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Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial

And Now For The News…

June 19th, 2009 by MDob

I’ve been having a hard time getting my motor started this week. There are so many distractions. No, not the kind you think. I am referring to those news feeds that I rely on to find out what’s happening of importance in the mapping, navigation and geospatial industries. Apparently not much is happening, but the Public Relations Departments – oops is that now the Corporate Communications Department (or has this entity been renamed FaceBook Fascination or Tweet Central?) seem determined to get out a rash of press releases before the markets and investors go on summer vacation.

The reason I am having so much trouble getting my engine going is that I am trying to birth a series of blogs on landmarks, pedestrian navigation and how this market is changing. I can feel the issues in the materials that I have been reading, but there is something hiding in there that I have not yet been able to tease out. I’m going to focus on this over the weekend and hope to have something for you on Monday or Tuesday that might be of interest. The unfortunate part of all of this discovery process is that I get “silly” (some would say “cranky”) when I am taking a really deep dive into new areas of research. But so what – let’s look at the news and see what fun things we can find.

Let’s start here.

“TA, a leading provider of digital maps (blah, blah (my comment not theirs)) today announced a license agreement whereby ALK will use Tele Atlas maps and dynamic content in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The agreement gives ALK access to Tele Atlas’ global digital map content and products, including content for more than 24 million points of interest (POIs) and additional map enhancement products that can further enrich the mobile device users’ navigation experience.

We are excited to work with Tele Atlas as a partner for digital maps and location content; their stringent processes and content enhanced with community input add even more value to our products and will enable us to offer the powerful navigation experience that the mobile industry demands.”

ALK has a nice product set and this sounds like a good win for TA. But TA only has data for 89 countries, so selling these data in 200 countries seems pretty optimistic. Do you suppose there is a navigation market in 200 countries? Perhaps more to the point, how many countries does ALK operate in? (Hint – it has offices in the US, Taiwan, Denmark, Spain, Germany, France and the UK). Next, I noticed that on the ALK website, NAVTEQ is listed as a partner, but not TA.

How about the remark “Content enhanced with community input…”? Since TomTom’s PND sales are rapidly declining, one would think that MapShare contributions will soon follow suit. And even that mean old Steve Coast (one of the founders of OSM and CloudMade) reportedly told an audience that “TomTom thinks it has a community because they can fix a street. They do not.” I agree with Steve on this one. However, it seems that TomTom thinks they do have a sustainable community and are beginning to substitute MapShare for real feet on the street in the form of trained map compilers and researchers. – Bad news for the boys in Belgium -UGC is not a substitute for field research, although it may be a good complement.

Of course, there was the following release from TomTom

“AMSTERDAM (AP) – Dutch navigation device maker TomTom NV plans to sell new shares to raise euro430 million ($595 million) to pay off some of its heavy debt burden.

In a statement late Sunday, TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn said the share offering “provides us with a substantially strengthened balance sheet.”

TomTom shares dropped 5.1 percent to close at euro7.10 ($9.77) in Amsterdam.”

Gosh, sounds like things are going well! Even with the new capital, your company is still only worth one-third of what you paid for TeleAtlas. Sounds like good financial strategy when your company is in a tailspin to dilute your shareholders by offering new shares. Now if that “MapShare” functionality could enhance sales and improve investor confidence in TomTom/TeleAtlas, things would be great again.

I suspect it is only a matter of weeks until we have MapShare on Twitter. Just imagine

“omg, I just fixed a street wid ms”
“dont kno wher – im usng pnd -stupid”
“but knew something was wrong cuz was lost”
“did u no that ms is so slo cuz it goz to outer space”

Okay, Okay, I’ll stop.

Of course, everyone seemed to want to get in on the silliness this week. Here’s one from OpenStreetMap

“Want to get involved in OpenStreetMap but don’t have a GPS or even computer? Now there’s walking papers.

