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MappedIn charts success with big U.S. deal

A startup that makes digital maps for big commercial buildings now counts one of the largest retail landlords in the United States among its clients.

MappedIn spent four months building the way-finding and 3D models for Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, which owns 210 properties, including 110 malls and 70 premium outlet malls. Simon is ranked as the second largest real estate investment trust in the U.S. by Bloomberg.

The Kitchener startup says Simon had just finished paying a consultant to complete a single 3D map of one mall. It did not like the product, which was expensive and difficult to change as stores opened, closed or expanded.

"So they figured out what we have always known, which is the biggest problem to solve when it comes to way-finding indoors, when it comes to mapping indoors, is maintainability," said Hongwei Liu, co-founder and chief executive officer of MappedIn.

The data and software tools developed by MappedIn make it easy to update information on its 3D models and digital maps across multiple platforms — smartphones, tablets, desktops and digital kiosks in the malls.

Access to the maps and models is tailored to a client's needs. MappedIn calls that "tiered access." A number of people, including store managers, facility managers and the mall's head of leasing, contribute to the maintenance of the 3D model and digital maps. That ensures the information stays current.

"Because bad data is worse than no data," Liu said. "You don't want a map that is wrong. I'd rather figure it out by hand."

Simon said usage of the new maps for its properties has exceeded the targets it set.

"Simon is continually looking for opportunities to enhance the shopping experience and we quickly recognized the potential of this new technology to do just that," Mikael Thygesen, the company's chief marketing officer, said in a news release.

It took MappedIn four months to build the 3D models and maps for Simon's malls.

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