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ScreenHunter_05 Feb. 03 22.05

After many months of only running into the folks at Urban Mapping at conferences, I recently visited their new S.F. offices to get a proper update. There’s lots happening there.

Some of you may know the company as providing the geographic data (i.e., neighborhoods) that define the boundaries in online map searches. Hyperlocal terms used in search were even explored as a way to reverse engineer local SEM campaigns (see our ancient writeup).

Now the way forward is represented by Mapfluence — a mother of a hosted mapping platform loaded with every geographically oriented data point you’d ever want. This includes everything from congressional districts to public transit to air quality.

The benefit of this breadth is the permutations of data sets that can be used by a range of industries. A fast food franchise, for example, can measure average income level, foot traffic and any other factors correlated to prospecting new locations.

Retailers can optimize value chain and cost structure by finding all manners of inbound shipping routes. All of the pertinent factors will of course vary across verticals (think real estate), but the data sets are there to play with, and they go deep.

To exhibit some of these capabilities, UMI has provided a series of “maplets” that accomplish a single task such as locating subway stops. That’s one dimension of data … the possibilities involve overlaying many other high value data sets.

More recently the maplet concept was put on steroids to produce the browser based Geo Fact Finder app. It’s fun to play with if you want to exercise some curiosity in nationwide snowfall ranges or unemployment rates per county.

Besides the offering itself, CEO Ian White emphasizes the streamlining of Mapfluence, as a cloud-based product that can run wholly within the browser. The benefits there are well known in having a lightweight product that is built, managed, hosted and supported.

And given that the heavy lifting is all done in a centralized way (data aggregation, shared server load, storage and other costly facilities) it enjoys economies of scale that are passed on to clients. White asserts this is far more economically attractive than building something from scratch.

“Still, the challenge is that a lot of companies like to build and own their own software,” says White. “It’s an engineering mind-set.”

But he is making headway with lots of clients in real estate, insurance and business intelligence among others. UMI also maintains its legacy business for consumer-facing neighborhood map data — a cash cow, given A-list partners like Bing Maps.

Bottom line: Anyone getting into the location data game in any way should be talking to Ian (or inviting him on your panel). In the meantime you can watch his video interview with O’Reilly Media on the ins and outs of Mapfluence.

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