The “dying craft” of data on discs

Urban Mapping's Ian White on the shift toward data as a service.

To prepare for next week’s Strata Conference, we’re continuing our series of conversations with innovators working with big data and analytics. Today, we hear from Ian White, the CEO of Urban Mapping.

Mapfluence, one of Urban Mapping’s products, is a spacial database platform that aggregates data from multiple sources to deliver geographic insights to clients. GIS services online are not a completely new idea, but White said the leading players haven’t “risen to the occasion.” That’s left open some new opportunities, particularly at the lower end of the market. Whereas traditional GIS services still often deliver data by mailing out a CD-ROM or through proprietary client-server systems, Urban Mapping is one of several companies that have updated the model to work through the browser. Their key selling point, White said, is a wider range of licensing levels that allow it to support smaller clients as well as the larger ones.

Geographic data is increasingly free, but the value proposition for companies like Urban Mapping lies in the intelligence behind the data, and the organization that makes it accessible. “We’re in a phase now where we’re aggregating a lot of high-value data,” White said. “The next phase is to offer tools to editorially say what you want.”

Urban Mapping aims to provide the domain expertise on the demographic datasets it works with, freeing clients up to focus on the intelligence revealed by the data. “A developer might spend a lot of time looking through a data catalog to find a column name. If, for example, the developer is making an application for commercial real estate and they want demographic information, they might wonder which one of 1,500 different indicators they want.” Delivering the right one is obviously of a higher value than delivering a list of all 1,500. “That saves an enormous amount of time.”

To achieve those time savings, Urban Mapping considers the end users and their needs when they source data. As they design the architecture around it, they think about three layers: the design layer, the application layer, and the user interface layer atop that. “We look to understand the user’s ultimate purpose and then work back from there,” White said, as they organize tables, add metadata, and make sure data is accessible to technical and non-technical users efficiently.

“The notion of receiving a CD in the mail, opening it, reading the manual, it’s kind of a dying craft,” White said. “It’s unfortunate that a lot of companies have built processes around having people on staff to do this kind of work. We can effectively allow those people to work in a higher-value area of the business.”

You’ll find the full interview in the following video:

Strata: Making Data Work, being held Feb. 1-3, 2011 in Santa Clara, Calif., will focus on the business and practice of data. The conference will provide three days of training, breakout sessions, and plenary discussions — along with an Executive Summit, a Sponsor Pavilion, and other events showcasing the new data ecosystem.

Save 30% off registration with the code STR11RAD

Related:

tags: , , ,

Get the O’Reilly Data Newsletter

Stay informed. Receive weekly insight from industry insiders.

Comments are closed.