The business of capturing and reporting real-time traffic data is on the verge of a deluge of data from millions of GPS probes. From Google to RIM to TCS, TeleNav, Nokia/Navteq and others, the integration of handset GPS data feeds will transform the industry and alter consumer acceptance of traffic data.
The importance of this development is the fact that consumers surveyed by Strategy Analytics, time and again, indicate that traffic data is the single most important application on their portable device followed closely by navigation. This is no surprise to marketers who are keen to target customers potentially on the move from one place of business to another and seeking to get there in the most efficient manner possible - which is to say, the supplier that delivers the highest quality real-time traffic data will have a privileged marketing platform for delivering advertising messages.
But the onset of traffic data enhancements, though happening swiftly, will unfold as part of an evolution of traffic data that will progress from the combination of public and fleet data of today, to the aggregation of GPS data and crowd-sourced inputs, to the traffic “communities” of the near future. This transition will test the current market leaders and could shuffle the leadership ranks, but it will also reveal new opportunities for information and content sharing.
Among the industry leaders watched most closely is Nokia Navteq. With the largest number of mobile devices deployed, Nokia is in the most powerful position to leverage GPS probe data. (Editor's note: updated info from Nokia Navteq follows) Navteq is using GPS probe data to enable accelerated expansion of its Navteq Traffic coverage including primary and secondary roads. The company says probe data is an integral part of its global probe data strategy.
Navteq is currently collecting and integrating Nokia probe data records for Navteq Traffic in Belgium, Brazil, France, Finland, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada with plans to expand. The company expects to benefit from the growing variety of connected devices also using Navteq data and services.
Navteq says that nearly 23M processed probe records are integrated into Navteq Traffic monthly in the U.S. in major metropolitan areas including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle. Worldwide, Navteq is collecting 3B probe records including Nokia data and anticipate a doubling of that figure by the end of 2010.
Most executives in the industry now agree that TomTom’s HD Traffic solution, built around cellular signaling data and TomTom’s Live Service subscriber probe data, is the state of the art for real-time traffic data. The service is available in six European countries including Germany, where this analyst has used it side-by-side with RDS-TMC data. Nothing this analyst has seen has come close to the apparent completeness and accuracy of the real-time traffic data reporting on a connected TomTom.
Long accustomed to incorrect traffic information delivered on a variety of embedded and mobile devices, I found the HD Traffic solution to be a revelation. In several days of driving on autobahns throughout Northern Germany it never once told me I was in a “stau” when I wasn’t or vice versa. Traffic information that contradicts reality continues to be the industry bugaboo.
Just as important, the TomTom solution doesn’t rely solely on color-coded roads. The key interface is the barometer on the right hand side of the screen which shows the distance to the next point of traffic congestion and the anticipated delay. At this point in the evolution of traffic information delivery, color codes don’t cut it. They are nothing more than a distraction.
With the arrival of mobile phone navigation applications the industry is poised to take a leap forward and sideways at the same time. The leap forward is the potential to replicate the HD Traffic experience on more navigation platforms. The sideways move is that this leap is taking place in connection with a device offering a much smaller screen for delivering up-to-date traffic information to drivers.
In addition, with so many new players integrating new data sets for the first time there is bound to be confusion and user interface missteps. After all, if it were easy to convert mobile phone data into real-time traffic feeds this problem would have been solved a long time ago.
To remove any doubts about the rising influence of mobile phone navigation, one need look no further than the recent financial reports of TeleCommunications Systems (TCS) – which acquired Networks in Motion – and TeleNav – which completed its initial public offering last week. In its earnings call, TCS said it expects $55-$65 million in mobile phone navigation subscription/sales revenue in 2010 and ongoing revenue growth of 30 percent/year going forward.
TeleNav reported that it had 14.5M navigation subscribers/customers (up from 11M at the end of September 2009) and revenue of $122M for the nine month period ended March 30th, a growth rate of 59 percent. While TCS says it has 5-6 percent penetration of its addressable carrier customer base and anticipates increasing that to 30-50 percent, TeleNav claims a 20-25 percent rate of penetration.
TeleNav, TCS and TomTom are all seeking to build their subscription bases as swiftly as they can which has led to discounting and bundling, thereby impacting average revenue per user (ARPU). All three companies have indicated a disinclination to share their ARPU figures. TCS has been coy about disclosing the size of its subscriber base. It remains to be seen if TeleNav and TomTom will continue to be forthcoming about their subscriber numbers. All of these numbers are vital to discerning consumer preferences for different business models and could serve as a competitive advantage for these early movers.
The integration of anonymous handset signaling data currently used by TomTom, is likely to be supplanted by handset GPS data feeds. And the availability of GPS data feeds has greatly lowered the barriers to entry to the traffic business. Any company from industry titans such as Inrix and rising heavyweight Google to scrappy start-ups like Skobbler (which recently became the first navigation supplier to use OpenStreetMaps) can introduce a mobile phone application that will immediately start reporting GPS data for integration in a real-time traffic platform.
Industry executives agree that the GPS data is more accurate an easier to process than hand-off data. That does not mean that signaling data will go away, especially since TomTom continues to use it, but it does represent a change that could ultimately manifest in changing user preferences if the “quality” or accuracy of one type of data is found to be or perceived to be superior to the other.
Miles Traffic and Travel – a consortium of ITIS Holdings (U.K.), Infoblu (Italy) and MediaMobil (France) – is also making use of cellular hand-off data and has been chosen by BMW as its traffic data provider for Europe. MT&T is positioning itself as the first challenger to TomTom’s HD Traffic solution.
All industry participants agree that the aggregation and integration of hand-off data is a non-trivial exercise. Case in point, AirSage and IntelliOne have been trying to deliver anonymous hand-off data in a commercial solution for years with no success to date.
But even the arrival of handset data will not represent the “end of the road” in the evolution of real-time traffic data. The next step is already apparent in the quiet emergence of aha mobile, Telmap, Waze, TrafficTalk and other potential players seeking to build communities around the delivery of traffic and routing information.
Aha mobile’s content and services aggregation platform serves as a front end for the full range of Internet-accessible content, including traffic and navigation information. Aha mobile’s traffic solution, though, allows drivers to share geo-coded traffic observation inputs with one another – in other words, an aha mobile user could literally share with fellow travelers what he or she is seeing out the car window.
The aha mobile solution represents the same kind of ultra-local location data that Telmap is trying to provide with the location aware services that are part of its navigation application. Waze also creates a community around traffic, navigation and the creation of the navigation map. For its part, TrafficTalk is seeking to build user communities around specific commuting corridors where drivers can share voice inputs regarding traffic conditions in their immediate vicinity.
Today, the industry is poised for the next round of the shoot out at the OK Traffic Corral. All the major players have new ammunition in the form of handset GPS data and the emergence of this new source of data is creating new competitors and new opportunities. But this enhancement to traffic information is just another bend in the road which will lead to traffic information communities sharing on-the-ground information which will transform the industry yet again and set the stage for the next advance.
http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel - Navigation and Location Opportunities
http://bit.ly/aoQdpd - North America Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel – Wireless Media Strategies
http://bit.ly/aHhWeV - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel - Wireless Media Strategies
http://bit.ly/cc6O9K - PND Owners Unlikely to Discontinue Using Their Device - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights
http://bit.ly/c5f65I - Automotive and Portable Navigation Market Forecast 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems
http://bit.ly/b5W8ZS - Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as 'Apps' Competition Mounts - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems