Exploring Local
Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial

TomTom/TeleAtlas – Where Does it Go From Here?

August 11th, 2008 by MDob

Sorry that it has taken a little longer to get to this than I thought it would. After I posted the last blog, I headed to Canada for client meetings. Upon my return, it was time for my family vacation. I headed to Cape Cod for some sightseeing and, then, to Albany, New York to see my babies and grandbabies. Since my kids are now over 30, I suspect they do not like being called “babies” – but hey, what are parents for -other than to buy dinner and to show your kids what “old” really means.

Now, let’s get back to TomTom and TeleAtlas. In our last blog, we postulated that the gold standard for these two companies might involve the capture of the paths used by the drivers to connect travel origins and destinations. Although one might assume that the path followed by a car equipped with a PND would be provided by instructions generated by querying the PND, so why would anybody want to collect routes from PDA users? Many drivers query their PND only when they are going to an unfamiliar destination, relying instead on their own “road savvy” to build paths to familiar destinations. Whether the car is following a path prescribed by TT/TA or not, its progress along its path serves as a collector or probe for sensing traffic and geometry. In turn, analyses of these data would reveal a great deal of information about where and how consumers travel.

If you had a large fleet of vehicles actively engaged in navigating (exploring) a localized transportation network, for example, you could derive significant details about the network’s geometry through map and path matching – including street details, as well as information about traffic density, day-parting and driver path preferences. If consumers acting as probes were willing to telecommunicate path data back to TT/TA, then many of the problems with validating today’s “remedial” User Generated Content would be resolved. Using probes has long been discussed in Telematics, but progress in developing a wide scale implementation of probes has historically been limited by the cost of equipping a fleet, telecommunicating the data and dealing with potential privacy restrictions, as well as other difficult issues.

The rewards for a successful implementation of anonymous-path- tracing could be sizable. The initial reason to attempt this action might involve decreasing the costs of map updating while improving the accuracy and currentness of road data. In the long run, these benefits will eclipsed by the economic potential of information related to consumer path behavior to advertisers and advertising networks.

Presuming that the privacy issues could somehow be solved, how could a consumer electronics company like TT/TA work towards a probe-like solution to gathering road data?

From our perspective, it seems as if the company would consider partnering with a mobile network provider, becoming a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), or becoming a Routing Service Provider (RSP) to network operators. Does TomTom’s brand provide it the “permission” to do any of these activities? In addition, does it have the brand power and distribution channels to compete in any of these spaces?

Let’s discuss that next time – and I promise that it won’t be long before the next installment appears.

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Posted in Geospatial, Mapping, Personal Navigation, TeleAtlas, TomTom, User Generated Content, map updating

One Response

  1. Matt McG

    Thought provoking.

    Navigation devices aside. There are a lot of gps
    endowed cell phones out there now. Perhaps for a reduced fee
    a significant fraction of the folks carrying them would
    permit their space-time track to be recorded.

    Matt – I agree – and will comment more about that in the next blog. The position of Nokia as a handset manufacturer with exisitng relationships with the mobile networks, may provide it with a sustainable competitive advantage in the “tracking” area – I will examine this more when I turn the focus on Navteq.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Mike