Urban Mapping Neighborhood Database Surpasses 50,000 US Neighborhoods

Another day, another milestone…

Our neighborhood database now includes over 2,400 cities across 50 states (and a few territories). We continue to increase breadth and depth, supporting enterprise customers and startups leveraging our Neighborhood API. International coverage continues to grow, and more news shortly!

The official word

Google Goes Wiki-style on Map Data, but, um, Why?

Google recently announced its Map Maker tool, (in the words of OSM) “a kind of faux Open Street Map.” On the surface, the idea is clear–have users make contributions, as they know local geography better than anybody else. An excerpt from the OSM blog post today:

Like Knol, the mooted ‘wikipedia killer’, Google refuse to acknowledge existing communities, trample on their hard work and lack the mindset to engage with an open project.

But, this really doesn’t matter.

What’s fascinating is that they haven’t set themselves up against OpenStreetMap so much but rather TeleAtlas/TomTom, NAVTEQ/Nokia and AND. This is really a swipe at things like TomTom’s MapShare(TM) and ANDs Map 2.0. The question is now going to be, when do they switch on editing of existing data markets, if at all? Only those with intimate knowledge of the contracts will know.

The fundamental reasons for OpenStreetMap remain intact and if anything are now stronger. At first glance it sounds like OpenStreetMap, until you realise that Google own that data you give them, there’s no community and you are unlikely to see use of the data in ‘creative, productive, or unexpected ways’.

The pattern with Google is by now well-understood. Given their massive scale, subsidizing such efforts is trivial. Gmail, Google Apps and other products follow this model. It won’t have any kind of material impact in the immediate future, and that’s why the US airline industry ignored jetBlue. Whoops.

Umibot’s not preaching conspiratorial here–what Google is doing is great for satisficing the masses–much of the nuance is lost, but in return millions of users get something they can use. Of course they don’t own that contribution and Google (and of course others exist) is able to build out more page views, resulting in more advertising, more revenue, and so on…

Urban Mapping now finds its first customer competing against our first product. It isn’t that Google can do neighborhoods ‘better’ than UMI (or anybody else), it’s the idea that Google doesn’t need anybody else to do it for them. In fact, they don’t need to do it themselves–throw it over to a fanatical user base, and watch them diligently work away, and allow the new Microsoft to reap the rewards. If Umibot were a thinking human, no doubt it would be saying “these guys are smart.”

Yahoo! Gets Neighborhood-friendly with Urban Mapping

A few months ago Yahoo! announced it had incorporated neighborhood search into Local and other properties. We’re pleased to say this is brought to you by Umibot and the hard-working team at Urban Mapping, so Yahoo! can now enjoy the same neighborhood goodness as many of our other satisfied customers.

Here’s the official news.

The (not so) Hidden Costs of Password Resets

Off the beaten map-path, says Umibot, but this one resonated big time. How much wasted time/effort/money is behind password resets? Using your favorite food as a “secret word” (what if you don’t have one favorite food?), needing a reminder but being forced to reset? In a word, “arghhhhhhhh!”

This is the lecture you’ve been waiting for:

One of the most commonly neglected security vulnerabilities associated with typical online service providers lies in the password reset process. By being based on a small number of questions whose answers often can be derived using data-mining techniques, or even guessed, many sites are open to attack. To exacerbate the problem, many sites pose the very same questions to users wishing to reset their forgotten passwords, creating a common “meta password” between sites: the password reset questions. At the same time, as the number of accounts per user increases, so does the risk for the user to forget her password. Unfortunately, the cost of a customer-service mediated password reset, currently averaging $22, is far beyond possible for most service providers. In this talk, an alternative technique will be presented. It is fast and efficient, is compatible with input-constrained devices (such as handheld devices), and has low error rates. It is in the process of being commercialized, with a Fortune 500 company intending to deploy it by the end of the year.

It’s happening at PARC this Thrs. Sadly, Umibot will be reformatted during that time and won’t be in attendance.

Informal Spaces as Defacto Jurisdictions

Ok, not the best tile for this post, but it is relevant. Great article in Harvard Design Magazine by Daniela Fabricius about informally-defined spaces in Rio de Janeiro. Favelas are not quite slums in the traditional sense, but they have great significance: it is estimated that 31% of all urban dwellers reside in informally-defined regions, 98% of favellas are electrified and many have private bus lines. We’re not referring to the Dulles, Virginias of the world, but the hardcore urban areas that are ignored by the surrounding (legally-incorporated) authority.

From the article:

How do these favela islands form? Unlike the planned development of a city or suburb, in which infrastructures—roads, pipes, electrical lines —create a grid for houses and people to fill, the favela develops in reverse. The infrastructures do not officially come until much later, when the favela is urbanized and partially absorbed by the city. First the people come and build their houses; then roads evolve; electricity and water are pirated in. The infrastructure develops with the houses, one connection at a time. A community forms. Each favela, however small, gives itself a name: Kinder Ovo (named after the chocolate, Kinder Ei), Salsa y Merenge (a telenovela), Raio do Sol (ray of sun), Babilônia, Shangri-lá, Formiga (anthill), Telégrafos (where Brazil’s first telegraph network started). The favela begins to operate like a small town or city, with a local community association that takes on functions that would otherwise be those of the government: mail distribution, cable TV, land deeds, political representation, arbitration, security, public works, etc.

How these “towns” develop can be seen in a study of two neighborhoods, Providência and Rocinha, which differ in scale and history but share significant qualities such as easy visibility and proximity to the city center. The location of these favelas next to affluent and busy areas makes them particularly relevant examples of the island effect of favelas as heterogeneous zones within the urban continuum. What is also notable is the strong identity of these favelas as communities and places with histories and qualities distinct from those of the rest of the city. But they are still regarded as alien presences and suffer from the violence and stigma of exclusion and invisibility.

These areas exist in many areas of the lesser-developed world: the mega-slum in Mumbai, Mexico City, Pakistan, China and elsewhere.

Urban Mapping to Speak at SMX Local & Mobile

UMI’s own Ian White will share the podium with several yet-to-be-determined panelists at the SMX Local & Mobile conference in San Francisco July 24-25 at the Marriott Hotel. The panel, Monetizing Local & Mobile: Who’s Making Money, is bound to be provocative if past panels are any indication.

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