How Did 2014’s Geo Predictions Actually Work Out?

In January of 2014, Atanas Entchev from GeoHipster asked me to make some predictions about where the maps, location and geo industry would go during the course of the year. That year has now passed, so I think it’s time to revisit those predictions and see how inaccurate my crystal ball gazing really was.

Raster web map tiles aren’t going to go anywhere in 2014, but expect to see much more use of vector maps, both in consumer front ends, in open data sources and in development toolkits. The winning combination of Leaflet and D3 is but the beginning.

A successful prediction for vector maps I think. Yes, vectors are behind almost all the mobile map clients you see for reasons of speed and ease of customisation. But they’re now appearing in mobile SDKs as well, such as HERE’s, while MapBox have gone for a vector only approach with MapBox Studio, the successor to TileMill for designing custom cartographic styles.

Due to ever increasing licensing costs for base map data and corresponding reduced terms of use, at least one major maps destination site will either throw in the towel or go for a white labelled map platform deal; MapQuest I’m looking at you here.

If I’m feeling generous, I consider this a partial success. While MapQuest is still very much alive and kicking, over in the mobile world Samsung is a fully paid up member of the enemy of my enemy is my friend school of thought and in September 2014 joined forces with HERE Maps to try and show that maps on an Android phone don’t have to be Google’s maps.

We’re already seeing the stratification of the geo industry. We already have data-as-a-service (think Open Cage Data and GeoFabrik) and maps-as-a-service (hello MapBox). Next up will be imagery-as-a-service as companies such as Planet Labs and Skybox Imaging disrupt Digital Globe’s imaging hegemony.

Definitely a successful prediction. Skybox were acquired by Google in the middle of 2014 for a figure around the $500M mark. Meanwhile Planet Labs continues to grow. Despite loosing 26 imaging micro satellites in October of 2014, it managed to get a further 67 into orbit during the course of the year and rounded things off with a Series C round of funding to the tune of $95M.

More people will end up doing web-based GIS without actually knowing they’re doing web-based GIS. Think less of Esri’s ArcGIS Online and MapInfo’s Web GIS and much more of CartoDB.

Again, this prediction came to pass. Not content with going all in with vector based maps, MapBox also announced Turf, their GIS for web maps system just as 2014 was coming to a close.

Web based map re-workings of Harry Beck’s iconic London Underground map will die out and Ken Field will be a happy man.

A complete and utter failure of a prediction. It turns out that making your own version of the Tube map continues to be a popular pass time. A cursory search on Twitter for tube map shows 6 different Tube map variants before I got bored with scrolling downwards through the search results. The one saving grace is that Ken’s own End of the Line Tube Map of Tube Maps shows no sign of getting stale for want of a lack of updates.

So by my reckoning, out of 5 predictions my end of year report card stands at 3.5 out of 5 .. 3 correct predictions, 1 abject failure of a prediction and 1 which is half right and so it’s also half wrong.

I wonder if that score can be beaten for 2015 … ? Which is fitting segue into my next post.

Old Globe by Kenneth Lu, CC-BY

Written by Gary

Husband, Father, geotechnologist, map geek, coffee addict, Sci-fi fan, UNIX and Mac user.

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