Can web3 come for Google Maps? Interview w/ Hivemapper CEO
- Google Maps is the latest centralised service under attack from web3
- Hivemapper is a decentralised version of Google Maps, which pays drivers in crypto to build the map
- We interview their CEO to get clarity on their plan
There are all sorts of wacky applications in the web3 space.
Some have real use cases, exciting projects with ambitious goals. Others have minimal purpose, launched amid a surging bull market that propelled anything crypto-related to unimaginable heights.
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Today I look at Hivemapper, a rather novel protocol which believes it has uncovered a niche in the market. They are coming for the world of maps, building an alternative that is outside the realm of centralised companies like Google.
With Hivemapper, the concept is that anybody can contribute to building the map, with drivers purchasing cameras that contribute street-level imagery. In return, these drivers get paid in the native token of the platform, HONEY. In such a way, the entire thing is decentralised and continuously updating (if the drivers play their part).
Hivemapper argues that Google maps does not update fast enough, while its coverage is not as good outside the big cities – something Hivemapper believes it can improve upon via its driver-built coverage.
Naturally, I had some questions, and interviewed CEO Ariel Seidman to get the answers.
Dan Ashmore, Invezz (DA): What is the advantage of a community-driven map? Why would people use this map over, say, Google maps?
Ariel Seidman, Hivemapper CEO (AS): Hivemapper is a new way to map and mine crypto. Maps are a critical part of today’s world economy and technology infrastructure. Yet today, only a handful of the biggest technology companies control them. Hivemapper seeks to create a community-driven global map that is built by all and accessible to all.
The key benefits of Hivemapper include the fact that it provides a map that is constantly refreshed and provides better coverage than its competitors, the ability it provides to passively earn cryptocurrency in exchange for collecting street-level imagery with a dashcam, and the fact that the community is helping build real-world mapping infrastructures while maintaining data privacy.
DA: Speaking of Google Maps, you note one of the advantages is that the map is updated every weekly, rather than every couple of years as per Google. As someone used to using Google maps, I can’t remember many times when it being out of date caused me problems – can you please elaborate on how weekly is a significant advantage?
AS: The ability to consistently update your neighbourhood changes the entire concept of a global map. For example, if road works are taking place for a long period of time, our map would indicate areas of congestion due to that specific situation. This type of nearly-to-the-minute update will change the way in which we make decisions about where and how we travel.
Currently, one of the largest global maps in the world has 500,000 known issues for which they require imagery to verify and update the map. Imagine all the unknown issues.
Additionally, while existing maps may be good in places like New York, LA, and San Francisco; once you get to smaller cities and outside the US the quality of maps degrades quickly. Google’s approach is an expensive one that works reasonably well in places like LA but not so much in places like Manila and Lagos.
Finally, the EU will require all new automobiles sold to include speed warnings in the car. That means that the maps of speed signs must be incredibly accurate and fresh to be able to support that requirement. The notion of updating a map every year or two does not work anymore.
DA: Taking power away from massive multinationals is an admirable goal. However, pulling it off is another matter – how do you plan on encouraging people to use Hivemapper rather than established brands?
AS: We have a series of exciting partnerships in the pipeline that will be essential in driving growth. We also believe the incentive to earn will be strong enough to bring non-crypto natives to web3.
DA: Is it intimidating launching a token into this market, where seemingly every cryptocurrency has printed highly negative returns since the start of the year?
AS: We actually prefer this kind of market. We are long-term builders, so what is happening in the past few quarters has actually eliminated lots of needless noise from tech and crypto tourists. The folks like us who are here building something that will take many years like a decentralized global map are unbothered by the current market conditions.
DA: Where do the HONEY tokens come from that pay the drivers who drive around and map?
AS: The Mapping Network Foundation mints these tokens initially to reward contributors. By rewarding contributors with HONEY tokens it helps address the chicken or egg problem of a global map. Additionally, when customers use the map data, that mints new tokens through a system called the burn and mint.
DA: If the price of HONEY falls, do you foresee less driving (because the HONEY tokens earned will be worth less and hence lower incentive) and therefore will the map update less frequently during a bear market than a bull market?
AS: It’s a good question and something we think about. The dashcam was designed to fit into people’s existing lives and be useful to them regardless of crypto market fluctuations. As you may know, many professional and gig drivers for Uber/Lyft already use dashcams for security and insurance purposes. So, as a dual-purpose device there is still underlying utility in the dashcam, regardless of whether the markets are up or down.