What is Digital Mapping? (Uses, Tools, and Getting Started)

what is digital mapping

Kate Smaje, a senior partner at McKinsey notes that business leaders now take 10 days to accomplish what they would in 10 months. For first responders and business facility managers who spent the last year running successful businesses, it’s evident that today’s operations are increasingly becoming virtual, agile, and digital-centric. 

You’ve obviously learned something new about adapting to change swiftly, thanks to the pandemic. One of the latest innovations driving the success of most businesses today is digital mapping. But what is digital cartography or mapping in the first place? How do you get started with a digital mapping tool? Check out this introduction to digital mapping guide for more in-depth insight.

what is a digital mapping tool

What is a Digital Mapping Tool?

A digital mapping tool or software allows you to create geographical display data of your business location as an image on the computer screen. The tool comes with a GIS digital mapping system (Geographical Information Systems) that allows a geospatial analysis and visualization of a specific location. 

Typically, generating a digital or interactive map gives you an accurate representation of your facility, with details on points of intersections and road arteries. This enhances familiarity of the location during and off business hours for enhanced awareness and security.

history of digital mapping

The History of Digital Mapping

We can track the history of digital mapping by studying the evolution of cartography. Every region in the world had its way to cart maps and represent them as geographical data in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. However, cartography experienced a shift between the 1970s and 80s, when GIS became a reality. GIS systems came with digital screens for displaying geographical information, replacing the traditional paper cartography.

GPS came into existence during the Sputnik era. The US Department of Defense later advanced GPS technology to facilitate its military operations. Many people credit Eniro for introducing the world to the first digital map in 2003 and satellite images which came later in 2006. This digital map covered only three cities but expanded to 33 in 2008. 

Open street maps later originated in the UK through a government-powered ordinance survey that created multiple datasets. However, Yahoo became the first company to share geospatial data publicly in 2009. Google released its updated satellite imagery for use in mobile phones in 2007. 

Conventional Mapping Vs. Digital Mapping

From the definition of what is digital mapping, you can tell that it has many advantages over analog mapping at a glance. The digital version encompasses an electronic mapping system that combines graphic elements generated and processed naturally into digital cartographic data. 

Digital maps are better than paper maps due to these reasons.

  • Digital Maps Can Cover Any Area

You can create a digital map of any area, making it ideal for exploring unknown locations. Whether it’s a convention center, church, or mall, you can navigate the location with ease, thanks to the underlying GPS technology. 

  • Greater Accuracy

No paper map can give you greater accuracy than digital maps. Moreover, digital maps are up to date with emerging streets and landmarks. Alternatively, you can update your digital map remotely without incurring expensive costs. 

  • Intuitive and Interactive

Digital maps are easy to interact with for a better experience. For instance, the map responds instantly to selected click prompts. Even better, modern versions can respond to voice commands. 

  • Digital Maps Are Scalable

A paper map comes in one size. You can’t expand it to see your surroundings. On other hand, users can zoom in and out of a digital map to get better clarity of what they are looking for. You can even zoom into streets and road arteries. 

  • Less Storage Space

A digital map occupies less space than a conventional version, making it easy to carry and accessible from anywhere. 

  • Customize Information to Display

You can customize digital map data in a layered architecture, which is nigh impossible in analog maps. Moreover, you can turn the data on and off whenever you need to minimize visibility distraction. 

How to Make a Digital Map

There are two main ways of creating a digital map. You can use a free digital mapping tool or premium alternatives for indoor mapping. Either way, the process of creating your first digital map is more or less the same. Follow this process if you’re using free software:

  • Take photos and videos of your location
  • Convert them into PDF files and feed the system
  • Customize any categories
  • Import any new locations using spreadsheets
  • Customize how you want the map to display 3D buildings in your location and enjoy your digital cartography

The Benefits of Digital Mapping

Digital mapping is critical in modern business operations. Its benefits cut across bands, shoppers, and even the wider community. Here are some of them.

Business Benefits

Interactive maps are playing a vital role when it comes to passive advertising. All navigation tools for digital maps include vital business information, such as contact details, operational hours, and customer reviews. All these can stimulate sales when prospective buyers discover details about your business for the first time. You can also use digital cartography to conduct market research and identify viable locations before launching a product.  

Consumer Benefits

Including your business in digital maps can help consumers locate it quickly. This saves their travel time by showing directions and giving real-time insights into traffic congestion. Consumers will likely prefer your business every time they need to make a purchase.  

Benefits to the Society

A recent report by AlphaBeta indicates that the digital mapping services industry employs about 8 million people globally. Also, society members enjoy easier transportation by using digital maps to navigate alternative travel routes. Moreover, geospatial technology can alert people in case of disastrous emergencies, such as floods.

Digital Mapping is the New Old

Digital mapping helps businesses and consumers navigate what we could only access through paper cartography a few decades ago. Technology is always evolving and digital maps will feature more interactive tools in the future. Moreover, nearly every business now features in the local digital map of its locality. With this technology, you can also customize a digital map of your facility to enhance safety and easy movement.

Rich Ziccardi

About Rich Ziccardi

Mr. Richard Ziccardi is a financial professional with over thirty years of experience in Banking, Insurance and Investments with a business focus on financial products. During his working career, Mr. Ziccardi held various roles including, but not limited to: LOB Controller, Product Manager, Chief of Staff, CAO, and Global Head of Revenue and RFP Pricing. Most recently, Mr. Ziccardi spent 19 years at Bank of New York Mellon in Asset Servicing.