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THE ETAK FAIL! – DON’T LET HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF!

Several years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Stan Honey, a co-founder of Etak, speak at a very high level GIS technology conference. Stan is a famous sailor, navigator, and Stan and Etak were early pioneers in building a digital map database of the streets and highways in the U.S. Etak’s efforts and hard numbers on the herculean efforts to digitize U.S. roads is a study in the difficulties of capturing and maintaining information.

Here are the profound points he made in that talk that were indelibly imbedded in my memory.

  1. We partnered with Sony to digitize the roads and streets in the U.S.

  2. Our budget was 5 years and $300 million

  3. It took us 7 years and $350 million. Not too far off and certainly acceptable.

  4. We had NO IDEA it was going to cost us $100 million EVERY YEAR to keep the information current and usable!

Despite the heading of this post, Etak was not really a failure. However, the failure to recognize the costs of capturing AND MAINTAINING vast quantities of changing information was clearly an important lesson. It is also important to note that their efforts were focused almost exclusively on highways, streets, roads, etc. Not exactly rapidly changing information!

Let’s now apply the lessons of Etak digitizing highways and streets to the immediate needs of trying to capture, digitize, curate and maintain rapidly changing data points and information about millions of businesses, projects, buildings, and all of the billions of features, amenities, and sub-street address level information associated with those buildings and locations.

Yes, Google maps and others have captured satellite or street images for many locations, but even then the images don’t keep up with new development, and they certainly don’t provide sub-street address level details. Further, they are only images and while they provide some nice eye candy and a fair amount of information, they certainly lack the detail necessary to power AI enabled robots and devices. Right now we have dozens of major companies spending millions every year to capture, curate, manage and use their own information in their own silos for their own use. Even ignoring the incredible inefficiency of the repetitious efforts and the error of not truly engaging those closest to the information, these companies can’t possibly keep the information current enough to meet the increasing demand of service providers and consumers.

At SmartPoint, we recognized years ago that the old (and still current) model of numerous companies spending millions on duplicative efforts to capture building information would eventually fail, not only on the incredible waste of resources and inefficiencies, but because the cost of obtaining 99% complete, accurate, and timely and near perfect sub-street address level real-time, micro-location (RTML) information would far exceed its aggregate value. Thus, the model would break, fail, and become unsustainable. To solve the problem we developed and patented several systems and methods designed to create a new and workable paradigm for a new RTML registry, clearinghouse, and AI-enabled and enhanced foundational information and communications platform.

Our proposed Interoperable SmartAddress® Alliance is designed to help all businesses, real-estate owners, operators, and occupants to capture, own, control, normalize, aggregate, and selectively publish RTML information to everyone — from the behemoth Google, Microsoft, and Apple giants of the world — to every start-up app developer, service provider, or device manufacturer — to every consumer and end user. We propose a new core utility that will support the next and future generations of mapping, wayfinding, AI, AR, AV, robotics, drone, ride, transit, delivery, wayfinding, IoT, emergency services, data/BI, and all other applications with a level of interoperable (and accuracy) not otherwise achievable.

SmartPoint’s mission is to help all RTML services avoid the mistakes of the past, recognize the necessity of a new foundational open and interoperable RTML architecture and platform, and enable viable and efficient next and future generations of RTML services of all types — even COVID19 and other pandemic information, contact tracing, etc. — all with an emphasis on driving efficiency, interoperability, and saving everyone time, money, fuel/emission, while at the same time providing unparalleled user-control and privacy protections for all communities.


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