New Social Mapping Tool from Platial

Message from the Editor: New Social Mapping Tool from Platial

Welcome to GISWeekly! Originally, Platial.com, a “user-based atlas,” offered a free resource for users to build maps with others in their communities. The site has already attracted 75,000 users, who have asked for a way to do this on their own websites and blogs. The newly released MapKit lets them build maps and “mashups” the same way they did on Platial.com but in a more personalized way on their websites.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor


Industry News

New Social Mapping Tool from Platial
by Susan Smith

Services that are fun and free generally get the attention of the consumer market. Last week Platial.com announced MapKit, which is a free social mapping tool that allows users to put geotags on their websites and blogs. As geocaching became an enjoyable pastime for those with a GPS, geotagging is becoming a popular activity for those with a browser and websites and blogs of their own.

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Originally, Platial.com, a “user-based atlas,” offered a free resource for users to build maps with others in their communities. They can also tag their experiences, opinions and other pertinent information to specific places that can be explored by other visitors. The site has already attracted 75,000 users, who have asked for a way to do this on their own websites and blogs. MapKit lets them build maps and “mashups” the same way they did on Platial.com but in a more personalized way on their websites.

Sort of like a Web 2.0 applet, MapKit is useful to both users who are coders and those who know nothing about coding.

Interestingly, the founders of Platial.com come from varied backgrounds. According to founder Di-Ann Eisnor, there are only seven employees, four of whom are engineers, two with geography backgrounds but “not geospatial specific.” One of their early investors was Jack Dangermond, who continues to be involved in discussions with Platial. Eisnor is from a more consumer based orientation, with social networking, marketing and grass roots outreach in her background.

The other co-founders have also been involved in using psycho-geography, building urban adventure games and urban exploration applications.

Platial uses parts of ESRI technology such as their geocoder, which is integrated into the Platial service. There may be a way that ESRI will be able to use Platial in their offerings as well.

The 75,000 non-GIS people who use Platial.com are the ready market for MapKit. “People who have their own websites and bloggers are our audience,” said Eisnor. “I don’t know if there’s a mainstream audience for everybody coming to be a mapper on our site, but if I’m a parenting site, I can share kid friendly places within the context of my own community. The same goes for birders, bikers and hikers, etc. The primary customer, if you can say that, considering it’s a free product, is the website owner and blogger.”

How does Platial.com expect to make money? “We’re just ramping up our local advertising program,” said Eisnor. “Each place within our system has a community bulletin board and local advertisers can come and host based on targeting through geography, keywords, and post their interactive business cards. These little community bulletin boards are attached to places, not just at Platial, but also ones that are on other sites. It’s an ad model.”

Another area that Platial is exploring is the use of their API. “We have an API now which is free for non commercial purposes,” said Eisnor. “We have recently gotten some interest from more commercial entities who would like to use it for their online purposes and we’re definitely figuring out if there’s something there for us.”

Like with other online services, Platial members are very active in letting Platial know what features they want. “We’re working on both presenting new richer features on the site and more ways to simplify MapKit for the end user,” explained Eisnor. “Our biggest challenge is making everything easy and compelling enough so that everybody wants to have it as part of their community.”

One of the areas they’ve been working on is “Resource Description Framework” or rather, the specific vocabulary that people want for their community, i.e., birders will talk about geographic locations using certain phrases that their community understands. Other changes made within the database include working with events in time, alternative base mapping to make the service more platform compatible, and performance and compatibility issues.

Eisnor said the company is working on making sure Platial.com and MapKit can be used widely with many different blogging platforms and other social networking site platforms.

Top News of the Week

CH2M HILL’sEnterprise Spatial Solutions (ESS) business announced it has partnered with Google to present a Webinar showing how the visualization power of Google Earth can aid in effective project management. CH2M HILL ESS is a global practice within CH2M HILL’s Communications and Information Solutions Business Group. CH2M HILL will introduce their GeoSite solution, a cost-effective, secure, easy-to-use project management Web portal, Thursday, November 16 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time

Registration & Information: Brad Jones, CH2M HILL, Email Contact

Intergraph Corporation, a global provider of spatial information management (SIM) software, announced that Intergraph and the other named defendants have entered into a memorandum of understanding with plaintiffs' counsel in connection with two purported class action lawsuits, previously consolidated, that have been filed in connection with the proposed acquisition of Intergraph by an entity primarily owned by entities affiliated with Hellman & Friedman LLC and Texas Pacific Group.

Alliances/Acquisitions/Agreements

Opvantek announces that it has joined ESRI's Business Partner Program. Opvantek is currently using ESRI’s ArcEngine Development Kit to integrate the Optimain DS distribution integrity management product directly with an ArcGIS database for customers in the gas, electric & water distribution industries.

GeoAge, Inc. announced it has earned certified status in Microsoft Corp.’s Partner Program, with a specific proficiency in Mobility Solutions. As a Certified Partner, GeoAge has demonstrated expertise with Microsoft technologies and proven ability to meet customer needs. Microsoft Certified Partners receive a rich set of benefits that give them a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Announcements

In celebration of Geography Awareness Week, Google Inc. released new Featured Content for Google Earth that connects users to information about the history of the world through one of the largest private map collections in the US. Map overlays from the David Rumsey collection, which integrate historic cartographic masterpieces dating as far back as the 17th century, have been brought to life for the first time using advanced digitization techniques and innovative software tools in Google Earth. Also available with this release in partnership with National Geographic is an interactive geography quiz that enables users to test their knowledge of this year's Geography Awareness Week focus region of Africa.

Intergraph Corporation announced its participation in the 2006 GEOINT Symposium, the premier annual event for the geospatial intelligence community. Produced and sponsored by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), GEOINT 2006 will be held at Nov. 13-16 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

Intergraph is participating in a panel and on-stage demonstration highlighting the importance of geospatial intelligence and the vital role Intergraph technology serves in today's security and military and intelligence industries. GeoSpatial Training Services in conjunction with Landworks, Inc. is pleased to announce the availability of two new instructor led courses covering the Google Maps API and Google Earth. Both courses will be offered in the Houston and Denver offices in early 2007.

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