Despite being what many people would consider to be technology-inclined, I don’t have a Sat Nav in my car.
I’m fortunate to have a good sense of direction, my childhood was spent touring the UK (we didn’t have foreign holidays but we did have lots of days out) and I spent the first part of my career visiting customer sites, placing me in the “18,000 mile club” (those of a certain age will remember the company car tax break that encouraged high mileage).
Generally, I get by with a £4.99 AA Map Book supplemented by my own knowledge of the UK road network.
But last weekend I was visiting friends in Winchester and, although I knew how to reach their house from the north/midlands, I was heading up from the south coast and thought there might be a better route. No worries, thought I, I’ll use Nokia Maps on my Windows Phone.
I entered their street name (let’s say it was Acacia Avenue, Winchester – of course, it wasn’t, but bear with me) and was somewhat surprised to see a map of Manchester. I thought it was an autocorrect issue, so I tried again. “Never mind”, I thought, “I’ll look up the postcode”, so I put the same search string into the phone’s search engine (Bing of course) and got some Manchester results…
I was frustrated by now. So frustrated I considered using my Wife’s iPhone and Apple Maps…
In the end, the Royal Mail website gave me the postcode, which Nokia Maps was happy to accept and use to take me to “Acacia Avenue” but there’s a much bigger issue here.
It’s not about Bing, or Nokia, or Tom Tom or Apple Maps but about trust. When I want to get somewhere, I want to get to the right place. I know, for example, that Apple Maps has some terrible information for the town where I live (e.g. many businesses in the wrong locations and some there that no longer exist). If I can’t trust a mapping service for a locality that I know well, why should I trust it for one that I don’t? Similarly, if Nokia Maps is going to send me to Manchester instead of Winchester, I don’t much fancy the fuel bills and travel times if I rely on it to get me somewhere in a hurry…
The map data will improve – and I’ve suggestfully proposed changes to Google Maps too (a typo in the name of the local Rugby Club is probably not too big a deal though). Open Street Map is another alternative – although someone there reversed some of my edits (so that’s only as good as the community that moderates it…).
The real point is that, as we become increasingly dependent on digital services, we also need to take stock. There’s an old saying in computing – garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). Maybe technology is not always the answer and we need to rely on a little common sense too?