they be used? Although populations worldwide are becoming more mobile all the time, most of us tend to spend the vast majority of our time in a few well known neighborhoods where we frequent a regular set of destinations: the house, the office, the Chinese restaurant, the dry cleaner, grocery store, hardware store, etc. After all, we are mostly creatures of habit.

Let’s suppose you are traveling, those in need of a place to eat may first ask a local. This could be colleague or the hotel concierge. That personal recommendation -- and the vested interest of the respondent in the requester’s happiness -- holds far more weight than a review from Zagats.

With access to LBS, your cell phone could present a restaurant recommendation but will diners consult it? The same might be asked of shopping on the Internet. Just because we can buy medications over the Web, most of us still do not.


MapReport has a simple premise: the site organizes news features based on geography. A world map provides the backdrop for icons identifying the locations of events in politics, sports, crime, business, and more. Clicking on the link takes you to the story text. MapReport also provides a map of similar categories for Silicon Valley. News stories come from CNN, Yahoo and variety of newspapers. And if you think chronologically rather than spatially, you can also access a timeline of the stories.

Is MapReport useful? It is certainly fun. It reminds me of a manual “version” used in geography courses where news stories were are glued to a world map.

But MapReport’s yellow outline maps are difficult to see and are quite cluttered with icons. There is no clear discussion of how the news is geocoded. A story on the Space Shuttle has a location in print of Cape Canaveral, Florida but the story icon was in Kansas. A story on Greenspan says he spoke in New York City, but its icon appears in Minnesota. Some work is needed.

The company behind MapReport is CNT Group, which oddly enough seems to be in the business of selling contact lenses. They also host pages for a real estate app for Blackhawk, near San Francisco and a Russian map of San Francisco that use the same bright yellow map and similar icons.


Would this business model make you money? You provide an infrared link to the Internet for PDA users on otherwise traditional billboards in airports. These billboards not only help the traveler “sync” to get the news, send and receive e-mail and receive recommendations about local places and events – all for free – but at the same time they promote products or services. Of course, the traveler can also get the details on the product/service advertised on the billboard. A hotel billboard might include its rates, specials, a map, etc. You figure that during the time all that data is exchanged you pretty much have a lock on a pair of eyeballs belonging to the highly desirable PDA-toting demographic. That kind of billboard should attract a hefty premium for advertisers, no?

This is how AdAlive envisions money being made with their access-points. Billboard companies offer the access-points as a value add for advertisers. Content companies such as contribute content to highlight their sites and draw more eyeballs for their advertisers. “Revenues will be shared with billboard companies, who will face no downside risk in deploying this capability. Multiple revenue streams from advertising and e-commerce make AdAlive a very attractive growth opportunity.” says the company’s Boston based VC funder.

End users will need to install special software for all this to work.

Would your personal information be uploaded from your PDA? "As to what information people can upload and download, we are not disclosing at this time, but it will be information that people care about," said Dipinder Singh, co-founder and executive vice president of marketing and business development for AdAlive.

With the demise of free Internet access recently, I am skeptical that a service like this could make it. Further, airports and airlines are looking for more ways to appease delayed travelers, including secure connections, which may keep people away from billboards.


Gary Waters will leave ESRI after a ten-year stint as a top salesman and most recently regional office manager for the Charlotte region. He joins Novalis, an ESRI partner focusing on land records, as president.

@Track Communications has been warned of a potential delisting, December 15, from the NASDAQ Small Cap. The company, which focuses on wireless fleet management, has requested a hearing to review the situation. @Track, formerly HighwayMaster Communications Inc, hit a recent high of 12.50 in Feb 2000. The 52 week low was November 30, 2000 at .58.

Location-based wireless marketing and content play Sonata let go one third of its staff in November.   Need to go down under? A Perth, Australia-based firm is mapping all of the 13,000 public restrooms on the Australian continent and placing the data on the Web. Is this the killer app for location based services?

Autodesk Ventures invested in Facility Information Systems, FIS. How a company founded in 1993 qualifies as a startup, I’m not sure. FIS is involved in the very tough Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) arena, where to date, only a few very expensive solutions, Archibus, for example, survive.


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