A grand experiment is unfolding in the traffic reporting industry around the simultaneous confrontation between and combination of GPS probe and handset signaling data for traffic flow analysis. Both technologies offer the promise of transforming traffic data from an annoying and often disappointing proposition to a more precise and satisfactory experience.
But push is about to come to shove in North America – with three pending OEM RFQs in play. The results of these OEM evaluations will likely have a global impact on the traffic data processing industry.
To recap, current traffic data consists of:
1. GPS-based fleet data – derived mainly but not exclusively from commercial vehicles
2. Public data – loop sensors and other traffic tracking systems installed and managed mainly by public authorities
3. “Journalistic” data – incident inputs from emergency responders and private sources
GPS probe and cellular hand-off data is, in essence, a fourth layer that is of increasing importance to traffic reporting and interpreting systems. The other key element, of course, is the secret sauce added by the aggregators and processors of this data.
The aggregators and processors are of several types including those that aggregate a single type of data, such as AirSage or IntelliOne that process cellular handoff data, or that combine several different types of data, such as Inrix or ITIS Holdings, or that provide a system or a tool for processing or for publishing multiple data feeds, such as MILE (MobileInfo.Life Europe) Traffic and Travel, Gewi or PTV.
Inrix is a fourth type of provider in offering a platform for both service and content aggregation – including traffic. Inrix has also been a pioneer, along with Navteq’s Traffic.com, in combining multiple real-time and historical traffic data into a predictive traffic model. This strategy has been adopted by others, most notably TomTom. MILE Traffic and Travel is unique for its model of licensing its data processing technology.
TomTom is also best known for its pioneering work in integrating both cellular hand-off data (from Vodafone) and GPS probe data (from its Live Service subscribers). TomTom’s success in turning cellular hand-off data into a compelling solution in mobile devices has been an inspiration for both the emerging GPS probe market players (TCS, RIM, Google, Nokia Navteq, etc.) and the cellular hand-off companies. (ITIS claims to be the first to achieve this integration in a commercial solution.)
The impending integration of both GPS probe data and cellular handoff data is a test for the industry to see if it can finally get the traffic data solution right. At stake are the hearts, minds and wallets of hundreds of millions of drivers using mobile devices and embedded navigation systems to seek out the most efficient means of getting from point A to point B.
GPS probe data is renowned for its accuracy and increasing pervasiveness, as public authorities in multiple geographies have begun requiring GPS technology on handsets for emergency response purposes. The problem with GPS, though, is its impact of device power consumption. Because of this, many users choose to turn their GPS signals off when not in use.
In contrast, cellular hand-off data is truly pervasive. While more difficult to interpret and notorious for the incidence of false positives, cellular hand-off data is unmatched for the sheer volume of data generated.
For this reason, companies playing the cellular hand-off game, such as TomTom, MILE Traffic and Travel and AirSage, have an edge in the next wave of traffic data solutions. The only implemented solutions thus far have been TomTom’s industry-leading HD Traffic offering in Europe and Westwood One’s more limited use of AirSage data as an enhancement to its own traffic reporting products.
AirSage is unique in its recent successful efforts to bring together data from multiple carriers. The company recently added Verizon to its existing Sprint relationship and is poised to deliver the first multi-carrier solution for North America.
AirSage and other North American players have long been delayed in their efforts to deliver a cellular hand-off solution in North America due to the more heterogeneous carrier networks. The good news for these companies, though, is there is a significant business in logistics to be derived from the location data (for shipping, traffic management, store and cell tower locatin selection) and location-based advertising solutions are also beginning to emerge.
The turning point for the industry likely lies in pending North American RFQs at BMW, Toyota and OnStar. From luxury vehicles to mass market movers, drivers have let car makers know that the current crop of traffic solutions are not cutting it. The information on the display does not correspond with the events unfolding in front of the windshield. The outcome of these OEM evaluations will likely determine the direction of traffic data processing for years to come.
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
http://bit.ly/9NoM13 - From Probes to Crowd to Community to Ads – Traffic Data Evolving Rapidly - Roger Lanctot - blog - Global Automotive Practice