Letter From the Editor: Mapping the Future of Local Commerce

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Of all of the technologies and consumer touchpoints to local commerce, mapping is perhaps the most relevant. This centuries-old technology has gone into hyperdrive over the past 15 years since the launch of Google Maps, and it continues to be a primary tool for local search and discovery.

But what’s the state of the art and how is it evolving? This will be Street Fight’s focus in the month of September. This follows last month’s connected car theme and past months’ reporting and commentary on privacy, retail transformation and the “beyond the screen” evolution of voice and visual search.

Though online and mobile mapping may seem mature in some ways, we’re also seeing lots of innovation and potential inflection points on the horizon. Google Maps’ new “Live View” for example provides a visual front end for intuitively navigating urban areas. Is this part of Google’s larger effort to build an ‘Internet of Places?’ which indexes the physical world just like it indexed the web.

But the real opportunity for Live View and other ongoing mapping evolution could be to guide you once you get to your destination. That’s right, indoor mapping could be the key to that holy grail of local commerce for Google and others, as we’ve examined. And the data support it: 90+% of U.S. consumer spending happens in brick & mortar retail. Yet that last mile to the cash register is largely untracked and untouched by current mapping products.

Elsewhere, Apple is making moves to improve Apple Maps. It still has a black eye from last decade’s “Mapgate,” and has a longstanding urge to fix Maps. But reading deeper into its efforts to map and scan our roadways, it could have larger ambitions to create spatial maps for self-driving cars or augmented reality, where it’s already making big bets. Once you have the physical world mapped, you can become a resource for navigation and local discovery. And for Apple, the endgame is selling more iThings.

But most of all, how do all of these disparate moves triangulate potential outcomes and products from these tech giants, or even smaller players? And what does it all mean from where you sit? We’ll be answering those questions throughout the month with reporting from our fire-tested editorial team, and tapping the wisdom of the crowds (you) in contributed columns.

Beyond covering all of this innovation from an editorial perspective, we’re also excited to award it. The Street Fight Innovator Awards process is rolling along, as applications have closed and we’re working with our prominent judges panel to facilitate the evaluation process. We’ll soon have more information about the timeline of awards announcements.

Stay tuned for more on all of the above, as well as Street Fight’s daily coverage of all things local and our bi-weekly podcast Heard on the StreetReach out to me if you’d like to be part of the action. Summer is winding down, kids are going back to school, and Street Fight will continue to deliver insightful coverage on the state of local commerce.