What in your perception would be the trend in the growth of LBS in the next few years in the region MapKing caters to?
The combination of China, India, Taiwan and Hong Kong constitute about three billion population. The pace of development varies as some of the countries like Singapore are aggressive and very positive to treat GIS infrastructure as one of the basic investments. Because of this, we see huge demand in the region as a whole. However, the progress of each country varies. In the next 3 – 4 years, the market for personal navigation devices will be promising. Firstly, the awareness of GPS, the awareness of personal navigation, the falling prices of PND hardware and mobile phone hardware is making GPS navigation an affordable solution for most of the general public. If we look at the region collectively, it will continue growing in double digits in spite of the slowdown in the economy. Moreover, we see a sharp upturn in the economy in Q2 and Q3 this year. Economy of Asian countries like Singapore and Hong Kong is picking up. We see positive response from our corporate clients and hardware vendors. POs have started coming in again.
While availability of data is a problem in many countries, some countries want dynamic data. As a map data provider, what do you think are the institutional and technological bottlenecks to get real time data?
Quality of base data varies a lot in the region. I expect most of the governments to have GIS infrastructure as part of the basic IT infrastructure for the e-community. If this can be achieved in the coming five years, most of the citizens in the region can enjoy better route, better navigation and better tracking solutions. To achieve real time navigation in the region, I believe lot of efforts need to be put in.
One of the major enabling institution could be the Asian organisation with all the major countries as members. In Europe, after the formation of European Union, countries started working together. Today, they share their navigation infrastructure and bring very good penetration and good consumer satisfaction in the navigation as well as general geospatial industries.
If you put a cargo on a truck in London, you can deliver it in Austria without a stop, without any border and without any customer check. So you see that the benefits are multi-fold. At the moment, efforts to form such an Asian organisation are not very forthcoming. But I see with the formation of free zones coupled with the tightening up of communications, we can expect to achieve borderless Asian countries in the coming years.
MapKing is now the distributor of Pitney Bowes MapInfo products in Hong Kong and Macau. How do you see this arrangement as supplementing and complementing MapKing’s activities in the region?
MapKing is basically a consumer navigation company. And MapInfo is the leading GIS application company. Map- Info products are strong in telecommunications and business intelligence. We see that both product lines are complementary. This is an advantage for our company.
What in your view are the future trends in the consumer use of geospatial data?
Geospatial data will become more affordable and more accessible. And you can see more applications coming up. When you look at the solutions today, all of them are still Europe-based or western-based solutions. This means they will have difficulties to cope with the three billion population and more than 500 languages/dialects in the region. MapKing is trying to bring solutions that are more suitable to the work and culture of the region. We have just launched a competition to encourage university students and university graduates to evolve in a GIS environment. We hope that when such initiatives become popular, there will be more local content, solutions coming from young people. This will achieve business and academic solutions with local support.