What is a SplashMap?
A SplashMap is a map printed onto a fabric, and like its inspiration (the escape and evasion silk maps used in the second WW and distributed around the continent in Monopoly boxes) they are light-weight, durable, washable, wearable and ideal for the "real" outdoors of mud, wind, snow and rain... all the conditions that paper is not "cut-out" for. This is a fresh new market offering, never done before; uniquely based upon the best Ordnance Survey data and other Open Data Sources. We are able to tailor these maps to be the most usable outdoor maps ever for walking, riding, cycling, eventing or anything you could do in the real outdoors.
Where did the idea come from?
Fed up with Paper maps that became mush every time it rained, and not wanting to use laminated maps which are just too heavy and still need to be folded to perfection, I wanted to start a business that put the mapping information into people's hands as easily as possible.
Where did it go from there?
My friends and I set about making prototypes using Ordnance Survey Explorer range images. We were getting somewhere, but were then informed by the mapping agency that the image was not permitted to be printed onto anything but paper. This was a shock as we were headed for the walking season of 2012 for our launch.
By mid Summer, OS had changed their minds and said we could print on fabrics! Hurray (!). Season half finished... but perhaps we could just produce a few...
...But, hidden in this revised printing license there lived a "merchandising clause" prohibiting the use of any printed map material from being used as clothing!
No. Just because we can't use the traditional walking map is no reason to give up. Besides, as I road tested the prototypes with the NewForce Mountain Bike club it became clear there is too much clutter and too little distance covered on the usual 1:25 000 scale maps. And the 1: 50 000 didn't have enough detail! There was plenty of scope to make a much better map!
We decided to make our own unique map, based upon open data sources (which saves having to deal with the awful licensing agreements our civil servants dream-up). Because we were then making our own maps we could choose the ideal scales! For walkers, riders (bikes/ horses), sailors or anyone who covers a reasonable distance, 1:40 000 was the sweet-spot!
We combined OpenStreetMap volunteer data and the Ordnance Survey's Open Data to craft this unique map and developed a design whilst working with Kite and Sports clothing experts for materials.
It's a first!
Fabric maps have been around for centuries, but no-one has attempted to make one for todays hobbies. Probably most manufacturers believe GPS is taking over, but our research shows that people are tired of breakages on their GPS's. Our map needs no batteries, no expensive fixtures to fit it on your bike and can just be tied around your neck or stuffed in your shorts when not being read.
What's unique is that this is the first commercial solid-state map demonstration of how Open Data can unlock innovation; providing much easier ways of tailoring solutions and making ideal products for your target market.
Responses to the prototypes by Mountain Bikers, Horse Riders, Walkers and Retailers have all grown in enthusiasm as we close-in on a final design!
What are we doing?
We are developing the flowline for aggregating open data sources at our office and homes in Hampshire (that's in the UK). Printing and finishing of the product is also through UK businesses based in Hampshire and one other based in Lancashire. We've worked with these businesses to develop the best printing processes onto the most user friendly materials designed for outdoor use. Their specialism stems from the production of detailed design on kites and weatherproof sports clothing.
This project will help us get the map to a production stage for selected areas, set-up our on-line retail and energise our many and varied routes to market.
Risks and challenges
Significant challenges still exist;
1) Manufacturing costs limit margins - I am working with printers based in this country as we perfect the combination of colour pallet and material. For larger production runs we are already engaged with printers in Eastern Europe and China to mitigate this effect.
2) Funding - Cash-flow is an issue when starting up as the development has involved considerable sunk cost and the initial print runs are high cost. Your contribution is greatly appreciated!
- (30 days)