Here is the thing: Google has changed its Maps API products’ pricing model. For the many, this may sound like Aramaic or Ostrogoth – and our first reaction was pretty close to not understanding the impact that this change is already provoking. However, this revision is set to trigger a small revolution in the way apps and service providers relying on Google Maps’ geolocation service set out their business plans. Translated into current English, it means that for apps like Uber, Foodora, or Taxify, higher costs lie on the line of the horizon to keep providing the efficient performances they offer today.
It sounds like a massive shift, and that’s indeed what it is. The change will, of course, bring more money into the coffers of Google, especially those coming from all the companies that will decide to stick to the service offered by the Silicon Valley giant. At the same time, though, the change opens unexpected opportunities for other geospatial data providers and platforms that now have more market to expand their activities, offering similar and equally effective services at a lower price. Of course, one of the best examples is here in Estonia: Reach-U.
As this frenzy sparks here and there among developers and CEOs, it seems of vital importance to know more about our home platform that could solve a lot of people’s problems – whether you are being affected by these changes directly, on the back-end side, or you are worried about the indirect rise in costs that the shift may create for app users. Ülari Teder, Business Development Manager at Reach-U, takes us by the hand and clarifies the main critical aspects of the current situation.
What is Reach-U, the services that it provides, and the customers with which has its most successful stories?
Reach-U develops software and location-based solutions for a number of industries. Its origins date back to 1989, growing out of the maps and cartography company Regio, which every Estonian knows. So you could say that Location Data has been in our DNA since the beginning. In the Telecom sector, we’ve deployed solutions independently and together with partners like Ericsson, in over 20 countries. Canada was the biggest foreign market last year in terms of revenue. A good public sector example is our visual intelligence solution EyeVi 360, which does road network mapping and extracts road conditions data in the Baltics, in African cities and even on a Caribbean island.
How does a geolocation service for companies work? Maps’ API for dummies, please!
There are many companies and industries that utilize maps and geospatial data – e-commerce, real estate, asset tracking, smart cities, ridesharing, just to name a few. Typically, app and web developers access these (Maps) services through API requests. For example, if you open the Taxi app, a map tile corresponding to your location is loaded. When you type in your destination address, that string of text is converted to coordinates and a pin placed on the map. This is called Geocoding. For estimating the price and time of arrival, another request is made through a Routing API. Say you made a mistake and do the whole process one more time. In the end, you decide not to order a taxi after all. But since all those requests are counted and priced, you’ve actually moved some cash out of the Villig brothers’ pockets (and currently into Google’s).
Google is modifying the way service providers will interact with Maps’ geolocation services. What does this mean, in practice? How will this change affect the way companies and service providers do their business?
The new pricing model already took effect this July. Since many service providers have built their solutions on top of Google Maps, they are obviously affected. As are the app and web developers behind those solutions. For some companies, things can get quite expensive, quite fast. I think this forces companies to look critically at their Maps API needs and consumption (and other providers out there). There are ways to somewhat optimize, but this is extra development work or even a possible change in business logic.
The change opens opportunities for other companies to offer more competitive services. How can Reach-U take advantage of this small revolution?
For Reach-U, this is not a ’new’ offering per se – we’ve been running the Maps API service for years. It’s true though that the news has triggered more queries about the service these days. Based on the needs, companies usually fall into two categories: the ones that require accurate address data and the ones that don’t. In the second case, so for general purpose maps category, we have now better prices on larger volumes. In the first category, Google hasn’t been so much of a competitor, as they cannot guarantee a regular (monthly or even quarterly) database update. Also, it’s hard for them to keep up with all the regulatory matters, like the recent administrative reform. Smaller markets, such as Estonia, appear to have quite a low priority for large international.
With whom Reach-U is already cooperating on this kind of services in Estonia? And what is the Baltic Geodata marketplace?
In Estonia, the service itself is built on top of the Regio road network and address database, which gets updated monthly (according to the national address database) and in some cases even overnight. Customers using it are from a wide range of industries like retail, e-commerce, insurance, banking, logistics, waste management, public broadcasting, city municipalities etc. Geodata Marketplace is the next version of the service launching in the end of September, this year. Baltic region is just the first region with accurate address data plugged in and ready to go.
What are the targets and plans to expand your company’s activity beyond the borders of Estonia? And how companies, geodata providers, can work with or benefit from your platforms?
The platform allows geodata providers in other countries (similar to Regio in Estonia) to link their data to a service that websites and app developers can easily integrate with and use through a self-service portal. This model is basically scalable to any country in the world. Another driver for this is the work we’re doing on IT/GIS systems in emerging markets, where we’ve often struggled with geodata availability and services. With at least one data provider and one user, we can setup the service in less than a week. So in the future, this will help us launch new location-based solutions faster.