a lack of location awareness

Went along to #MoMoMelb yesterday, the local chapter of a pretty active mobile industry group. Their focus is usually a bit on the carrier/commercial side of the industry, so I rarely find anything that really interests me, but this one was about Location Based Services, so naturally, I couldn’t resist.

I remember the first time I held an iPod Touch, loaded up Google Maps and hit the ‘Locate Me’ button. That little shiver of wonder as a device without GPS or Cellular data pinpointed my house to within 20 metres – that was my first brush with Skyhook Wireless. Amazing stuff, and really great to hear from a ‘behind the scenes’ company with a solid business model.

Then there was a bit of a panel discussion, which included one point that just amazed me. Mark White, CEO of Locatrix, a company that does some pretty solid stuff in the mobile location based area, responded to a question that included the words ‘Open Source’ with something like this: “There’s an open source mapping tool somewhere (audience: Open Street Map), yeah, but when I last looked, they only had a couple of roads for the whole of Australia” and he continued to make his point, basically dissing any open source contribution to the mapping/location space. Now, that may not be a perfect quote, but it’s pretty close, so what does it tell us?

Well, I can forgive someone for not being aware of OSM. I can even forgive someone involved in the web for not being aware of it. Someone involved in providing Location Based Services – I’m getting uneasy. A CEO of such a company – a ‘leader in the industry‘, that’s decidedly wonky. Someone who then goes on to dismiss it in a public forum of industry folk – OK, that’s a complete loss of credibility.

I couldn’t help myself of course, I interjected. He then admitted that he hadn’t looked at OSM for some time – no shit! But surely he keeps his ear to the ground, surely he would know that Yahoo/Flickr integrate OSM, and CloudMade offer excellent location based APIs with customisable maps, you’d think he’d know about MapQuest’s recent announcements… surely! and of course, it’s all free, so I can download it to my GPS and use it to find my way if I want.

Maybe there’s just too much information to absorb – maybe he could start by looking up his office location in MapCompare (2), I’m sure that’ll pique his curiosity 😉

I am too cruel – he did say some good stuff and he’s obviously running a great business. It just really gets my goat when people think opensource = crap.