Time to reset the value of Geodata.

I’m a happy user of a new app for the iPhone called RouteBuddy Atlas, a maps application for the iPhone which provides legal access to OS mapping (and note is obviously not to be confused with the native iPhone maps application, whose functionality it in no way replicates 🙂 )

I have long been a fan of the people behind Routebuddy which was about the only way to view Maps on a Ma while connected to a GPS, via a really nice “mac like” application. These guys are real Macheads !

It’s hard therefore to look at the iPhone application and not feel sorry for the Routebuddy development team  , because they really have had to work hard to deliver an useful application despite some big limitations imposed by others.

DRM ScreenSo here is the problem, once a user has downloaded the application how do you let then load mapping content for offline use?

Unlike applications built using OpenStreetMap  (which is supported btw as streamed mapping) the application cannot simply stream data and cache, as each map sheet must be transferred individually because that the way it is licensed.

So Routebuddy have come up with a crazy solution of building a webdav server into the app, which you can connect to from you main computer and transfer the file across via wifi. I’m not sure how many of the usual Millets crowd will cope with “establish a webdav connection to http://192.168.144.174:8080”

So I purchased by local 1:25,00 Explorer Map London South which looks fantastic on the iPhone screen, really good, no I mean it – looks amazing, But I had to pay £19.99 for a license to use it.  Compare that with the £7.99 I would pay for the paper version which I would own outright !

Fantastic MapAnd I would not have to go through the nightmare of the DRM screen where I need to enter my name and my allocated license key, imagine entering that without copy and paste !

Of course the big problem is the cost..

Quite how anyone can justify charging more for the digital version of a printed product is beyond me. And for any lottery winners out there, I’ve done the maths for you national coverage would cost just over £8000 !

Now I’m not sure how much the Routebuddy guys have to pay in terms of royalty to the OS and of course there is their profit margin but this is just way too expensive, and I don’t remember a time where download albums on iTunes where nearly three times as expensive as the equivalent CD’s

Also why should I have to download the whole map, I’d be happy to pay 99p for a few square km’s on Wimbledon common, or along the Thames walk.. much of this map I many never use..

The parallels between digital mapping online and the music industry have long been drawn by myself (5 years ago !!) amongst others , no more clear example has yet emerged of mapping providers following the same suicidal route taken by the music industry.

Written and submitted from Mother Mash, City of London using The Cloud wifi network

16 comments

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  3. addypope

    I read and reported this but failed to comprehend the sheer cost! I couldnt believe it would cost 3-4 times as much to have it in digital format!

    You are spot on with your comment that users should be able to select any size/shape of area that they want and then pay per sq metre. If there is flexibility in the system people will use it.

  4. Ed

    @Edgemaster and Rollo, yes the openspace based app are great, so why can than be free to use while Atlas maps are so expensive ? I guess similar to the streaming / download value proposition for music ?

  5. Neil

    Hi Ed – thanks for your thoughts on Atlas, and we’re glad you liked the app.

    Unfortunately as you know Ordnance Survey data has to be licensed, and while the OS can produce paper maps from their own data we (like any licensee) have to pass that cost on.

    Our current set of maps are the high-resolution 1:25K data, so while they cost more than the paper maps our prices are pretty similar to data from Quo, Memory-Map, or Satmap. We plan to offer cheaper 1:50K-based maps as well, but decided to start with the highest resolution and work down rather than the other way round.

    We feel there is value in digital maps over paper ones, as they don’t get wet or tear (weather-proof maps being more expensive than standard paper) nor do they take up any space. If you’re into hiking or orienteering then storing maps on your iPhone makes a lot of sense, since you can avoid spending ¬£200+ on a dedicated GPS device.

    Although a built-in WebDAV server might seem like overkill, unfortunately it is really the only syncing option available to 3rd party developers (and is becoming fairly common – it’s the same approach used by apps like Files). You copy files on/off using the Finder or Explorer, just like a normal file server, so while the URL looks a little klunky it is pretty simple to do.

    We would have liked to support Bonjour for a better looking URL, but unfortunately a Finder bug prevented this. Should Apple allow 3rd parties to transfer data over USB, or within iTunes, we’ll probably use that approach instead.

    Although iOSMaps is currently free, it does have some notable limitations. You can only access 1:50K data, you have to be online to download tiles, and like any OpenSpace project there is a daily usage cap (so if too many users are fetching data, you may find yourself without a map just when you need it most).

