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Behind the scenes, tech firms mapping the world

by Staff Writers
Las Vegas, Nevada (AFP) Jan 11, 2008
Two firms are racing to map the world as the Internet goes increasingly mobile with ever more sophisticated gadgets for people on the move.

Netherlands-based Tele Atlas and Navteq, which has a US headquarters, crisscross countries around the world to gather information about what is where and how to drive to it.

The data they stockpile turns up in mapping services offered by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, as the Internet titans expand "location-based" features far beyond simply providing directions to travelers.

"We're mapping the world," John Bates of Tele Atlas told AFP. "In 3-D."

A Tele Atlas minivan with eight rooftop cameras and a laser sensor was in a sea of mobile phones, personal navigation devices, and Internet-linked gizmos at the Consumer Electronics Show that ended Thursday.

The cameras record a 360-degree view, making note of traffic signs and posted speed limits, while the laser makes detailed scans building facades and sizes.

A global positioning satellite unit in the vehicle tracks its location to within a meter.

"People think I'm from another planet," said Greg Russo, who spent the previous eight months alone on the road in the minivan.

"It's not a low profile vehicle."

Tele Atlas's global fleet has mapped more than 205 countries and territories, according to company spokeswoman Erin Delaney.

"I talk to myself a lot," Russo quipped as he stood next to the minivan. "I get a lot of hotel stay credits, but convert them right away to airline miles because I don't want to be driving anywhere on vacation."

Tele Atlas and Naviteq augment information obtained from their specially-equipped fleets with data from satellites, public records, government agencies and anywhere else with reliable facts about roadways.

Tele Atlas is now making three-dimensional digital recreations of the world's major cities.

Mio Technology Corporation used CES to showcase a new in-car navigation system with realistic Tele Atlas 3-D maps of European cities and landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Rome's Coliseum.

"Eventually, I'm sure, the whole world in 3-D will be online," Delaney said. "You'll never have to leave your house, although I think it's better if you do."

Data compiled by the companies promises to merge with innovations in mobile devices and software applications to offer drivers conveniences such as finding out nearby gasoline prices or available parking spaces in real time.

Trucking companies already use information from the companies to determine the cheapest or fastest routes to destinations, taking into account how the road slopes will affect mileage.

Navteq has more than 700 analysts collecting, verifying and updating the more than 12.4 million miles (20 million kilometers) of logged roadway from 72 countries.

Strange street signs noticed by Navteq road warriors include "Nudity Not Prohibited" in the United States and "Irish Crossing" in Saudi Arabia.

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NOAA To Ensure Global Navigation Satellite System Accuracy
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 07, 2008
NOAA will lead an international effort to pinpoint the locations of more than 40 global positioning satellites in Earth orbit, which is vital to ensuring the accuracy of GPS data that millions worldwide rely upon every day for safe navigation and commerce.

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