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March 10 2011

Another attempt at fixing the address book problem

HiyaDup.pngOne of the major advantages of WhitePages' new contact app/service, Hiya, is tucked behind the scenes: the app mines WhitePages' database of 200 million listings to update phone numbers and addresses for a user's contacts.

Hiya can flag duplicate entries and suggest contacts who may need to update their information. (And people do not have to register for the service to update their details.)

Hiya also incorporates location awareness, but it's a variation on the location theme. Using the GPS on a user's device, the app pulls data on nearby addresses of contacts. The app does not show physical locations or check-in trails.

Many of the features in Hiya tie back to an online study that asked more than 2,000 adults to identify their frustrations with current contact management platforms (the "address book problem" is something we've covered for quite a while).

A press release announcing HIya highlighted the main issues:

The biggest problems people have with managing their contacts is keeping information up-to-date (48 percent) and compiling missing data (19 percent), followed by keeping contacts all in one place (17 percent). The pieces of information most frequently missing from people's main methods of storing contact data was physical addresses (40 percent) and birthdates (45 percent). Furthermore, 50 percent of those who store personal contact information indicated that they have duplicate contacts.

Hiya is available as an online service and a free iPhone app. Future contact support will tap Yahoo, Facebook, MSN Live, LinkedIn, and CSV files. Integration with Outlook, Android, and Blackberry is planned for later this year.

Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco 2011, being held March 28-31, will examine key pieces of the digital economy and the ways you can use important ideas for your own success.

Save 20% on registration with the code WEBSF11RAD

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January 27 2011

The "dying craft" of data on discs

To prepare for next week's Strata Conference, we're continuing our series of conversations with innovators working with big data and analytics. Today, we hear from Ian White, the CEO of Urban Mapping.

Mapfluence, one of Urban Mapping's products, is a spacial database platform that aggregates data from multiple sources to deliver geographic insights to clients. GIS services online are not a completely new idea, but White said the leading players haven't "risen to the occasion." That's left open some new opportunities, particularly at the lower end of the market. Whereas traditional GIS services still often deliver data by mailing out a CD-ROM or through proprietary client-server systems, Urban Mapping is one of several companies that have updated the model to work through the browser. Their key selling point, White said, is a wider range of licensing levels that allow it to support smaller clients as well as the larger ones.

Geographic data is increasingly free, but the value proposition for companies like Urban Mapping lies in the intelligence behind the data, and the organization that makes it accessible. "We're in a phase now where we're aggregating a lot of high-value data," White said. "The next phase is to offer tools to editorially say what you want."

Urban Mapping aims to provide the domain expertise on the demographic datasets it works with, freeing clients up to focus on the intelligence revealed by the data. "A developer might spend a lot of time looking through a data catalog to find a column name. If, for example, the developer is making an application for commercial real estate and they want demographic information, they might wonder which one of 1,500 different indicators they want." Delivering the right one is obviously of a higher value than delivering a list of all 1,500. "That saves an enormous amount of time."

To achieve those time savings, Urban Mapping considers the end users and their needs when they source data. As they design the architecture around it, they think about three layers: the design layer, the application layer, and the user interface layer atop that. "We look to understand the user's ultimate purpose and then work back from there," White said, as they organize tables, add metadata, and make sure data is accessible to technical and non-technical users efficiently.

"The notion of receiving a CD in the mail, opening it, reading the manual, it's kind of a dying craft," White said. "It's unfortunate that a lot of companies have built processes around having people on staff to do this kind of work. We can effectively allow those people to work in a higher-value area of the business."

You'll find the full interview in the following video:

Strata: Making Data Work, being held Feb. 1-3, 2011 in Santa Clara, Calif., will focus on the business and practice of data. The conference will provide three days of training, breakout sessions, and plenary discussions -- along with an Executive Summit, a Sponsor Pavilion, and other events showcasing the new data ecosystem.

Save 30% off registration with the code STR11RAD



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