StreetPro in the Asia/Pacific Region
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Ed. Note. We recently
received a press release from MapInfo announcing
that StreetPro was available for Malaysia. We
couldn’t help but feel curious about the status
of the StreetPro product line in the
Asia/Pacific region. Wal Mayr, Director of
Products, and Sean Richards, Product Manager,
both of MapInfo Asia/Pacific, kindly answered
many questions for us.
MapInfo currently has StreetPro products (street
centerline files with street name and address
information) available for Australia, New
Zealand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore
and Thailand (samples can be viewed, below).
Next to be released will be China, Hong Kong and
Vietnam. Mayr and Richards emphasize that
developing these databases in the Asia/Pacific
region is an evolutionary process – the
databases are perhaps not as complete and
accurate as would be the case in other regions
of the globe, but it is the best available data,
and will improve over time.
There has been a tremendous investment in
developing this data in the Asia/Pacific region.
In the United States and Canada, for example,
government agencies first developed this data
and it was relatively “ready to go” as GIS
applications developed that could make use of
it. The situation is the opposite in the
Asia/Pacific region, Mayr explained. There was a
need to “make” the data first before
applications could develop around it, at an
enormous and on-going cost. However, as
multi-national companies look to expand into the
region, they have demanded this data – they’ve
become used to accessing it elsewhere on the
globe – and so the business case has been made
for its development.
Here are answers to
some specific questions asked by Directions
Directions: Can you
help our North American and European readers
understand how a street database is created in
the Asia Pacific region?
Products like StreetPro are created using
similar means to those in the US and Europe.
Sources such as government, satellite imagery,
field capture and specialised content
aggregators were used in the compilation process
of the StreetPro data product suite
across Asia. The key ingredients are local
knowledge and skills to tie all of these
disparate parts together. MapInfo and its Asian
partner network together provided the local
knowledge and associated skills to carry out
this enormous task. Standardised MapInfo
production methodologies were employed to ensure
a standard look and feel and utility across the
many and varied countries in the region.
We have worked with key strategic partners in
each country to develop the data. Each country
is a unique challenge, and methods that work in
one area may not work in another.
Directions: Is it very
different country to country, or are similar
country in Asia is different when it comes to
administrative structures, source data
availability and military restrictions. However
we apply the same methodology in the compilation
of all of MapInfo StreetPro's in Asia.
This ensures a level of uniformity and
consistency, which is very important to our
Variations do occur. For example there are a
significant proportion of metropolitan roads in
India that are not physically named, let along
addressed. In Singapore the 6-digit postcode is
regularly used as the principle address
reference. In New Zealand, post codes are almost
never used in a common address reference. All of
these factors need to be considered when
compiling StreetPro for each of these
countries to ensure maximum utility and value.
Directions: To what
extent are government data available as a basis
for such a product?
Government data is, on the whole, an important
component in the compilation of our Asian
products. However, this data is very raw and
needs to be significantly supplemented and value
added before it is of commercial grade suitable
for business analysis use. We found that there
was good progress in the capture and improvement
of Government foundation data, however, it is
basically a matter of continuing evolution.
In relative terms street and geocoding data is
well behind regions such as Australia and New
Zealand, North America and Europe, and probably
further behind in a routing sense. However, the
gap is closing quickly as market demand in this
fast growing region justifies further investment
and speeding up of the "evolutionary" process.
Directions: What are the
major challenges in creating and maintaining
such a database in this region?
Unfortunately one of the biggest challenges we
have relates to data piracy. Basically, data
custodians and value-adders are very wary of
releasing their intellectual property on the
open market. This has been a major impediment in
our progress to establish our Asia Pacific data
portfolio and has taken years to assure
custodians and stakeholders that the rewards
outweigh the risks.
Military restrictions have also made our journey
very interesting. Numerous countries have
military related data access restrictions in
place. These restrictions come in the form of
only certain scales of data being available, to
data warping being integrated, to a total ban of
any data exporting. As frustrating as these
restrictions are, it is certainly understandable
why such restrictions are in place. The irony is
we are finding significant demand for these data
products by organizations driven to ensure
security for their citizens in those countries.
Here is an anomaly that you would not be likely
to find elsewhere. In China, in order to work
around issues relating to release of data
assets, two versions of StreetPro will be
released – one for use outside the country, and
a “premium” version that can be used inside the
Directions: What about
street naming/numbering conventions?
numbering systems in Asia are generally
unstructured. Street numbering does exist in
various forms, in some parts of some countries.
However, it is not consistent at a regional
level and also very costly to capture and
maintain. Heavy investment has been made to
obtain the best available addressing, however
sometimes this is restricted to a street name
within a local geo-coding polygon. Today, that
is primarily in the form of detailed streets
within small administrative boundaries or
postcode boundaries. There are situations where
we have geocoding "nirvana"; in Singapore with
the 6-digit postcodes which basically relate to
an individual address. But, in the main, we need
to rely on searching streets or points of
interest, such as building names, within small
administrative boundaries – such as Kelurahan in
Indonesia, Kampung in Malaysia or Tambon in
Directions: Can the street
databases be used in geocoding an address to
interpolate an x,y coordinate?
of StreetPro can leverage the geocoding
facilities of most spatial systems to establish
an X and Y coordinate for a nominated address.
The resolution of that X and Y coordinate will
vary from country to country. Our objective is
to provide the best possible geocoding on the
market. With increased use and subsequent
investment we will continue to improve geocoding
precision. MapInfo is responding to significant
and growing demand and sees its role as
providing this present "best of market" base
which in turn will act as a catalyst for spatial
industry growth in the region.
Directions: Are street
databases commonly used in this region, or are
they still relatively rare? Or does that vary
from country to country? What are the key uses?
databases are not commonly used in Asia. In
fact, the use of spatial technology in business
analytics is not common. However, that situation
is changing. Business is going global at an
exponential rate. Organizations want to use
their existing expertise in spatially orientated
business analytics to evaluate new markets in
Asia. These organizations need consistent, high
quality data products. MapInfo has invested over
three years into the establishment of the Asian
StreetPro range of products. However as
the evolutionary process has really only just
started it is our intention to continue to
invest strongly in the quality, geocoding
precision and coverage of our Asian data.