Gaurav Bubna is the Co-Founder of NextBillion.ai. Gaurav heads product direction, innovation and execution at NextBillion.ai. His expertise lies in aligning product vision with unified customer experience. An IIT Bombay alumnus (All India Rank 13 – IIT entrance exam), Gaurav has spearheaded the creations of several zero-to-one initiatives and category-defining products across industries, including ride-hailing, food delivery, logistics, mobility, finance, and HR. Before co-founding NextBillion.ai, Gaurav strengthened Grab’s mapping and location platform as the Head of Product, ETAs and Navigation. With deep product management and strategy experience, Gaurav has also led product teams at Ola, Zlemma (acquired by Hired) and Morgan Stanley.
It is an anomaly that the impact of maps is often undervalued in a world where all kinds of entities rely on the free movement of people, products, capital and services for survival. When I say entities, it includes businesses, governments, and the general public.
A good, functional, personalized and updated map can reveal critical insights about a business challenge. It can repair and reform sticky operations. It can find recurring patterns. It can help answer how things/people travel, how far things/people can travel, and how fast things/people can travel. It provides information about our surroundings, new places, accessible/inaccessible areas, behavioural deviations, and the list goes on.
7 use cases of mapping technology
Let’s take a look at seven use cases that illustrates the growing relevance of modern mapping technology across different spheres of the global urban landscape.
1. Traffic management
Urban development requires a sustainable solution for road traffic management. The high density of population in cities leads to traffic congestion, which in turn negatively affects the environment, economy and quality of life.
With map data and location technology, city planners can build an efficient traffic management system. They can use historical and real-time traffic data to monitor the peaks and falls in movement, reduce congestion, fix bottlenecks and keep traffic moving.
During major events like a sporting event or concert, traffic authorities can use inventive mapping tools to insert temporary road restrictions, closures and diversions.
2. Emergency services
The UK police forces receive a 999 call every 3 seconds on average, as per GOV.UK. And in the US, the 911 service receives 600,000 calls per day on average, as per a study by Walden University. With such a high volume, keeping the average response time low is a huge challenge.
This is where mapping technology steps in. It plays an important role in reducing response times and overall emergency response management. Dispatchers need accurate location information, the shortest (and most viable) routes and seamless turn-by-turn navigation instructions.
Mapping platforms’ APIs, SDKs, tools and fresh map data can improve response times. Emergency services can accurately mark points of interest (POIs) for dispatchers, generate incident-specific dispatch rules, and match the right responder to the right incident site with APIs like distance matrix, route optimization, geocoding and geofencing.
They can also track fleets in real-time and create optimized routes tailored to emergency vehicles.
When looking for a mapping solution for an emergency service, check if it can reflect proprietary data insights, real-time traffic data insights, vehicle types, traffic infrastructure and other such attributes into the routes.
3. Disaster response
An extension of emergency services, the application of maps in disaster management is similar to what I mentioned above.
For instance, the crowdsourced map database OpenStreetMap (OSM) has a long history of assisting volunteers and agencies in rescue operations, right from the Haiti earthquake to the Ebola epidemic.
Access to in-depth knowledge about historical traffic patterns, real-time traffic situations and road networks will allow governments to plan for disasters, set up rescue operations and rebuild the affected areas far more efficiently.
4. Retail and e-commerce
Be it marketing, merchandising or supply chain, the applications of maps in retail are far and wide.
Location intelligence can help retailers and e-commerce players plan their store/fulfillment network and optimize order allocation, batching and dispatch. The retail industry also leverages location technology to devise marketing strategies and engage with customers.
With the rise of hyperlocal retail and delivery services, modern mapping technology has played a huge role in empowering local retail businesses. It has enabled millions of small players to increase their reach, improve discoverability and build social proof. This wouldn’t have been possible without accurate and accessible mapping technology.
5. Logistics — first-mile to last-mile
Any mobility-driven or location-centric business needs mapping technology to optimize its operations. Be it a large supply chain company or a local on-demand delivery service, maps are at the heart of these business models.
When it comes to last-mile logistics and hyperlocal delivery services, better maps enable efficient asset utilization, customize routes according to vehicle type, lower cost per delivery, increase delivery speed and improve on-time arrivals. Standard mapping APIs like route optimization, directions, distance matrix and geocoding help companies identify the fastest, shortest and most cost-effective route.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, mapping solutions help logistics companies improve fleet and resource visibility across supply chain operations. It also enables businesses to optimize fleet planning, order allocation, dispatch and reverse logistics from the first mile to the last mile.
6. City planning
Urban city planners would be quick to point out that mapping is an essential tool for planning, building and managing urban infrastructure — from top to bottom.
From waste management solutions to environmental regulation, from transport to healthcare, geospatial technology has permeated every stage of urban planning.
Take, green transportation infrastructure, for example. Electric vehicle rental services need mapping technology to achieve regulatory compliance with local traffic rules and laws.
On the other hand, city authorities need mapping technology to plan dedicated paths for the eco–friendly modes of transport like bicycles and electric scooters to ensure citizens are safe and secure. They also use it to improve the effectiveness of environmental protection initiatives like low-emission zones (LEZs).
And hyperlocal delivery businesses use mapping products such as AI-powered routing APIs to avoid breaking any traffic laws (e.g., trespassing LEZs) and hit their on-time delivery KPIs.
7. Mobility-on-demand and public transportation
For mobility-on-demand services like ride-hailing, ride-sharing, rental and on-demand public transportation, maps are front and center. Mapping technology heavily influences driver experience, customer experience and the business’ bottom line.
Companies can refine user experience with accurate ETAs, better pick-ups/drop-offs and accurate pre-trip fare estimates with geospatial technology. The end results are near-zero cancellations, faster arrival times and lower cost per ride.
Maps can also help to build a carbon-efficient and sustainable transportation system (public or private). This applies to logistics, e-commerce, delivery, and other mobility-driven businesses as well.
With accurate ETAs, optimized routes and efficient order batching, businesses can reduce vehicle idle time, fuel consumption, miles driven and wasted miles. This, in turn, would help to reduce carbon emissions.
With applications across many sectors, models, functions, stages and scales, city authorities, governments, businesses, and all stakeholders must leverage mapping technology to make more informed decisions about urban transformation. It can not only help the urban landscape to get smarter and better but also be self-sustainable.