I delayed updating my iPhone 4s to iOS 6 as I had heard complaints about the new Maps app. Apparently Apple has created their own and gone away from the original Google Maps-based app. However, my compulsion to keep my software updated overruled my reluctance, and I upgraded and found it wasn’t that bad. The car-GPS-like directions are pretty cool, and I haven’t had some of the problems I had feared, such as lack of points of interest. I haven’t used it too much, so we’ll see how it works once I travel some more and use it in places I’m unfamiliar with to try to find things.
One problem I have noticed (that is a real howler IMHO) is the misidentification of a place that is fairly well-known and documented (see image at right). “East Patomic Park” is how it shows up in the new Maps app; right next to the “Potomac River.”
I’m really scratching my head how this could happen, as it’s not a new park – it’s spelled correctly on the USGS topographic map (image below) which was compiled in 1965 (and updated in 1983, though not the park). I thought most digital map data was taken from these sources as well as drawn from public map databases, such as those maintained by USGS, NOAA, Census and others.
For what it’s worth, here’s what the same area looks like in Google Maps (since I don’t have the old Maps app anymore):
So, what does this have to do with e-Navigation and ECDIS (the supposed topic of this blog, or this post, at least)? Well, I think it illustrates one of the main challenges that will be faced in the implementation of e-Navigation. One would think that relatively minor issues such as this would have been worked out by now – the locations haven’t changed in many years, electronic maps have been around for a couple of decades at least, and with the ability to cross check multiple data sources errors like this shouldn’t last long. But they still do, apparently.
This should cause concern for those who seek to implement e-Navigation. End users (navigators, VTS officers, dispatchers, regulators, etc.) need to rely on the information that is being presented to them. They way to do this is through a well-thought out data architecture that needs to include common data formats and identification of authoritative sources. The authoritative sources, or “data stewards,” need to ensure the data they are responsible for is correct and there is a means for flagging incorrect data and pushing updates in a prompt manner.
Much easier said than done, I know, but fortunately there are concerted efforts to tackle this problem. Internationally, the e-Navigation Architecture is a key part of IMO e-Navigation development. In the US, the Federal Initiative for Navigation Data Enhancement (FINDE) is working on US-specific data architecture efforts. This is the least “sexy” work there is in e-Navigation, however I contend it is the most important. Since the definition of e-Navigation is “harmonized [management and exchange] of navigation information,” the integrity of that information is of paramount importance.