Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In Just 48 Months

People who skipped over a recent post entitled 7 Truths may not have realized that they pertain to the spectacular shift Americans have made in how they access information while on the road.

Take maps for instance.  By far, the way Americans now access maps is online, and according to a survey, 90% do it on the go via a smartphone where they are useful not only for navigation but to pinpoint travel services such as restaurants, lodging and fueling stations.

According to Michelin, which has produced old fashioned static paper maps and guides for more than 100 years, 39% of Americans still keep one in the car as back up.

Less than 2% apparently continue to use roadside billboards.

Although these days, my back up to GPS is a “large print” AAA map, I still have a 1967 Michelin map of France from my first passenger airplane trip of any kind when I had just turned 19 years old.

That is also the year before Michelin started publishing maps and guides for destinations in the United States.

North Carolina first published a state highway map in 1916 when federal aid became available, and then annually or every other year since 1924.  The 1930 edition even showed motorists how to do hand signals for stopping and turning.

The first one printed in color was the 1936 edition, which included a guide to what were then considered the state’s major attractions (shown in the image below,) one of which was in Durham.

Of course settlements had been mapped here beginning in 1590.

It wasn’t until three years after I arrived in North Carolina to officially jumpstart visitor-centric economic and cultural development for Durham in 1989, that city and regional insets began to be added to the state map.

That was the year the World-Wide Web (WWW) was created to enable onramps to the Internet.  By the time the state map added those city insets, the first online maps were created by the Xerox innovation lab, PARC (Palo Alto Research Center.)

By 1994 when we began the shift to moving all Durham information to that platform, Canada and Scotland had put their entire atlases there, the latter being the first interactive maps.

Our organization was one of the first in the nation to incorporate the responsibility to determine or relay “impedance” data to online map companies.  This is what permitted these maps to recognize one-way streets and navigational turns.

Whenever your GPS misleads you - and 63% of us have had that happen - don’t blame online maps, blame the community and/or state that has neglected to update its data which is even more contaminating to static paper maps.

Even venerable Michelin is going online.

Most Americans first learned about online maps through MapQuest beginning in about 1996 but codes written and adapted by that company go back to its origins in the 1980s.

Then along came Google Maps in 2005 built on that company’s acquisition of the work of two Danish brothers in Sydney.

Apple launched the first iPhone less than 24 months later, although smartphones had been conceptualized in 1971, just before I graduated from BYU, and were offered for sale in 1993, on the heels of that first digital map created by Xerox.

Adoption of smartphones by Americans has been at a blinding rate of speed.  From just 35% four years ago, the fraction of Americans now using a smartphone has reached two-thirds, 75% of all mobile device users.

This means that within just 48 months, the percentage using these devices flip flopped to the percentage not using them.  The aftershocks of this seismic shift are just now becoming apparent.

And its substitution by users as the primary means of navigating to businesses as well as learning about new products has been even faster.

Smartphones are also the primary or only means for nearly 1-in-5 Americans to access the Internet including 13% of those making less than $30,000 per year.

Half of smartphone users have their devices to access help in emergency situations and 17% to report neighborhood problems.

Marketers, as a group, can be extremely slow to shift gears with a few even still using roadside billboards, earning a reputation for desecration marketing.

But laggards notwithstanding, it appears that devices such as these have already becoming the salvation for restoration of scenic character along our roadsides.

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