Walking papers lets you print out a OSM map and then write on it. Get home, scan it in and then that map can be drawn on top of using familiar OSM tools. To do this, it prints magic codes on the edge of the map that can be recognised when scanned back in to geolocate the image. If you don’t even have a printer or scanner, they’ll print and scan for you via the postal service. You can meet the author of walking maps, Mike Migurski, and try it out this weekend at the San Francisco Mapping Party.”

Although they try to explain this later in the note, it’s that first line about not having a computer that makes the printing and scanning part of the process somewhat difficult. However, even with that solved, those of you who have been involved in map compilation may have had the experience that this is not a particularly efficient method, especially when it involves untrained contributors.

Of course, Navteq had to get in on the good fun and decided to release two announcements. Both, for some strange reason amused me quite a bit. Let’s start here.

“NAVTEQ MapCare has been designed to help increase map update sales and revenue by providing additional selling points for navigation systems. “We believe this program will increase satisfaction and loyalty as customers will always have the latest maps. In addition, valuable opportunities for communication and cross-selling will be created,” explains Jeff Mize, executive vice president, sales, NAVTEQ. “It is a particularly convenient service for drivers of fleet or lease cars as it provides a clear channel to acquire map updates.”

How long has Navteq been in the map data base and navigation markets? I thought I met Russ Shields just after he started the business in 1984/1985 – and the Company has waited until 2009 to develop a distribution channel for selling map updates?

Of course, I appreciate the newsworthy-ness of a press release that is honest and includes – NAVTEQ Map Care is to help increase map update sales…”, although I thought you were supposed to mention customer benefits first, in hopes that they would buy the map updates you hoped to sell. I like this direct approach – “We have a new program for you. It involves you buying more map updates and us making more money.” Perhaps this would work in my consulting business? “I’m going to give you more advice and you are going to pay me more for it. This will give us valuable opportunities for communication.”

However, Navteq was guilty of piling on when they released the following

“Offering up to 53 pedestrian-specific attributes, NAVTEQ Discover Cities enables an advanced pedestrian navigation experience while leading the industry in quality and coverage. NAVTEQ Discover Cities has extensive data that helps navigation devices and applications provide a variety of routing options to users – including those entirely on foot, or with portions on public transit systems. For instance, when a pedestrian consumer (my emphasis not theirs) wants the option to use public transit, NAVTEQ Discover Cities enables routes that take into consideration the location of bus and rail stations/ stops and their entrances/exits in relation to the pedestrian route as well as the train/bus network information, including transfer locations.”

Now, just what is the “pedestrian consumer” device mentioned above? I’m interested because there is the distinct possibility that I may want to buy one. Several times I have been tempted to just ram them with my car, but have always refrained from doing so.

A pedestrian consumer, a walker blocker – oh so many possibilities. (Yes, I know that there have been a lot of similar gaffe’s in this blog – but I do this stuff for free. In addition, my company is not yet quite worth the $8 billion that Nokia paid for Navteq, so your expectations shouldn’t be as high.)

Hmm. What really caught my eye was the mention of 53 pedestrian-specific attributes in Discover Cities. Do you suppose that those 53 attributes get added to the 200+ attributes (or is it 185, or?) they sometimes claim for their navigation databases?

Do you suppose there is a single street segment in the Navteq database that actually has all of the variables in their data structures for vehicle and pedestrian navigation? Or, could this be one of those PR-Marketing data structures that only live in the imagination of those responsible for publicizing the company or convincing a client that “What we got – nobody else can get”? However, if true, I would like to be the guy selling data storage to Navteq.

At least the Navteq press release get’s us closer to the topic of landmarks, so I’ll stop here and go back to thinking how to untie the knot in front of me. My apologies to the companies involved – I just could not resist.

Hope those of you who qualify have a wonderful Father’s Day.

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Posted in CloudMade, crowdsourced map data, Data Sources, Geospatial, Navteq, Personal Navigation, PNDs, TeleAtlas, TomTom, User Generated Content

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