Google Maps is surely the most accurate mapping service on sale now or ever made – even if I find its iPhone app palpably annoying to figure out – but as well as all its technology, it has people. Some drive those dinky cars you’ve seen. Others change the maps under their fingers.
It’s an example of just how much you can do when you have a lot, I mean a lot, of data gathered from everyone and everywhere around you.
The maps we use to navigate have come a long way in a short time. Since the ’90s we’ve gone from glove boxes stuffed with paper maps to floorboards littered with Mapquest printouts to mindlessly obeying Siri or her nameless Google counterpart.
The maps behind those voices are packed with far more data than most people realize. On a recent visit to Mountain View, I got a peek at how the Google Maps team assembles their maps and refines them with a combination of algorithms and meticulous manual labor—an effort they call Ground Truth. The project launched in 2008, but it was mostly kept under wraps until just a couple years ago. It continues to grow, now covering 51 countries, and algorithms are playing a bigger role in extracting information from satellite, aerial, and Street View imagery.
The Huge, Unseen Operation Behind the Accuracy of Google Maps – Greg Miller, Wired (8 December 2014)
Read the full piece for more.
I’ve noticed that whoever walks in to a supermarket at the same time as me is who will walk out at the same time too. We are driven around stores like machines, guided to what we want and where they want us to buy it, then kicked out as quickly and profitably as possible. I’m fascinated by how these stores work and so this article held me up this morning.
Once Dangler has set up his basic pricing rules, he’s ready to start testing out potential discounts and special offers to try and improve sales. He goes for an aggressive price cut on the own-brand natural yogurt, cutting the profit margin to a few pennies, and the volume of predicted sales balloons as a result. It turns out that people are really price-sensitive when buying cold desserts. Alas, a large proportion of the gains is offset by a drop in branded sales, meaning the idea would probably result in worsening relationships with suppliers in exchange for a modest increase in profits. We keep searching for the optimal solution, with every small change having an immediate trickle-down effect on related products. It’s like a chaos theory testing suite, with each price being a flap of a butterfly’s wings. The only thing missing is a button to make the system automatically optimize everything, you still need humans to input scenarios.
Along the way, I discover phenomena like asymmetric cross-price elasticity — an eight-pack’s price affects sales of four-packs more strongly than vice versa — and the fact that a “buy one, get one free” offer is more cost efficient than a straight 50 percent price cut (that’s because some people will still take just one).
You Priced This Milkshake – The Verge
Read the whole piece to find out who this Dangler is and how while this is an article about American supermarkets, it is featuring software owned by Tesco here in the UK.