The winner of the UK Satellite Navigation Competition tells you how long will it take to get there, by any mode of transport

The next time you're looking for a place to buy or rent, will you choose it by the distance from where you work – or by the time it takes you to get to work by bus, train, tube or car? Most people actually want to choose by the latter. Now a British company called iGeolise is promising to commercialise that idea for all modes of transport – and expand it from the UK to Europe and the US.

Since this summer it has already helped TalkTalk decide where it ought to relocate its offices to – when it was considering moving a thousand employees – and a major high street store is considering offering it on its site to help web searchers find their nearest outlet, measured by time rather than the usual distance as the crow flies.

The market for such a service is growing: rival Mapumental offers time-based maps for travel on public transport.

But iGeolise has the momentum at present, having just won the UK Satellite Navigation Competition, organised by the University of Nottingham's GNSS Research and Applications Centre of Excellence, is poised to start offering location search services for all sorts of companies – and could come to the attention of mapping giants, including Google, Nokia and Apple, all of which have hundreds of millions of users.

"I would think those three would find it useful," says Peter Lilley, who co-founded the company along with Charlie Davis. "When you're looking to travel somewhere, your main consideration really isn't distance – it's time. And they don't offer that."

Though the satellite navigation systems of those companies will offer time estimates for road-based travel, iGeolise can calculate how long it will take to get somewhere if you need to take a train and then a bus, because it is now adding public transport timetables to its calculations.

Lilley offers an alternative scenario where he says Google Maps and others can't compete: "what if you've got an hour or two, and you want to find a particular sort of restaurant, but you have to get back to where you are. We can find places that are within a certain travel time, so you can organise yourself by the time you have available, not the physical distance." About 40% of searches online are for geographical content such as classified ads, jobs, retail outlets and so on, he says.

The output from iGeolise could be fed straight to a smartphone, he suggests, via the paid-for API the company is developing. While Mapumental also has an API under development, most users see its output in the form of rendered images on its web page. "There's a whole bunch of consumer-facing sites that could benefit from our output," says Lilley.

Lilley says a recent survey of consumers found 79% said they would rather search by time to a destination than distance – and that, when quizzed further, the other 21% said they thought distance was a "more accurate" measure, and that "time to destination" would be a rough estimate.

He adds that although the business is still small at present, with turnover heading towards £10,000 per month from "nine or 10" clients.

The company has not had any venture capital funding; instead Lilley and Davis have part-funded the business themselves, along with an unnamed angel investor, and funding of £55,000 from the Technology Strategy Board and £15,000 from Surrey University. "We could conceivably have taken [venture capital] funding," says Lilley, "but it would no longer be our business."

Guardian Media Group, which owns the Guardian, has used iGeolise once, to optimise the location for a conference.

Charles Arthur © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



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