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Grab takes on Google with in-house mapping solution it aims to bring to market

Grab takes on Google with an in-house mapping solution it aims to market. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

  • Currently, GrabMaps powers Grab services in seven of the eight countries in which it operates.
  • The amusement ride giant plans to be fully powered by its own mapping technology by the third quarter of this year.
  • It also plans to commercialize its technology, targeting Southeast Asian technology platforms, telecom operators, logistics companies, e-commerce platforms and even government agencies.

After almost six years of integrating third-party mapping and location services into its tops, Southeast Asia Superapp Grab Holdings has decided to go down the road of self-sufficiency with GrabMaps. The company has announced that it is venturing into the digital map business and expects to be fully powered by GrabMaps by the third quarter of this year.

The company, known for its ride-sharing services, uses its in-house map and location service in seven of the eight countries in which it operates, with Indonesia still to be moved later this year. The long-term plan with GrabMaps includes its commercialization for the benefit of Southeast Asian technology platforms, telecom operators, logistics companies, e-commerce platforms and even government agencies.

The new enterprise service, according to a statement from Grab, will enable the company to tap into the US$1 billion market opportunity in Southeast Asia each year. “First developed for in-house use, GrabMaps was created to meet Grab’s need for a more hyperlocal solution to power its services,” he said.

Year-over-year growth in Jakarta street imagery coverage on GrabMaps

Year-over-year growth in street image coverage in Jakarta on GrabMaps.

According to a report by Nikkei Asia, Grab started with OpenStreetMap, a crowdsourced database, as its base map in 2017 in addition to other third-party mapping and location services. “The company has since collected data on 33 million spots. This includes the data last-mile drivers need, from exact drop-off points at airports to the utility of narrow side streets,” the report notes.

Grab co-founder Tan Hooi Ling also pointed out that the company has always sought to develop innovative technology that meets Southeast Asia’s hyperlocal needs. “The narrow alleys and side streets common to Southeast Asian cities often don’t appear on conventional maps, but are traversed daily by our drivers and delivery partners. We have invested to turn this intelligence into a competitive advantage, enabling us to provide our users and partners with an excellent experience, while improving efficiency and cost savings for the business,” he added.

How will Grab request its mapping and location services?

For starters, the core benefit of GrabMaps is that it’s built on the principles of community mapping that leverages consumers, merchants, and Grab’s fleet of drivers and delivery partners. GrabMaps solutions are powered by fresh data from millions of orders and trips served daily, with real-time partner feedback on road closures, business address changes and more.

“Drivers and delivery partners also have the ability to contribute to our maps, collecting points of interest and other rich data such as street images, street names, street signs and more. for additional revenue. This gives GrabMaps an edge in accuracy, coverage, and freshness while being highly cost effective,” its statement read.

GrabMaps powering the great Grab app

GrabMaps powering the great Grab app. Source: Grab

That said, Grab’s geolocation manager Philipp Kandal believes that based on their track record, as well as the “unprecedented view” they have of Southeast Asia, the company is confident that GrabMaps can be the best mapping platform of choice for Southeast Asia.

“Based on the driver/deliveryman-partner allowances, ETA calculations, route planning to optimize costs and more, mapping technology and the underlying points of interest (POI) and route intelligence are essential to the majority of the basic functionality on which rely on platforms like Grab,” he added.

At this point, GrabMaps powers more than 800 billion API calls per month across a variety of Grab services, according to its statement. Based on a performance benchmarking study of GrabMaps against a leading third-party mapping provider, GrabMaps had a 4x lower error rate and 10x lower latency.

Internal data also shows that for countries that completely switched to GrabMaps, the ease of finding the right point of interest for transport bookings improved by three percentage points on average, while ETT accuracy improved by one percentage point at the regional level, with some countries registering improvements of up to 7.8 percentage points.

How will Grab mapping services meet business needs?

GrabMaps as a B2B solution will offer a few different services. First, their base map data would allow companies to license Grab data, such as locations, road and traffic, and images, benefiting from a new and rapidly growing map dataset in South Asia. Southeast with coverage from capitals to level 3 cities.

There are also map authoring tools and software as a service, an end-to-end stack that enterprise customers can leverage to create their own maps, anywhere in the world. “Grab’s proprietary mapping camera, Kartacam, was designed to adapt to emerging market conditions. It is less expensive while maintaining quality parity with conventional solutions. Kartacam is currently being tested by partner companies in Paris, Johannesburg, Dubai and Seattle,” Grab said.

The third services would be the Application Programming Interface (API) and Mobile Software Development Kits (SDKs) which Grab plans to launch later in 2022 and 2023 respectively. This will allow developers and teams to enhance or build their own location-based applications and capabilities by leveraging GrabMaps technology, such as Grab’s routing, search, traffic, and navigation features.