How Big Data Crowdsource Strategies Aim To Improve Navigation Charts

Some might be quick to poo-poo the industry of fishing and outdoor recreation – especially when it comes to technology. Too bad, because this vertical’s a ripe testbed for technological innovation and application. I’ll repeat an axiom I put forth a few days ago: Major technological advances are driven by two factors – war and entertainment. It’s no surprise to me that cartography has undergone a recent revolution, led by the manufactures of recreational fishing and boating electronics and their customers.
The new buzzword in this vertical is crowdsource charting. It’s a big-data project where the public supplies the sonar charting data, which is then uploaded and integrated into a master map, which is then served back to the public as a sum of the different community edits and adds.
It’s been done before in other forms – Yelp, Google, iTunes and so many other apps and platforms crowdsource reviews, tips, photos and public/government data. But crowdsource cartography is different because it deals with water depths and features – stuff that’s just as rare and valuable and malleable today as it was 300 years ago when Blackbeard had to pick his way through to Ocracoke Inlet.
The power of the crowdsource strategy lies in its promise to develop pinpoint depth accuracy fed by near-real-time updates to changing water depths, sandbars and hazards. Most navigation charts were sounded decades ago. In the case of reservoirs, the navigation charts may have simply been created using topographic maps that were surveyed years prior to fill.
The first marine electronics company to embrace crowdsource technology was Navionics, which manufactures third-party upgrades and add-ons for all popular electronics platforms. The Navionics app has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times. And now, the Navionics SonarCharts project allows boaters and anglers to record soundings throughout their day, then upload them to a central server for more accurate charts.
Lowrance, a division of Navico, recently launched its Insight Genesis project, which follows a similar strategy, with the difference that Insight Genesis is only compatible with Navico products (Lowrance, Simrad, B&G). Another interesting feature of the Insight Genesis project: Users can upload and use maps for free, but they need to pay a premium to keep them private. That’s a nice bonus option for secretive anglers.
Interestingly, the other major electronics player, Humminbird, hasn’t embraced crowdsource mapping. Its AutoChart program allows users to generate private charts only. But given the fact that Humminbird is geared nearly 100% toward the angling market, the privacy play makes sense.
I think the major takeaway at this point is that crowdsource marine charting is here to stay and the involved companies will soon possess hordes of valuable big data that will grow in worth and equity over the coming decade as new platforms and businesses find new ways to leverage and monetize such data.
Interested in big data? Want to know how to implement big-data architecture and strategy in your enterprise? TxMQ can help. Contact TxMQ president Chuck Fried for a free and confidential consultation: (716) 636-0070 x222, [email protected].