Blockchain-based Streetcred wants to pay you to map


Geo-tag for Bitcoin! Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Streetcred would overturn the current business model of data on the location of the cartographic industry.

At the start of this summer, with little warning, Google Maps promoted a dramatic increase in prices for developers using its services, up to 1400 percent for certain research products. Companies that once were able to incorporate Google's geographic search tools for free on their websites now had to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month to maintain the service.

Small business owners went out.

"We [would] like to turn off our website or find another solution," a hotelier using Google Maps on his booking platform told the technological publication Gadgets 360. "We have no intention of continuing With Google Maps, our revenue can not absorb costs. "

When it comes to bars, restaurants, businesses, parks, transit stations, and countless other types of address-based destinations that you can search for, Google Maps has a virtual monopoly. It stores the largest number of these "points of interest" in the world. Compared to its competitors, the company boasts the most accurate and up-to-date information. Their data goes beyond company names and addresses: anyone who used the Google Maps mobile app saw opening hours, phone numbers, links to websites, accessibility to the disabled and working hours listed here.

Developers, government agencies and businesses can subscribe to the Google Points of Interest data set via online interfaces for $ 17 to $ 40 per 1,000 page loads. But as he showed the episode this summer, it is becoming extremely expensive, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.

There are currently a few direct alternatives to Google. But a new startup wants to be a pioneer in a different way of creating and distributing location data, paying them to map them. With $ 1 million in initial funding, Streetcred is building a blockchain-based business model, in which the digital tokens called Ether – a bitcoin-bait cryptocurrency with a floating dollar value – would be paid to contributors anywhere in the world to populate maps with new points of interest.

Consider it as the passage of the cartographic industry in the economy of the gig. "We hope revenue can be similar to driving an Uber," said Randy Meech, CEO of Streetcred and former CEO of the open source cartography company Mapzen

. The service is not available yet, as the company is still perfecting its business model. "We are creating something that does not exist at the moment," said Meech. Meanwhile, the company is trying to test the hypothesis that people will map to pay. Next week, he is launching an app-based competition called MapNYC, which will ask New Yorkers to compile an empty map of New York City with all the local data they can, competing for $ 50,000 in Bitcoin prizes.

As Mapzen has pursued open source mapping platforms as an alternative to Google Maps, Microsoft's HERE maps and other private mapping giants, Streetcred's crowdsourced places data would also be available to anyone. After the data has been entered and validated by the Streetcred autonomous mappings network, anyone would be able to download and store them for free, whether they are small businesses, government agencies, local tourist guides, insurance companies or technological giants.

To pay the mappers, the startup hopes to get companies hungry for data – think Uber, Apple or Niantic, the augmented reality developer who built Pokémon Go – to "sponsor" particular regions or sectors that are not so well mapped other services. This could include developing countries or insidious nailing datasets, such as doctor's opening hours.

"There are many platforms where data collection is open, but the data itself is closed.These guys are turning that model upside down."

There are some alternatives to Google Maps. C & # 39; is Open Street Map, the free and open competitor of Google Maps. C is the Foursquare listing app, which sells subscriptions to a large database of POIs at a high monthly rate. Data and mapping companies HERE and Factual, which also feeds parts of Apple Maps and Uber-Do.

Streetcred, said Meech, would stand out from the others in a few ways. Firstly, it focuses only on the data of the points of interest, not on the routing or on the maps themselves. Secondly, while the other POI data sets become obsolete quickly, it is hoped that its network of collaborators, trained on specific locations or categories of POIs, can keep up with real time. And thirdly, it will provide access to these data directly, free of charge, with a goal on mapping parts of the world or sectors that others do not yet have. The map coverage of India has always been unpredictable, for example: if a new company that greets riding wants to launch its services in a city, it could fund Streetcred mappers to build a database of places there.

Other companies are trying to encourage crowdsourcing-based mapping: for example, Premise is a consulting firm that pays "local experts" to confirm marketing insights from position data. But Streetcred seems to be the first company that pays the contributors to create a free and open data set.

"There are many platforms where data collection is open, but the data itself is closed," said Abhishek Nagaraj, a professor at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, who studies the economics of 39; cartographic industry. Anyone can upload geo-referenced reviews on Yelp or Foursquare, for example, but the data remains the property of those companies. "What makes these kids interesting is that they are reversing that model."

It remains to be seen, Nagaraj said, if companies will be willing to pay Streetcred contributors to collect data that will eventually be free and open to everyone – including their competitors – to use.

Another question is what kind of cartographer could attract such a model, Nagaraj said. Currently, there is no shortage of crowdsourcing efforts for cartographically inclined to lag behind. Volunteer mappers can spend their time designing road vectors on Open Street Map, marking traffic jams on Waze, tracing bus lines on Moovit, or photographing road views for Mapillary.

All these platforms have large communities of altruistically motivated contributors, who work without a real reward but the pleasures of creating knowledge. There is something lopsided in this, since the companies that own or license these maps make money with that free labor. But it is not always useful to introduce money into volunteer projects, said Nagaraj, pointing to a famous study that found that paying people to donate blood made fewer donations than encouraging people to do it for moral reasons. With the Streetcred cartographic model, "you may find more types of mercenaries who are not intrinsically motivated," he said.

On the other hand, it might not be a bad thing. Research has shown that, over time, voluntary contributions to open source data efforts such as Wikipedia fade over time; it seems that people lose interest in work because the scope of significant items is reduced. Nagaraj believes there are similar dynamics in play with Open Street Map. But starting with an empty map and paying people to fill it, as proposed by Streetcred, could supply the concerned mappers and keep them in place once the work gets boring.

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