Assurance scheme underlines cost-saving preparatory work that supports data products
Are you happy to accept data for mapping and geographic analysis in the raw form in which it’s provided by the originator, or do you want to ensure that it’s really suited to your requirements?
This challenging question has prompted the development of Process Promise, a concept launched by MapMechanics, one of Britain’s leaders in digital mapping and geographic information systems.
Process Promise tells users who source their data from MapMechanics that it will be processed, formatted and regularised to suit their own software and applications – often saving them many hours of preparatory work (with significant cost), and helping them avoid the potential confusion that can arise when non-experts have to delve deep into the realms of GIS.
“It’s easy for people to imagine that all geographic and demographic data is the same, and all software can work with it in unmodified form,” says Theresa Barlow, MapMechanics’ general manager. “That’s simply not the case.”
Taking a classic example, she points out that the raw regional data from some of the leading providers is supplied as multiple separate files and structures. “You can’t simply append one file to another to get a UK dataset.” Under its Process Promise policy, MapMechanics restructures and joins these data sets, and provides a précis of what information is in each field, along with a more intuitive name. “So you can just get on and use it.”
There are thousands of different map data sets available to potential users at increasingly disparate pricing points. From powerful street mapping with traffic restriction information to free road maps, MapMechanics spends a significant proportion of time on educating users about the difference between each offering, and the suitability for specific projects.
“The recent introduction of some free data from Ordnance Survey has been welcomed by users, including the team at MapMechanics,” Theresa Barlow says, “but we all need to be aware that raw data may need a significant amount of preparatory work to make it suitable for business use. Process Promise helps to prevent this hidden data cost from undermining the economics of a project.”
MapMechanics performs literally hundreds of adaptations or modifications to ensure that the data it supplies meets users’ needs. For instance, business data is sometimes designed primarily for use in a spreadsheet or database, and may not have geographic information attached. MapMechanics applies its years of experience with geocoding to add the necessary geography to the postcode. Result: users can just open the data with their computer application and see the locations mapped immediately.
Postcode geocoding files can vary enormously, the company points out. Users’ own postcodes may be incomplete or out of date, but many off-the-shelf data sets list only current postcodes, so not all customer records can be mapped using the standard data files. To deal with such situations, MapMechanics includes historical and partial postcode in geocoding lookup files as part of its Process Promise scheme.
Another pitfall for users who need to get results quickly can arise in map data where two roads cross one another, and appear to offer routing paths between them. It may be that the apparent intersection actually represents a motorway crossing above a minor road, with no actual junction at that location. This can confound routing software. MapMechanics uses “z-level” intersection detail to resolve bridge nodes and format the data so that routing software only uses a turning opportunity where there is genuinely one in the real world.
Whilst much of this preparatory work is undertaken by MapMechanics as a matter of course, Process Promise, is designed to help users distinguish between data offerings and easily identify which products are “raw data” and which are “ready-to-use”. Theresa Barlow sums up: “Process Promise is a quality assurance scheme that is a statement of our commitment to make geographic and demographic data as affordable, practical and easy as possible to use.”
MapMechanics has been providing innovative solutions in logistics planning, sales and marketing, digital mapping and geographic analysis for over twenty years.
MapMechanics uses digital map-based technologies to offer an extensive range of Web, desktop, paper and component solutions for a variety of business applications, from atlas production to business analysis, site selection, customer profiling and vehicle routing and scheduling.
MapMechanics distributes a wide range of data products including AA, NAVTEQ and Ordnance Survey digital mapping, as well as leading business and demographic datasets from many sources throughout the world. This data is listed in the Data Catalogue, which is probably the most extensive and up-to-date printed listing of its kind in Britain. It is published at least once a year, and is also available on the Internet.
MapMechanics is a major supplier of software solutions. It is the UK distributor of the GeoConcept geographic information system, which is used extensively in a diverse range of fields such as retail planning, marketing, healthcare, environmental planning and management, transport and logistics, site selection, network planning and territory allocation, telematics and command and control applications, policing and broadcasting, and central and local government.
MapMechanics also supplies and supports MicroAnalytics’ TruckStops UK and OptiSite UK. TruckStops is one of the world’s best-established scheduling solutions, and OptiSite is a widely-deployed network modelling tool. Backing up its extensive product range, MapMechanics offers a comprehensive service of implementation support and training.
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