Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox were prepared for the October 22,

2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Maps and Pizza

You wouldn’t think the pizza delivery business would

need to get too fancy. Pop the pie in the oven, don’t overcook the

cheese so it turns into rubber, and keep a driver waiting to speed

it to the hungry customer.

But the efficiency of the drivers, as it turns out, can turn an

enthusiastic

customer into a lukewarm one. If they get lost on the way to your

door, both your pie and your enthusiasm cool.

A Princeton Meadows-based software company, Maptext, has helped a

pizza chain to streamline its delivery. Maptext helped to transform

cartography by automating the placement of street names on maps —

a job that until recently was done laboriously by hand. Its first

contracts were with government agencies like the Census Bureau and

the Defense Department, and now it has moved into the retail market.

Its pizza client is Papa John’s, headquartered in Louisville,

Kentucky,

and with a company-owned store on Washington Road.

Papa John’s operates 2,800 restaurants in 49 states and 12

international

markets. For each restaurant it provides special maps, and it updates

these maps regularly. Maptext’s product, Label-EXT, makes the updating

easier and less expensive; it cut the time to finish each map from

six hours to 2 1/2 hours. "When you are making a high quality

map the software can do 90 percent of the labels," says Freeman.

"The rest get saved to a special file, and the mapmaker retrieves

those labels one at a time and places them." That’s still much

cheaper than placing them all by hand.

Based on each store’s information, Papa John’s provides drivers’ map

books that are divided into sectors based on geography and

neighborhoods

— noting, for instance, that a highway may be hard to cross at

a particular time. The pizza company brought the map-making chore

in house in January, 2001. "The use of Label-EZ has allowed us

to provide small street detail with labels on the market maps,

something

that we were not able to achieve in the past. This has made the maps

easier for our operations team to review and adjust the delivery

areas,"

says Patty Farris, Papa John’s international GIS manager. "We

started using Maptext hot and heavy in June, 2002. Maptext came down

and gave us two days of training, and now we create the maps you see

in the stores."

Maptext was founded in 1997 by Herbert Freeman, then a professor of

computer engineering at Rutgers University, to develop software for

automatically labeling such map features as roads, rivers, parks,

cities, and villages. No stranger to innovation, Freeman has the

distinction

of having helped design SPEEDAC, Sperry Corporation’s first digital

computer in 1953. The son of a German physician, Freeman immigrated

to the United States in 1938 at the age of 12. He received his

electrical

engineering degree from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and

his doctorate in electrical engineering from Columbia University.

He joined the department of electrical engineering at New York

University

in 1960 and was chairman of the department in 1968. He came to Rutgers

as a professor and served as director of the Center for Computer Aids

for Industrial Productivity until 1990.

In 1997 he moved the firm from his house to a 1,600-square-foot office

housing eight employees. Freeman admits he hasn’t been able to expand

his firm. In fact, until last year it didn’t show a real profit.

But he has had lots of contracts, including those with the U.S. Bureau

of the Census, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA),

providers

of maps to the Defense Department, and numerous state, county and

municipal agencies, mapping companies, and commercial organizations

requiring maps for business purposes. For a recent client,

Dallas-based

street guide publisher Mapsco, Maptext’s product halved the more than

500 hours needed to manually place 16,000 labels.

The latest version of Version 3.0, interfaces with a greater number

of GIS systems, and it has a companion software, Label-EditT. "All

control files can now be created via simple wizard-like auxiliary

programs, which also provide extensive error checking, increasing

reliability and reducing the learning curve for new users," says

Freeman.

Mapquest’s only competitor in the labeling field is ESRI, a much

larger

company in Redlands, California. ESRI has a portfolio that includes

a text placement component. So with such little competition, why

hasn’t

Mapquest grown more?

Partly because ESRI is the largest of the general mapping software

providers, says Freeman. Freeman’s product is compatible with every

mapping software, including that of ESRI, Intergraph in Huntsville

Alabama, Bentley Systems in Pennsylvania, MapInfo in Troy, New York,

and Caris in Canada.

Until 2002 all the profits had to be plowed into development. "I

think it’s too early to go public," says Freeman. For now, all

the programming is done in house, and the website advertises positions

for programmers (C, Visual C, Visual Basic, and C++) and sales people.

What he needs is good salespeople. "We all do some selling, but

that is one of our weaknesses. But we can sell by telephone, E-mail,

and presentations over the web," says Freeman, noting that they

have a client in New Zealand.

Says Freeman: "We are still in business, and we are slightly

profitable,

but it could it be better."

Maptext, 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 1025,

Plainsboro

08536. Herbert Freeman, president. 609-716-7552; fax, 609-716-7553.

Home page: www.maptext.com


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