Saturday, July 24, 2010

What’s in a name?

IMG_5189The address on Redman Road had been given to us directly by the person living there, so we expected our GPS to get us to the right spot. As Katharine entered the street name, it helpfully completed after 4 letters—but with “Redmond Road” instead. It would not allow her to enter the correct name, and the proposed road did not have the number we wanted.

IMG_5187Since we’d arranged to meet the resident at a specific time, we had to call for directions. It turned out that not only was the name wrong in the GPS, but it was also wrong on the printed municipal map!

The fact that the map was also wrong provided the clue to why the GPS data was wrong. The company Garmin uses for its navigation data, NAVTEQ, had obtained the incorrect municipal data for their database.

IMG_5191An error like this one may only be a minor inconvenience for a few people for now. But what if a courier can’t deliver a much-needed part for a milking machine, or an emergency vehicle is delayed in finding an address? Accurate navigation data is quickly becoming essential, and such errors need to be fixed.

Fortunately, “crowd sourcing” methods are available to enable users to provide direct feedback. My query to Garmin support got a speedy response with a link to the Garmin error reporting page as well as to the NAVTEQ map reporter site. Both were straightforward, but the NAVTEQ site used a map navigation interface to display the current information from their database.

How often do we get the opportunity to directly contribute to improving a useful tool? I’ve added these reporting sites to my browser bookmarks, and will certainly make a point to report any errors I happen to find.