Mapbox’s Map Madness

So this time of year nothing says March more than March Madness (well maybe Easter when Easter is in March).  Lots of companies play off the theme, and it appears Mapbox is jumping on that sports bandwagon themselves with Map Madness.

I’ve clicked the play button myself, and I’m waiting for the start.  I have no idea what the challenge will be, but I’m up for any of the prizes.  The Mapbox team is full of brilliant people so I can only assume the challenges will be more than just guess where a satellite photo was taken.

Side note, my Sun Devils somehow made the tourney.  Forks up!

CartoDB is the Next Spatial Startup to Get Funding

Back in June, Mapbox received their Series B round of $52.55M.  With that, Mapbox has turned up their development on just about everything and had a grand old-time at the Esri UC buying just about every advertising space outside the San Diego Convention Center.  At the time Eric said:

We’re creating the building blocks for a complete mapping stack. This extends way beyond a map.

Today CartoDB has announced their Series B:

We are excited to announce the close of $23 million in Series B financing to expand CartoDB’s mission, enabling anyone to map their world’s data and leverage the power of location.

This moment is truly important because it sends a strong message about the location intelligence revolution as renowned investors validate our position and direction in this growing market. I would like to acknowledge the hard work done by many people in the company in the process — you guys rock!

Spatial IT is hot stuff right now.  That’s about $75M in Series B funding in little over 2 months.  Bubble?  Probably not as you can’t really say either company hasn’t developed a business and has important clients.  5 years ago there were much more spatial startups running around trying to get money, from GeoIQ and SimpleGeo to WeoGeo1 and Geoloqi all received some funding but ended up being acquired mostly for staff or client lists.  CartoDB and Mapbox are of a different beast and their sustainability has been rewarded by large investments.

So what’s going on with CartoDB now?  It appears they’re going to continue investing in the core product and make it bigger and easier to work with.  I’m excited for them, the elephant is going for a ride!

  1. Good times 

Rendering Spatial Data Without Having to Generalize Beforehand

Yesterday I posted about Chris Hogan’s walk-through of generalizing data in PostGIS to make it usable in a web app.  Basically he went through the process of finding out what is the sweet spot of quality vs speed.  But there are other ways to accomplish this.  Mapbox happened to post about a new library called geojson-vt.

Let’s see if Mapbox GL JS can handle loading a 106 MB GeoJSON dataset of US ZIP code areas with 33,000+ features shaped by 5.4+ million points directly in the browser (without server support):

Mapbox GL JS and GeoJSON-VT from Mapbox on Vimeo.

Wait, what?! A few seconds loading the data, and you can browse the whole data set smoothly and seamlessly. But how exactly does that work? Let’s find out

So that’s actually pretty amazing.  We all know what GeoJSON does in the browser and how it impacts the speed of maps drawing.  100 MB+ data rendering so quickly?  Impressive.  Read the whole post to see how they do it and the details on how to start using it.  The only limitation is that it requires mapbox-gl-js or
Mapbox Mobile[footnote]which is actually a big limitation if you think about it[/footnote].
 UPDATE: Per Tom MacWright:


Still this comes down to using tools that make your mapping products better.  Maybe Mapbox does that cheaper and quicker than you could on your own.  This kind of on-the-fly simplification is what we’ve all been asking for and Mapbox is really pushing the envelope.  This could be what gets people to start using their platform.

DigitalGlobe has a Maps API and brought along Mapbox

So DigitalGlobe has an API in beta.  Funny thing is when I first went to the page I saw this popup for the “first 100 customers”:

Get DigitalGlobe Maps API now for the introductory price of $1 per 1,000 views

I guess they don’t have 100 customers yet.  But let’s get beyond the question if it’s even relevant that DG has an API and look at their offering:

They’ve got two versions of their imagery API.  One that is global and has high frequency updates and one that is color balanced but only regional (and probably not updated often).  But what we really want to see is the API, right?  Well look at the splash page:

This is why we created a mapping API just for you: easily access our compelling high-resolution imagery of the earth along with fantastic stylized basemap content from Mapbox. We want you to use our imagery in your apps, no matter if you’re an industry giant or a promising startup. We believe our imagery is the standard upon which all others are measured, and we want you to benefit from our expertise.

Remember this partnership from 3 years ago?  Don’t be so surprised to see Mapbox there.  The plans have been put into motion to see Mapbox integrated with many other vendors but here we have DigitalGlobe’s API built on top of Mapbox.  I’m not sure if DG’s API will be popular but at least we know it’s a robust, easy to use and powerful API.

What’s the most interesting part of all this is Esri is not to be found.  DG and Esri have had a long time relationship but I think DG has realized that deals with Esri only benefit Esri.  Best of luck to DG and Mapbox!

Mapbox GL for iOS

So Apple Maps is still a disaster.  But:

During WWDC Apple noted that there are no less than 680,000 apps in the App Store that use location data

That’s a lot and most of them end up using Apple’s Map API mostly because it’s easy (or lazy, I would be lazy).  Last week Mapbox seems to have a solution ready to go though that might be easier than Apple’s and a whole lot better:

We just released Mapbox GL — a new framework for live, responsive maps in every iOS app. Now developers can have the most detailed maps sourced from ever-updating OpenStreetMap data, as well as the ability to fully control the style and brand to design maps that perfectly match their app. This is all done using our new on-device vector renderer, which uses OpenGL ES 2.0 technology for pixel-perfect map design, from antialiased fonts to polygon blurring, all hardware-accelerated and optimized for mobile devices — and all on the fly.

Of course it is open source and available on Github.  I’ve not had a chance to play with it yet but I hope to sit down with it soon.  It looks great, built on OSM and is released open source so no matter what happens to Mapbox1 I’ll still have access to the mapping library.  Really amazing stuff.

  1. Not that I know a thing, but it’s always a good question