Streetmap plans to conquer Europe

The online UK map service will cover the whole of Europe with driving directions this month

Streetmap, the online UK map service, is to launch a pocket service that covers the whole of Europe, with driving directions and links to GPS systems, for 50 euros per year. The service will be followed in September by a static Web version for a smaller subscription.

The subscription-based service will cover the whole of Europe, and will be more detailed than the existing UK map. It will include up-to-date traffic and accident information and local entertainment listings for the UK, according to the company.

The system includes details such as the direction of one-way streets and pedestrian routes, (obviously essential for driving instructions) and any speed limits -- indicated in red.

Maps will be based on information from Navigation Technologies (NavTech), provided as vectors and driving instructions. Streetmap has processed the information to turn the vectors into maps. Tiles are downloaded to the mobile device, cached and displayed when required.

The application was developed using Microsoft's .Net Compact Framework, which delivers applications for Pocket PC and Smartphone devices. It uses Active Templating as well as SOAP and XML, and can be exported to other applications as an ActiveX or other control.

Future versions will add a module for spoken directions, so drivers can use it while they keep their eyes on the road. The speech synthesis will be done by 20/20 Speech.

In September, Streetmap will launch a cheaper version for destktop systems, without the scrolling. Pricing was not released yet but "will be attractive", said Sutton. Users will be limited to 500 maps per year, but this should be plenty, she said, as most current users of the free site, average 108 maps per year.

Surprisingly, Streetmap consists of only two people, though Sutton says that at any given time they may be employeeing up to 50 freelancers working on tasks such as producing maps. It has also reached this position without any venture capital funding.

Streetmap, whose free Web site has been a runaway success for creators Kate Sutton and Penny Bamborough, currently delivers map information for the whole of the UK, searchable by map reference, street name or postcode. Turning over £250,00 per year, the six-year-old site is profitable.

"We set it up as something useful to put on the Web," said Sutton, at Microsoft's Tech Ed exhibition in Barcelona. "It began as a well-funded hobby, delivering London street information (from publisher Bartholomews) over a 64kbps leased line. The site now requires a £14,000 managed network service, and both women have left their former jobs to work on it full-time. The current service includes map information from Ordnance Survey as well as aerial photographs, and is funded by advertising.

"It grew and grew. It was viral marketing, but not planned," said Sutton. "You can't plan viral marketing. It either happens or it doesn't."

As part of their international expansion, the two have bought the domain streetmap.com for £157,000. Until recently, this pointed to rival Multimap.


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