Hivemapper Deep Dive: How Decentralized Maps Pave the Way for Community-owned Products

Hivemapper Deep Dive: How Decentralized Maps Pave the Way for Community-owned Products

Written by
Ethan Wei
Date published
April 16, 2023

The $300B maps industry is being disrupted by¬†@Hivemapper.Their approach? Enlist the help of thousands of drivers.And while they haven't caught up to Google yet, their journey and goals are important to highlight.Here's everything you need to know ūüĎá

1/ First, let's understand the maps industry.Though some companies (like @Google) create their own maps, most of the players in the space are regional startups and open-source projects.

2/ Why? Just take a look at this:


3/ To run the @googlemaps street view feature, @Google has to purchase many vehicles, cameras, and workers to chart out every road.In addition, street view is only valuable if the view is recently captured. So, @google has to revisit the same places every few years.

4/ It's hard for any company to build the infrastructure to map roads at the street level.Unless they have an existing fleet and enough capital to pay for gas/electricity and high quality cameras, it's impossible.

5/ Introducing: @Hivemapper.Seeing this inefficiency, @Hivemapper decided to decentralize the map-making process.Instead of using a few cars to chart places once, they rely on the community to consistently provide updated street view images.

6/ The maps industry is ripe for decentralization. Why?Community contribution has a high upside and low barrier to entry.There are around 1.45 billion cars in the world, all ready to be used as mapping vehicles. In addition, mapping does not inconvenience the drivers at all.

7/ We've already seen open-source maps work.Take @waze, for example. They didn't necessarily create a new map, but they provide real-time traffic updates submitted by other "Wazers."Without any financial incentive, this community created a public good.


8/ We've also seen the demand for transportation-based income.@Uber and @lyft lowered the barrier-to-entry for drivers, allowing almost anyone to make money driving others.Previously, they needed to spent thousands on a taxicab medallion. But now, it became a viable side job.

9/ These two market trends give rise to @Hivemapper.People want to make money while driving and are willing to contribute to open-source maps. Why not merge the two?

10/ @Hivemapper's process is simple: get their dashcam, map while driving, and earn tokens in the process.The only investment by the user is the dashcam itself. There is little to no time investment and a high financial upside, making users eager to join.


11/ So how does @Hivemapper disrupt the mapping industry? Let's do some quick math.Each one of @Google's vehicles costs around $500,000. A @Hivemapper sensor costs $500.@Hivemapper can add 1000 mapping vehicles for the cost of 1 @Google vehicle.

12/ The problem is, most people drive the same routes everyday.But some people don't. Garbage truck drivers, delivery drivers, rideshare drivers ‚ÄĒ¬†those are¬†@Hivemapper's ideal users.

13/ In addition, having multiple users capture the same street is also valuable.This makes @Hivemapper's maps better than the rest, since they're constantly being updated in real time. @googlemaps only takes pictures of the same street once every few years.

14/ So, how do you earn money?You're rewarded with some number of $HONEY tokens for your contributions. Then, when companies pay @Hivemapper to use the map, they burn a proportional amount of tokens.In theory, that means the price of $HONEY should stay pretty stable.

15/ In practice, there hasn't been enough demand for $HONEY to be completely stable.I've seen reports of people making anywhere from $20 to $750 a week. Since the token price is connected to the amount of customers @Hivemapper has, the value will likely increase with time.

16/ Even the token compensation is not all equal.Depending on your location, video quality, and how much you drive, you can earn vastly different amounts of $HONEY week to week.Here's a quick calculator for you:

17/ So, how far along is @Hivemapper?Users have steadily grown to almost 12,000 contributors.That includes a mix of drivers, quality assurance checkers, and data users. The quick growth between February and March was when @Hivemapper announced their transition to @solana.


18/ We're also seeing promising growth signs in the number of unique kilometers mapped and the number of network transactions.Both seem to be nearing exponential growth. This makes sense, since more contributors will make the product more thorough and therefore more valuable.


19/ Still, @Hivemapper is a long way from being a market leader.@googlemaps took 12 years to collect 16.1 million kilometers of unique road data. Still, that is around 10x more than what @Hivemapper currently has.

20/ That being said, @Hivemapper is much more scalable than @googlemaps ever was.As users map more roads, their maps gain value. This attracts more companies to pay for map usage, driving up the price of $HONEY. This encourages more users to join, creating a new cycle.


21/ Currently, the bulk of @Hivemapper contributors come from North America and Europe.This is probably because the cost of the sensor is relatively high, and could be a significant financial burden in countries with a lower cost of living.

22/ There is also a location-based multiplier for $HONEY that pays more in large cities.I believe that the team is prioritizing comprehensive maps for urban regions first, which will quickly make their product more valuable.Then, they'll focus on underserved regions.

23/ And don't think @Hivemapper is stopping at street maps. This is what I found on their website about their future goals:


24/ Hivemapper is just one of many examples of DePIN ‚ÄĒ¬†decentralized physical infrastructure networks. For a more thorough breakdown of the sector, read this thread by¬†@rivfields.¬†

25/ I'm seeing in DePIN what I hope to see with blockchain as a whole: community ownership.With a little buy-in, people can have a stake in a powerful movement.

26/ The rise of decentralization has made it difficult for big corporations to maintain their competitive edge solely based on their vast resources. Now, anyone with a good idea can quickly overcome those barriers.

27/ Between @Hivemapper, @DIMO_Network, and @peaqnetwork, I'm seeing a lot happening in this space. And unlike many blockchain projects, they seem to provide value beyond simply being "blockchain-based."These applications could be the onramp for a wave of web3 users.

28/ Lastly, a big thank you to @nonieengel and @jetherean27 for their feedback and edits!

29/ Interested in reading more content from the @chapterone researchers?Check out the Chapter One Research Twitter List!