    Neil
    ——————
    http://www.RouteBuddy.com

  6. mapperz

    With OpenSpace it is limited to 1:50k (Landranger Maps) and OS Streeview 10k (rural areas is pointless) with tiles per day (50,000 per api key)

    Though success for http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm has 3 million allowance (as popular) and on the openspace demo gallery
    see more
    http://openspace.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/openspace/gallery.html

    There is no 25k with the useful public footpaths and field boundaries via OpenSpace API

    Ed is correct and it is too expensive for what you get on the iphone via routebuddy.
    (a good service just the maps are too expensive to purchase for the UK).

    Ovi [Nokia] Maps licences has improved and you get route-able vector data.
    [£53 for Europe (driving,walking directions)

    Though if you want free – Google Maps Mobile is free (data transfer costs only)
    recently new transit,wiki & nearby features have been added.
    http://mapperz.blogspot.com/2009/07/google-maps-mobile-32-more-layers.html

    Sorry OS you lose out again – no money to you.
    If you made your licences cheaper – more people would be able ‘afford’ to use it – then you would make more money – some money is better than no money.

    Mapperz

  7. Neil

    Hi Ed – thanks for your thoughts on Atlas, and we’re glad you liked the app.

    As you know Ordnance Survey data has to be licensed, and while the OS can produce paper maps from their own data we (like any licensee) have to pass that cost on.

    Our current set of maps are the high-resolution 1:25K data, so while they cost more than the paper maps our prices are pretty similar to data from Quo, Memory-Map, or Satmap. We plan to offer cheaper 1:50K-based maps as well, but decided to start with the highest resolution and work down rather than the other way round.

    We feel there is value in digital maps over paper ones, as they don’t get wet or tear (weather-proof maps being more expensive than standard paper) nor do they take up any space. If you’re into hiking or orienteering then storing maps on your iPhone makes a lot of sense, since you can avoid spending ¬£200+ on a dedicated GPS device.

    Although a built-in WebDAV server might seem like overkill, unfortunately it is really the only syncing option available to 3rd party developers (and is becoming fairly common – it’s the same approach used by apps like Files). You copy files on/off using the Finder or Explorer, just like a normal file server, so while the URL looks a little klunky it is pretty simple to do.

    We would have liked to support Bonjour for a better looking URL, but unfortunately a Finder bug prevented this. Should Apple allow 3rd parties to transfer data over USB, or within iTunes, we’ll probably use that approach instead.

    Although iOSMaps is currently free, it does have some notable limitations. You can only access 1:50K data, you have to be online to download tiles, and like any OpenSpace project there is a daily usage cap (so if too many users are fetching data, you may find yourself without a map just when you need it most).

    Neil
    ——————
    http://www.RouteBuddy.com

  8. TG

    @mapperz
    Good points, however I think the OS would be more worried about substitution risk. No money this way means more money another way.

    I don’t think they make much margin on paper maps anyway – it’s just a shopfront to support the brand, as the real business is digital. Just like petrol stations don’t make money for oil companies.

    We can’t blame OS for acting like a business. The root issue perhaps is that OS *is* a business. But to fix that many in the geocommunity seem to be barking up the wrong tree. If you don’t like a business, the only option is to compete. OSM… UKMap… [?]

    Thierry

  9. TimW

    TG is right. Serious competition to the OS (i.e. products of the same quality, currency, coverage, etc) with cheaper prices and/or more favourable licensing terms will draw customers and force the OS to compete back.

  10. Graham Dunlop

    I can pick up the full OS Landranger 1:50k set for a little under 150 quid, to run on my Nokia smartphone with Viewranger. That’s the equivalent of 203 paper maps retailing at £6.99 each. Makes my decision not to buy an iPhone all the sweeter 🙂

  11. neil@routebuddy.com

    Graham Dunlop says:
    “I can pick up the full OS Landranger 1:50k set for a little under 150 quid, to run on my Nokia smartphone with Viewranger. That’s the equivalent of 203 paper maps retailing at £6.99 each. Makes my decision not to buy an iPhone all the sweeter ”

    Bit of a moot point; We haven’t released the 1:50K set yet and Viewranger is not on the iPhone.

    But we have just released Ordnance Survey National Parks for the iPhone, from £19.99. (Viewranger National Park titles for Nokia are from an expensive £60.00 though.) Buy a few and the saving will pay for your iPhone!

    So how are we doing on consumer pricing Ed? 😉

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