#geomob BCN is born

Last week I hopped on a plane to Barcelona to hang out with my pal Ed Freyfogle, strategise about the development of his OpenCage Geocoder business (where I am an advisor) and to support him at the launch of geomob in Barcelona.

Barcelona is an awesome city with great food, wonderful walks, beautiful buildings and of course the beach, but I think it is fair to say that the tech scene in general and the geo scene in particular are not as well developed as they are in London. So we were uncertain as to how many people would turn up for the first geomob BCN, in fact before we left for the venue we were “managing expectations” – 20/25 would be good for a first meeting – no worries expectations were blown out of the water.

At 6pm the room looked pretty large and setting out chairs for about 35-40 people seems optimistic, by 6.30 the room was pretty full and a few minutes late we were off and running. I got my 15 seconds of fame early on as one of the sponsors of the event via my Maps in the Wild project, unfortunately my exquisitely crafted slides had not made it into the final version of the decks that Ed had on his laptop so I had to improvise.

Next up was Ed talking about OpenCage and how they supported OSM. If you need a meta-geocoder that is based on open data and uses multiple sources to deliver the best results in reverse and forward geocoding, you should have a look at OpenCage. There were no good pics of Ed speaking so here is one I took the morning after when we were walking and plotting future geomob events and activities.

Next up was Alexis Battle of Avuxi, who’s Top Places service is having a big impact on travel booking web sites. I met Alexis and his team a couple of years ago when I was in Barcelona and it is impressive to see how far their business has developed and the range of customers they now serve. They are making headway in analysing sentiment in social media feeds and linking this to location, you will hear more about these guys.

Third up was Carla Coll of gotakimaps – I don’t know whether it was a language thing (all the speakers spoke in English which mainly wasn’t their first language) but I didn’t really understand what these guys were doing. Here is what their Crunchbase entry says:

Gotaki Maps is building a decentralized map solution in the Ethereum block chain. Map solutions such as Google Maps and Mapbox are expensive for companies, collect data from users and are centralized. Through state-of-the-art technologies such as Plasma and delegated Proof-of-Stake, the Gotaki Maps network will provide more effective maps for businesses and applications. Network users can contribute to the network and offset their map costs.

Got to admire their ambition!

Next up was Xavi Ruiz, founder of SmartMonkey. They focus on optimising logistics for the last mile of deliveries (local couriers and distributors) using some AI (of course!) to learn from failed deliveries and preferences to ensure the maximum number of completed deliveries. I had some concerns about the privacy risks of this service but perhaps I misunderstood what they were doing with personal data.

I like a slide that asks “Where’s the money?”

Last up was David Santos, an engineer at Badi who are a star of the Barcelona tech scene and have a neat offer for flat share searchers and renters, sort of long term AirBnB. David talked about the challenges they had with geocoding, why they had gone with Google and why they had then moved to OpenCage. The moment that was greeted with gasps and laughs was when David showed the impact of Google’s price changes on their business model.

They switched pretty rapidly to using OpenCage after that!

And so the serious part of geomob was over, we finished with about 50 people crammed into the room and it was literally standing room only. Then it was time for the traditional geomob drinks at a local hostelry, the staff struggled a bit with the concept of running a tab but it didn’t stop us drinking plenty of beer, chatting maps and stuff, meeting new people and generally having a good time.

The first geomob BCN was a great success. There are already four speakers lined up for the next event in April, if you want to speak at a geomob BCN or a geomob LDN send a message to Ed.

Oh, you remember that global domination tweet above? Look out for some new activity from geomob over the next few months.