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Ariel Seidman, CEO of Hivemapper, on DePIN, Decentralized Maps, and AI in Crypto | Ep. 341

Sead Fadilpašić
Last updated: | 4 min read

In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with Cryptonews Podcast, Ariel Seidman, the CEO and co-founder of the decentralized mapping community Hivemapper, discussed what led him from Yahoo to creating ‘the freshest’ map of the world where mappers get rewarded.

He talked about the differences between Google Maps and Hivemapper and how the latter works to surpass the tech giant.

Additionally, Seidman touched on the company’s key markets, the businesses that use its products, and how it plans to expand.

From Yahoo to a Hive of Mappers


Seidman said his time at Yahoo was very formative, as he learned how to build maps in detail.

Also, the competition between Yahoo and Google at that time was “pretty fun and fascinating.”

However, this was early 2000s, and building maps then was very different. The primary source of data was satellite imagery.

Google Street View came onto the scene in 2007, scaling and building its own maps over the following years. The fact that they gathered so much of their own data pulled it way ahead of Yahoo.

That was the time when Seidman realized how expensive it really was to build maps.

It wasn’t just collecting a tremendous amount of data but also processing it. And the work was not complete then. It’s never done, as the world is constantly changing.

Moreover, the iOS and Android smartphone revolution was a massive push in the mapping industry.

And yet, over the past decade or so, Google maps on our phones have looked pretty much the same, Seidman said.

The reason is that “there fundamentally isn’t a new large-scale data source.”

On the other hand, Hivemapper is introducing cameras everywhere, “constantly refreshing a city.”

Google Maps vs Hivemapper


Google Maps is ultimately limited in what it can offer its users, Seidman suggested.

It can, for example, provide an ETA but can’t say why there is a delay on a certain road. Therefore, users don’t have all the necessary information to make the best decision.

Also, as noted, things are always changing. This includes major physical changes, such as a construction popping up overnight, or important details, such as speed limits or weather situations.

The best way to be up to speed with all the developments is simply to have eyes everywhere.

Therefore, Hivemapper seeks to build a constantly fresh map.

Drivers can buy a dash cam from the company. This device is specifically optimized for mapping. People just drive around normally without having to think about the device.

This is how Hivemapper drivers have already mapped over 20% of the world. They’ve done this nearly four times faster than Google.

The imagery ultimately gets uploaded to Hivemapper, while the company also has an AI training platform.

“These people are effectively doing data labeling, so they’re helping us build the AI models that then extract out all of the relevant bits of information that we want from this imagery,” the CEO said.

Rewarded for Driving


Speaking of contributors, some 25,000 to 40,000 people weekly are helping build the map, Seidman said.

Importantly, all contributors – drivers and AI trainers alike – receive Honey tokens as a reward.

The amount depends on the location, as people in large and busy cities will earn more than those in small towns.

Another element is the uniqueness of the roads: frequently mapped roads will bring fewer tokens.

Additionally, the exterior mount will be more rewarding because of the better data quality.

When it comes to AI trainers, the people who play the more challenging games will earn more.

However, Seidman stressed that this is not a job and can’t be one. It doesn’t pay like a job. It’s “at best a hobby.”

Focused on Three Key Markets


Hivemapper serves three different markets, Seidman told Cryptonews.

These are:

  1. other businesses: going up against Google Maps and their API products, which are typically used by companies such as FedEx, Airbnb, Yelp, Lyft, etc.;
  2. autonomous driving: this includes both driverless taxies and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that are integrated into cars driven by people;
  3. consumer navigation: this will require more time as the team needs to add more layers to the map.

The last one is “really going head-to-head against the likes of the Waze or Google Maps on your phone,” Seidman said.

He added that the company has two data products currently. This is the area of the project that is still growing and maturing.

“They are great products for what we would refer to as higher-end customers. […] Customers that can spend half a million dollars, up to millions of dollars with us, and have a level of technical sophistication.”

The vast majority of the customers today are large organizations that fall into that category, Seidman said.

The next big challenge for the project, he added, is expanding the product offering to include more businesses.

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That’s not all.

In this interview, Seidman also discussed:

  • founding the location-based data collection firm Gigwalk;
  • Hivemapper mapping 20% of the world already, nearly 4X faster than Google;
  • building their own device/dash cam to enable frictionless mapping;
  • the difficulties of building digital maps;
  • the first days of Google vs. Yahoo maps in the early 2000s;
  • building AI models to train data and perform map QA;
  • DePIN – touching real markets and industries.

You can watch the full podcast episode here.

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About Ariel Seidman

Ariel Seidman is the CEO & Co-Founder of Hivemapper. This decentralized mapping community relies on a network of drivers, AI trainers, and advanced technologies to create the world’s map.

A seasoned expert in the field, Seidman began his journey over a decade ago at Yahoo! Search and Maps, where he gained experience in building maps at scale.

Prior to Hivemapper, he founded Gigwalk, a location-based data collection firm that transformed mobile devices into tools for data gathering. It earned recognition from Fast Company as a Top 10 Mobile Innovation Company.