Apple clearly wanted to make a mark in the Maps service industry when they released the new iOS6 this week, only it turns out their mark is a little fizzy and may have been misplaced somewhere in the middle of the Bering Strait.
And according to Dr. Mike Dobson, an expert in cartography, it’s no surprise that this happened.
Dr. Dobson is the owner of local search, mapping consulting company TeleMapics, and yesterday he posted a critique of Apple’s mistakes. Dr. Dobson had been watching the news coverage on this issue and he’s identified a number of blunders ranging from poor quality data sources, a lack of sufficient staffing, and a general lack of competence in this niche.
Perhaps the most egregious error is that Apple’s team relied on quality control by algorithm and not a process partially vetted by informed human analysis. You cannot read about the errors in Apple Maps without realizing that these maps were being visually examined and used for the first time by Apple’s customers and not by Apple’s QC teams. If Apple thought that the results were going to be any different than they are, I would be surprised. Of course, hubris is a powerful emotion.
Dr. Dobson goes on to add that Google started in much the same position and their efforts failed miserably. Google eventually realized that this process could not be automated nearly as much as they first thought; it needs a human eye to verify the accuracy of the maps.
He also offers a number of recommendations for how Apple might fix this problem:
I suspect that the data and routing functionality that they have from TomTom, while not the best, is simply not the source of their problems. Their problem is that they thought they did not have a problem. From my perspective, this is the mark of an organization that does not have the experience or know-how to manage a large-scale mapping project. Apple needs to hire some experts in mapping and people who are experienced in mapping and understand the problems that can and do occur when compiling complex spatial databases designed for mapping, navigation and local search.
Needless to say that is not going to be an easy fix.