Titans: Google maps versus ECDIS
Updated: Jul 18, 2020
Humans have been using maps for thousands of years. It is therefore not surprising that ‘Cartography’ as a subject exists, which is the art and science of making maps. The oldest known maps are preserved on Babylonian tablets from 2300 BC. They were later depicted on scrolls and paper. But it’s not until the electronic age that maps have come alive.
Google Maps and ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System) can be considered to essentially serve the same purpose. While Google Maps is used for finding our way on land, the ECDIS facilitates navigation at sea. At a basic level both show us maps in an electronic form, indicate where we are and can provide a route if we can specify a destination.
Google Maps turned 15 years old this month and it may be an appropriate time to compare it with similar systems in other industries, hence the comparison with ECDIS.
While the ECDIS was in voluntary use for many years, it was never free to use. It became mandatory for HSC (High Speed Craft) on the 1st of July 2008. Subsequently, the mandatory carriage of ECDIS for other ships depending on the ship type, size and construction date, (as required by SOLAS regulation V/19.2.10) commenced in a phased manner from 1 July 2012 onwards.
ECDIS is regulated because it is considered a complex, safety-relevant, software-based system with multiple options for display and integration. The ongoing safe and effective use of ECDIS involves many stakeholders including seafarers, equipment manufacturers, chart producers, hardware and software maintenance providers, shipowners and operators, and training providers.
Over the years, IMO (International Maritime Organisation) Member States, hydrographic offices, equipment manufacturers and other organizations have contributed to the development of guidance on a variety of ECDIS-related matters and was accepted as meeting the chart carriage requirements of SOLAS regulation V/19 in 2002.
Google Maps was launched as a super easy and useful way for people to get around. However, it is the pace at which features, and capabilities have evolved that makes it an unbelievable experience. It is not only a website or application that gets us from A to B, using the fastest or shortest route, it allows web developers easy access APIs to put google maps on their own sites.
With over 1 billion users per month the adoption and use rate is very high because one can virtually never get lost. For 200 million businesses worldwide, it provides, opening hours, ratings, prices etc, which provides relevance to data and makes life easier. Google maps has made it easier for business to manage their presence, update their business info, put up pictures, respond to reviews, etc.
The local guides program which is 120 million strong, share reviews, photos and knowledge about places around the world. For those with mobility needs Google maps offers wheel-chair accessible routes for over 50 million places. Augmented reality helps you to understand which way to walk, with arrows and directions overlaid.
Things to ponder over
Google Maps achieved all this innovation by providing it for free, but for how long?
Does regulation in ECDIS stifle its innovation?
If it were not mandatory would the ECDIS survive in the market?
How much reliance & trust do we have on things we receive for free?
Besides showing us the shortest and fastest route, would the greenest route be of interest?
Are there others areas & topics worth considering?
Let me know your thoughts
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