How Satellite Navigation Maps are Created

Posted on July 2, 2012


Satellite navigation maps are a great part of our lives: applications on our smartphones, devices in our cars, websites that offer directions to and from different locations.  We’ve become so accustomed to the accurate navigation that these maps provide that we often disregard the effort that goes into creating them.  MarketMAPS takes a look at an article recently published by, examining the process of producing ‘satnav’ maps. 


Companies make an extraordinary effort to create and update their satellite navigation maps.  They continually verify the accuracy of their products and have recently begun to include real-time traffic data to spare drivers from hours of sitting in traffic jams.  Yet, not all navigation maps are created equal.  In his article in, Jonathan Bray states that “maps can differ greatly from one provider to another.”

Bray’s article explains that, in theUK, the “two main sources of digital mapping in use by satnavs are Tele Atlas (owned by TomTom) and Nokia (previously Navteq). Then there’s Google and the open source, user-generated OpenStreetMap. The manner in which these companies create and maintain their maps varies enormously.”

Bray goes on to point out that “modern digital maps aren’t simply lines and icons displayed on a screen; they’re billions of vector points plotted in geographical space, supplemented by an enormous volume of metadata, specifying factors such as road width, speed limits, height and weight restrictions, house numbers, and even the camber and surface type of a road.”

As a publisher of digital and physical maps, we at MarketMAPS can attest to the large amount of data that modern maps contain.

Each mapping data company has its own methods for data collection, and these range greatly.


Nokia has a fleet of its own cars trawling road networks, slowly improving existing data. These cars not only have a GPS tracking system on board to record co-ordinates, but eight high-resolution still image cameras – three on the front and rear, and one on each side – to produce Street View-style imagery.


According to TomTom’s estimates, there are around 60 million TomTom devices on the road across the world, all capable of sending data back to HQ.  TomTom has based a large part of its mapping effort on processing and verifying data to keep its database up to date.



It may not seem like it, but Google hasn’t been in the mapping game all that long. Maps only got going in 2004, when it bought the Sydney-based company Where 2 Technologies.  Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength, now covering the whole world. It offers free online-generated, voice-guided satnav to Android smartphone owners in many countries, along with a truckload of extra services, from Street View to venue maps of airports and sports stadia.


Founded in 2004 bySteveCoast, who now works for Microsoft’s Bing Maps, OSM aimed to create an editable map of the world using techniques pioneered by Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia. Using a combination of GPS traces from satnav devices, local knowledge and other sources of cartographic information such as satellite imagery, any user with a net connection can edit or add to the OSM database.


The future looks bright for mapping companies.  Maps are becoming increasingly innovative, adding enriched data, and live traffic information.  Car manufacturers should also keep the commercial map makers in business.  Almost every new model car includes some form of GPS navigation and, in the very near future, it looks as though the new ‘driverless’ cars may be navigated by this very same mapping technology.

Mapping technology is changing rapidly and map applications are growing.  Luckily, MarketMAPS is adaptable.  Our mapping data comes from the top providers (some of who are mentioned above) and we update our data as often as every month.  Employing the latest data and using the most precise information is important for both businesses and consumers.  MarketMAPS products combine detail with visual appeal to fulfill a variety of needs.  Whether you need the most up-to-date digital maps for classroom use, or an accurate wall map to plan delivery routes and target direct mail, MarketMAPS has the solution for you.

Contact MarketMAPS today and discover how our accurate, up-to-date mapping data can help you.

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