UNL Article Hyperlocal Technology

The Future of Maps is Hyperlocal, Hyper-connected and Hyper-contextual | UNL

Location-based services are taking over consumer lives and lifestyles. E-commerce, last-mile delivery and mobility sectors are among the most prominent examples of how hyperlocal services are steadily becoming the norm, as demand over the past years has been increasing exponentially.

What is Hyperlocal?

Hyperlocal refers to information and services organized around a particular geolocation. In the context of eCommerce and last-mile delivery, hyperlocal refers to micro-local retailers and the delivery of products and services like groceries, home care, personal care, apparel, accessories, maintenance, food, etc. Quickly, seamlessly and to the customer’s doorstep.

What are the Challenges that Hyperlocal Service Providers face?

From supply chains to transportation systems, every economy depends heavily on maps, addressing and routing to connect and bring people and goods from A to B. But the world is far from perfectly mapped. To date, mapping has largely focused on urban areas but there is still a huge lack of mapping data when it comes to rural areas, venues, and indoor spaces.

Accurate addresses are crucial for many services, including location searches, navigation, food and parcel deliveries and mobility solutions. Traditional mapping providers struggle to achieve more than 60-70% geocoding accuracy. This is a prominent challenge for retailers, eCommerce companies and last-mile delivery providers, as we are talking about billions and billions in loss because of inaccurate addresses that result from the lack of last-mile information and data.

When the address is not accurate or is incomplete, either the deliveryman resorts to calling the customer to complete delivery or the delivery fails entirely. This costs eCommerce and delivery companies a lot of time and efficiency, which translates into a huge loss in revenue and profits

How Big is the Problem of Inaccurate Addressing?

For centuries maps have been built from a one-map-fits-all mindset and as a global-first solution. Yet, maps still lack accuracy, context and in many regions content. Even today, 75% of the world is badly addressed, leaving 4 billion people without an address. Where there is addressing infrastructure, 80% of addresses in developing countries remain unverified.

When it comes to addresses, globally, there is a wide variance in addressing formats. In Indonesia for instance, addresses are often landmark-based and descriptive like “the store is across the yellow house.”  Addressing systems in India are complex and completely non-standardized, while administrative boundaries and names of localities/roads change regularly. This makes digital mapping and maintaining a reliable addressing database very challenging. Very often, residents use completely different road/locality names from the official postal address. Moving from the first-tier to second-and third-tier cities, the discrepancies become more and more prominent, increasing the challenges for retailers and last-mile providers to complete the order in time.

The Future of Maps is Hyperlocal and Hyper-contextual

The next evolution of maps moves the attention from well-known places to the unknown, unmapped, and more complex regions of the world. This, with a hyperlocal focus and capabilities to capture hyperlocal data and bind it to specific geolocations in a contextual manner.

At UNL, we think about locations differently and took a hyperlocal-first approach to solve some of the biggest challenges in the accuracy of mapping, addressing, and routing. Inspired by gaming principles, we created a next-generation mapping and micro-location technology and platform. We pixelized the world in a 3D smart grid to digitize physical locations and create an infrastructure to interact with them via unique, verifiable digital addresses – UNL geoIDs. On the ground, indoors or up in elevation, UNL geoIDs can address locations with a micro-precision of up to 1x1cm².

UNL geocells represent micro-databases that can store hyperlocal data and be enriched with context. Cells are in continuous communication with their neighbours without the need for human intervention, essentially forming a distributed database.  Our distributed cell-based database allows us to establish the right semantics between cells and create space and time relationships between landmarks. All data updates are published on the map in real-time and embedded in UNL Semantic Search Engine and UNL Router.

The Future of Maps is Data Agnostic

Making maps is not the most difficult part. Keeping maps up to date is the real challenge. In emerging and fast-developing economies like India, location data is dynamic and changes every day, every hour and sometimes every minute. Aggregating big quantities of POI data is not sufficient, it is really about the quality of that data and the speed at which maps get updated.

Each market comes with its unique challenges when it comes to infrastructure, addressing systems and local standards. Achieving a hyperlocal level of accuracy and relevance of maps and location data can be too resource-, asset-, tech- and labour-heavy for a single mapping provider to guarantee. The only way to do that is to make maps distributed decentralized and hyperlocal. Establishing collaboration of all local stakeholders to contribute to these maps.

With UNL, we give companies the tools to create and manage their own Virtual Private Maps with just a click of a button and securely bring their own data and business knowledge. UNL Platform is designed to be data agnostic. This approach empowers enterprise users with a choice of data providers at different geographic levels and brings an additional layer of flexibility, local context, and accuracy to location-based solutions like last-mile delivery and eCommerce.

Data autonomy and ownership are core to UNL’s philosophy and values since day 1. Any data our clients bring remains under their control and ownership and can manage data access rights.

The Future of Maps is Dynamic and Self-Healing

Due to the wide variety and ambiguity in addressing systems, a standard off-the-shelf geocoding solution is not sufficient to solve the last-mile accuracy challenges in emerging markets. Geocoding needs to go hyperlocal and continuously learn and train itself as per the addressing standards and trends.

At UNL, we are building a “living geocoder” designed for continuous improvement, which can train itself with address and location data to derive higher coverage and accuracy on an ongoing basis. With our Virtual Private Map approach and close collaboration with the customer, we are creating a unique feedback loop mechanism to consistently improve geocoding accuracy across regions.

Accurate geocodes translate to fewer failed deliveries, fewer miles per delivery, less time needed to locate addresses, lower operational costs, and improved route optimization.

How can eCommerce and Last-Mile Companies tap into these Capabilities?

Via the UNL do-it-yourself Platform companies of various sizes of operation — SMEs and bigger businesses – can create their own Virtual Private Maps with just a click of a button and tap into the UNL suite of plug-and-play mapping, geocoding, search, routing and data management APIs, SDKs, and plug-ins.

UNL Platform supports any kind of integration scenario and companies can choose how to interact with our technology depending on their business context – build directly with or integrate with existing solutions via standardized APIs and SDKs; tap into the capabilities of our UNL Studio – which is a powerful visual private map editor; or get off-the-shelf applications (no coding to start) from the soon-to-launch UNL mAppStore.