You might follow Google Maps while driving in your car, but what happens when you enter a building and still need to get exactly where you’re going? This is what GoodMaps is there for: navigating the indoor world. Their highly accurate indoor mapping technology is helpful for everyone, including those who are visually impaired—and together with accurate positioning it has the potential to be used for tracking assets in a space, for robotics, and so much more. We asked a few questions to the CEO and co-founder of GoodMaps, Jose Gaztambide, to help spread the word about this Keyhorse-backed company’s origin story and mission.
How did you become interested in accessibility and maps?
JG: This journey really began at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), a Louisville nonprofit focused on blindness that has been around for almost 170 years. They wanted to tackle accessible navigation, helping people who are blind or low vision get around independently. When we launched the company, the first thing we realized was that the indoor world was almost completely unmapped! For how much most of us rely on Google Maps or Apple Maps, those navigation experiences universally end when you arrive at your destination, yet the journey isn’t yet complete!
What inspired you to start GoodMaps?
JG: We started GoodMaps because we saw immense potential, both socially and economically, in mapping the indoors. For GoodMaps and APH, our initial focus was on blindness and navigation, but there is so much more than can be done with a good map and accurate positioning: navigation that is universally accessible, mapping data for first responders, a better understanding for how spaces are used, mobile asset tracking and monitoring, robotics, and more. We’re obsessed with harnessing the power of maps and bringing those experiences to life.
This is an exciting period for indoor mapping. Right now we are in a bit of a land grab: with so few buildings actually mapped but the technology making mapping more obtainable, we are all battling to get into these spaces.
Tell us about your team: Who’s on it, and how did you meet?
JG: We’ve grown the GoodMaps team to over 20 passionate and incredible team members! Among the senior leadership we have Mike May, a prominent blind advocate who quite literally began the accessible navigation movement in this country over two and a half decades ago. He’s an incredible leader and advocate for change. Mike and I first met at an industry event in GoodMaps’ early days, and I think he was drawn to our vision for how we would tackle this longstanding problem.
Our CTO is Nicholas Karels, who joined us after 15 years at IBM. He brings an incredible range of top-notch management experience and focus on technical innovation. Nicholas and I met at a poker game, of all places!
Finally our Chief of Staff, Evelyn Tichenor, is the glue that holds the team together and the heart and soul of the organization. She’s hard-working, kind, trustworthy, and an invaluable member of the team. Evelyn and I previously worked together at Interapt, and she was my first hire when we started the company.
Where do you see the mapping industry headed in the near future?
JG: This is an exciting period for indoor mapping. Right now we are in a bit of a landgrab: with so few buildings actually mapped but the technology making mapping more obtainable, we are all battling to get into these spaces. Once we begin approaching saturation, a period of consolidation is inevitable.
From a technology perspective, I see several focuses. First, bringing augmented reality or mixed reality experiences to life and supporting those experiences alongside your more traditional navigation journeys. Wearables and glasses are making a comeback after a bit of a rocky start, but all of the major technology giants are betting big on AR/MR. The second focus is leveraging artificial intelligence to both speed up the mapping process and bring an additional layer of granularity to the data contained within maps. Finally, ensuring that maps are updated on a continuous basis. Traditional maps are fundamentally a historical document. The question for all of us is how we can capture changes in the environment in something approximating real-time and reflect those for the user in the immediate term.
What does success look like to GoodMaps in the short term and long term?
JG: Our number one priority is growth. We believe we have solved a number of the most critical issues facing the indoor mapping and accessible navigation industries and want to put that technology in as many hands as possible. We are humbled and excited by the level of buy-in and commitment we’ve seen from large global players in retail, transit, healthcare, and government, and look forward to making some exciting announcements in the months to come.
Our second priority is to expand the use of this technology to as many people as possible. Our focus has traditionally been on people who are blind and low vision, but everyone deserves the opportunity to navigate their spaces with freedom, independence, and reduced anxiety. We’ll be broadening our supported experiences to include a sighted audience, a step-free navigation experience (for people who wish to avoid stairs or escalators), neuro-diverse users, aging populations, and more.