We take a break from our normal interviews with OpenStreetMap communities around the world to have a chat with Alexis Batlle and Roberto Abril co-founders of Barcelona based location intelligence start-up AVUXI.
1. Who are you and what do you do? What got you into OpenStreetMap and open geo data?
Our background before creating AVUXI brings together a serial entrepreneur and geospatial big-data expert. Our solutions could apply to numerous industry verticals, although each is powered by our core geospatial technology. Right now our primary focus is the online travel space. Underlining our systems is the collection and processing of open and publicly available data, hence our love for OpenStreetMap and community driven initiatives.
2. What is AVUXI? What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? How do you use open geo data to do it? Who are the customers?
AVUXI was born through travel. Frustration with the lack of location aware intelligence. We wanted something to revolutionize discovering unforgettable city areas and places. 3 years ago, we set out to rank and categorize every place on earth.
Working tirelessly, we constructed systems and developed algorithms that process and analyze huge amounts of data, combining data from Open and Public sources. Within a few months we had demos to show and with this were accepted into Startupbootcamp, and shortly after to SAP Startup Focus, Wayra and ESRI’s Startup Program.
Initially augmented reality (AR) was our focus with automated location aware car guides and walking guides. We had interest from the likes of Daimler and a demo application. However, we realized that it would take too long to monetize and with that, we focused our efforts to Online Travel Agencies.
We now provide our plug & play geo-enhancing solution to online travel sites like KAYAK and eDreams with other large travel companies in the pipeline. It’s taken us a long time to build and refine the service, making something simple out of so much data is, as you can imagine, not easy. We’ve learned an immense amount in the last few years and now we’re in execution phase with regards to the travel industry. Feedback has been very positive and the data is clear - contextual information helps drive hotel bookings. Meanwhile of course there remain many other industry sectors where we know our knowledge of location could be applicable. We have no shortage of ideas.
3. One of the trends I hear a lot about in the travel sector these days is the fear that Google, the dominant provider of online maps and geo services is entering the space as a competitor. As a result established travel booking sites that used Google for their maps are seeking an alternative. How do you see this playing out, and is there an opportunity for services built on OpenStreetMap?
There is no denying the strong foothold Google has in the travel industry. Their position is unique with travel companies forking out millions for ads and to supply maps to their customers, while simultaneously Google moves ever more into the Online Travel Agent (OTA) space.
Services built on-top of OpenStreetMap have huge potential but the key is usability. Anything not useful or over-complicated gets in the way of the booking.
4. One of the great strengths of OpenStreetMap is that anyone can add anything. One of the great weaknesses of OpenStreetMap is that anyone can add anything. This creates the very real difficulty of figuring out which information is relevant, no small task especially given a massive global database that is continually changing. How do you do it?
In the technological industry, this problem, the problem of ordering the chaos, structuring the unstructured, finding relevance is what consumes our day-to-day life. Our long running algorithms are constantly checking and rechecking for data inconsistencies and discrepancies. This filters irrelevant data and allows us to focus on valuable data producing a competitive insight.
5. What steps could the global OpenStreetMap community take to better support OSM’s adoption in the travel sector?
As per the previous question one of the great challenges is that there is so much data in OSM. And what is relevant for use case A is just noise for use case B. Online travel services and the tourism/travel industry are very busy, people have little time to understand all the background, they just want a good solution at a fair price. So we think there is a big opportunity for companies like ours that sort through the chaos and find the meaning, the relevance, and present a workable solution.
We’re currently exploring working together with some other companies in the OSM community to develop the types of tools our customers are looking for.
In more practical terms, of course more detailed mapping of things relevant for tourists - sights, beaches, hotels, restaurants, etc - is always good. Many thanks to the OSM community members for all the great work done so far.
6. Our standard closing question: in 2014 OSM celebrated its 10th birthday. Where do you think the project will be in 10 years time?
OpenStreetMap will be both better known but also less well know in that it will be a standard part of global digital infrastructure that everyone uses. More and more tools and services will be built on top of it, which in turn gives more and more incentive to contribute back.
You can see all the Open Geo interviews here. If you are or know of someone we should interview, please get in touch, we’re always looking to promote people doing interesting things with open geo data.