Spotlight on Drupa: locr

Spotlight on drupa 2Where does drupa take place? In Düsseldorf in Germany, of course – every four or five years since 1951. At its peak in 1990, there were 444,000 visitors. It is still the world’s largest printing equipment exhibition and expects to have about 300,000 visitors this year.

So why in Germany? Of course, again we know the answer. Germany has been the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of traditional printing equipment – first letterpress, then offset and also gravure. Names like Heidelberg, Manroland and Koenig & Bauer dominated the industry for many years, and despite the recent rapid growth of digital presses from American and Japanese manufacturers, the legacy of Germany’s dominance in printing hardware continues at drupa.

We easily associate Germany with the “heavy-metal” history of the industry, but let’s not overlook the softer side. In recent decades, workflow, standards and software have become increasingly important. German organisations and companies have been highly influential in the adoption of PDF, JDF and ISO standards across the industry globally. They have also contributed some well-known innovative software solutions.

There’s Cloud-based Software at drupa too …

DirectSmile_drupaTake DirectSmile from Berlin, for example. They burst upon the scene at drupa 2004 with their invention of image personalisation technology. Now a part of the giant EFI, DirectSmile continues to be a market leader in image personalisation, VDP and cross media software.

locr GmbH is yet another small German software company with an innovative technology. locr is based in Braunschweig, a medieval city with a hi-tech university, in Lower Saxony, somewhere between Düsseldorf and Berlin. They first exhibited at drupa in 2012 and have been a member of PODi since 2013.

locr_logoLike DirectSmile, locr creates personalised images – but images of maps, not names. Their maps are used in photobooks, travel guides, posters and especially direct mail. What makes them special is that locr can make thousands or even millions of maps which are all completely unique.

locr makes it easy to make maps

Schnitzer1482_mapPrinters have printed beautiful maps* ever since Gutenberg’s time. The visual appearance of maps may have evolved over the centuries, but the way in which the original cartographic data is collected has been revolutionised in recent years. Satellite photography, GPS, mobile phones and the Internet have transformed the accuracy, detail and usability of maps in ways undreamt of even just a few years ago.

locr has harnessed these new cartographic technologies to make maps for print easier to get and easier to use than ever before. Forward-thinking digital printers are already using locr personalised maps in web to print and VDP applications to add value for their customers. Let’s look at two of them – photobooks and direct mail.

Unique Maps in Photobooks

CEWE is Europe’s largest photobook printer with over 3,000 employees in 24 countries. They digitally print 6 million unique photobooks a year. Since 2011 CEWE customers have been able to add maps to popular travel and holiday themed photobooks at the click of a button, thanks to some rather smart technology from locr.

Most holiday snaps are now taken on smart phones. The phone’s GPS automatically embeds the precise geographical location into the image file as latitude and longitude co-ordinates.  When a user adds an image to a photobook that they are designing with the CEWE software it detects the geo-data and asks if they want a map to go with it.

CEWE_PhotobookWith one click, they can instantly see a map of the area around where the picture was taken and then add it to the photobook layout. They can choose the size, the area and even the style of the map – a street map of an urban area or one with coloured terrain for the countryside or mountains. Then in the background, a high quality, print-ready version of the map is created to place in the photobook.

The actual map image is instantly generated on-demand by locr’s cloud-based rendering engines from their cartographic database of the entire world. The map is unique because it simply did not exist until that moment. locr offers several styles of maps, emulating other popular map styles or showing the landscape in colours, as if seen from a satellite, and all at high resolution with precision detail.

locr provides a software programming interface so that any third-party solution or service can incorporate dynamically created maps into their products. Any web to print system, photobook service, or online print solution could offer maps in just the same way as CEWE.

Personalised Maps for Direct Mail

Four other companies that already have integrations with locr for a very different application are HP, XMPie, DirectSmile and GMC. For them it’s the potential of unique, personalised maps for direct mail that excites their customers. Personalised maps and related geo-data services for marketing applications are locr’s main product focus.

locr creates maps from the ordinary addresses in customer data files used for direct mail. They can make a personalised map for each recipient based on their home or business location. The maps can show routes, like Google Maps can, from the customer’s address to a nearby destination such as a retail store, school, hospital or sporting venue – anywhere, in fact, that the marketer wants to promote using direct mail. The maps can show the destination with customised icons such as a brand logo and each one is individually scaled with just the right level of detail so that the recipient’s location and the destination are highlighted.

The technology to generate the maps is cloud-based and highly scalable so that any quantity, even millions, can be produced in a matter of hours. They are typically 300dpi jpg image files, all uniquely named and referenced in the original data file, which can be downloaded by FTP and then accessed by any VDP composition software to put into the final direct mail piece.

Why use maps for marketing?

dusseldorf_map4_smalllocr doesn’t pretend that people need personalised maps to find their way to a supermarket or a hospital. They have SatNavs for that! No, it’s all about making an impact with your direct mail campaign – just like image personalisation. You don’t need to see your name written in the clouds or the snow to know what your name is – but it does grab your attention!

locr claims that,“maps generate an emotional connection with the recipient, helping them to “visualise” the journey of visiting a business or event. This connection results in higher response rates and greater customer engagement”.

Where to get locr maps

locr offers several ways for printers to buy their personalised maps: through their partners who have integrated locr’s technology into their own solutions, on an annual contract basis or just for one-off campaigns.

The best way to learn more is to navigate yourself over to the drupa innovation park where you’ll find locr in Hall 7 stand B03.

locr is offering all visitors to their stand at drupa 5,000 free personalised maps from your own data file to try it out. That sounds like worth making a detour for!

This is Ptolemy’s World Map, printed in 1482 and engraved by Johannes Schnitzer, who worked in the small town of Armsheim in Germany.

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