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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
User Intent + Relevant Map Content = Intelligent MashUp
By Susan Smith
The rapidly growing geospatial industry is continually adding more market possibilities, with geospatial information turning up in the most surprising places. Microsoft Virtual Earth and Google Earth are responsible for the birth of countless web mapping applications that could not have been imagined just a few years ago.
NavDog, a pioneer in developing AJAX-powered mapping systems, is working with companies to help educate them about the power of the data they have and how they can use and distribute that data in ways that could be valuable to them.
Garnering the interest of online advertisers, NavDog has developed a consumer-facing map search technology that incorporates system intelligence into their GIS. Their Geographic Business Intelligence Engine (GBIE) is the basis for this intelligence, architected to process user actions in order to derive intent. Matching user intent with relevant map content, the results are displayed to the user in real time using NavDog's AJAX technology. The content is refined each time the user executes an action and the end result is a map that displays the object of the user's map search, supplemented with related supporting content derived from relationships between map items and their connection to the user's immediate interests.
Every time the user interacts with the site, a unique mashup of map content is created by the site. The service-oriented architecture (SOA) system selectively seeks content that the customer manages.
Originally, the GBIE was designed to address putting advertising content into the experience, while at the same time employing their technique of exploration through browsing map content. NavDog's challenge was to find a way to filter map icons that were represented to the user without knowing what the user was looking for, and to deal with relevant paid content that needed to be situated where it would be valued.
Once the intelligent mapping system was complete, it provided a map that could learn from its users, as well as an intelligence system that could power numerous applications.
Shawn Fredrickson, CEO of NavDog, explained that most of the data they gather is b-to-b. “We go out to a site or a company and they consolidate data,” he said. One of their clients is Dotmenu, Inc. a company that builds products to make it easier for people to interact with restaurants. Dotmenu posts menus of restaurants up on their site, making it possible for people to order exactly what they want to eat at any time of day or night because they have access to such a wide selection. Fredrickson said they approached Dotmenu and pointed out that they maintain data for 250,000 restaurants, and suggested they allow NavDog to extend this data into a mapping environment, then NavDog would give it back to them in this enriched format. “They thought it was a great idea, so we went out to data aggregators.”
Currently NavDog has a destination website, which they consider their “proof of concept” for building their “business intelligence/geointelligence system” which consequently manages their browsing experience. Built in is a logic process based on their business model that is two pronged:
1) A private label system that is a lightweight version of the website. “Most of the interface stuff is removed but the experience of browsing content and the intelligence of how the content is delivered remains in a private label that we will go out and market to websites that have good core content,” said Fredrickson. “If you went to Expedia and said, ‘why don’t you overlay our experience into your mapping system, and what we’ll do is convert all your hotels into items that we can actually remap and track and work with the inherent intelligence. We will boomerang those back to you.'”
2) As part of this arrangement, NavDog would be able to distribute that mapped data to other sites whose core content is supported by those hotels, such as tours and destinations that could earn revenue by getting exposure for the hotels.
The customer would have control over their content. NavDog is currently looking into creating a content aggregator for map content to build almost a paid “ad network” based on map content that supports other websites’ content. This would enable customers to distribute their content to other sites that benefit them.
Fredrickson said they are targeting markets that have large ad networks, and ones with services that support each other. The travel industry, the ticketing and event industry are “no brainers,” in his opinion. “For Ticketmaster I can pump in supporting content, what will a consumer do before and after a concert, for example,” he said. He added that real estate has a lot of potential, as people who are researching neighborhoods where they possibly might want to live will be interested to know about restaurants and malls, etc. NavDog will be able to add some paid content that shows where malls and restaurants are located.
“As you begin to visualize this it’s almost like the ‘six degrees of separation.’ There’s the supporting element from every core content site that can support some other equally large core content site that does something different,” Fredrickson pointed out. “You don’t really ever have to compete, so a company can always go in and support another company’s content. The trade there is you get the exposure but it’s an ad campaign. You’re actually paying that publisher to be on their site through an ad network. As we began down this road, we could see this going on forever and ever.”
NavDog’s pitch is as follows: you already have the sales force and the customers and we have publishers. “All we have to do is slide in there with a new product that opens up a new way for sites to generate revenue,” said Fredrickson. “At the same time the user wins because the experience on each site becomes so much more enhanced, and access to information becomes much greater on each site.”
Ticketmaster has various pieces of information that intersect, according to Fredrickson. Consider that an event will attract a certain demographic. It’s possible to know when an event will take place, and when people in that demographic area will be in the geographic location of the event. “You have 100,000 people going to see a large concert, and we know what type of person goes to this concert and when they’re going to be in the area, and that amounts to an incredible amount of targeted advertising by the company,” explained Fredrickson. Businesses that are in geographic proximity to this event or along the route from ticketholder to destination would be targets. A company like Ticketmaster has the data and NavDog has the geospatial data that they want to narrow down to businesses located 200 feet from the venue. Businesses in this vicinity can take advantage of the geospatial data to pick relevant data points to set up an ad campaign.
As an SOA, NavDog runs on Microsoft Virtual Earth. With AJAX they can accomplish a great deal of processing. NavDog can interpret what the user did during his/her session and bring relevant content back to the user each time he/she moves the map.
Within the NavDog service, there is a feedback loop and scoring system to calculate the value of each exposure to content in the intelligent map. The scoring system can be used to record in the database every single map move performed while on the map. “In doing that, we can turn all that database information into a granular reporting system with several levels of interaction,” said Fredrickson. “People say they can generate revenue off something they already have.”
NavDog is looking at a license fee structure based on the number of visitors per month. They may also include technological breakthroughs that would appear as enhancements to the customers’ mapping feature.
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