June 21, 2007

GPS Lodge Visits TomTom


GPS Lodge along with several other bloggers visited TomTom's call center in Watertown NY for a full day's fun of playing with the New TomTom GO 720 (see my First Impressions Post), playing in a TeleAtlas mapping van and an overall GPS-geekfest. The day was a good one, and we learned quite a bit about the world's largest automotive GPS manufacturer.

The TomTom GO 720 looks to be a pretty innovative device and the MapShare program should set the stage for a new level of mapping accuracy, and competition for your dollar. Dash Navigation has continued to light up the GPS and gadget sites with its idea of a connected GPS, which would use its connectivity to improve the accuracy of maps among other things. Clearly TomTom saw the opportunity to drive this dissatisfier out of product line, and I expect that it will grow to become a robust program.

The TeleAtlas van and its duties is nothing but amazing. More after the jump.

While visiting with TomTom, I was also able to check out and ride in the TeleAtlas mapping van. These are high tech rides that are loaded with their own GPS antenna, and four cameras, as well as LIDAR that tracks and records a lot of attributes about the surroundings as the van travels through streets. The van is able to drive down the street and snap high resolution still pictures of its surroundings at a rate of one every 8 meters. These high resolution snapshots allow TeleAtlas to add information to their dataset like speed limits and lane restrictions. The unit has an on-board server that records all of the information; and there’s a lot of it!


Future of Mapping and GPS

Crowd Sourced Maps - We’ve recently learned that TeleAtlas has collaborated with TomTom on the MapShare program, and that they are working with Dash Navigation to capture road and map information from users. The ability for you to stay up to date with millions of citizen mappers is going to be a big leap forward. This all started with their Map Insight program last year when they allowed web based error reporting by you and me. You’ll be happy to know that around half of the errors that you put in are already being worked, but the other half are being investigated and implemented as fixes.

Lane Specific Data – Along with capturing road sign and road type attributes, TeleAtlas is doing a lot of work to capture lane specific information. This is being driven by the fact that automakers want the ability to rely on GPS to give lane drift warnings. “What? That’s only a few feet, but my GPS is only accurate to 10 feet.” Yes, that’s true today, but these people are counting on accuracies to a few feet and want to facilitate these features on upcoming cars.

3-D Textured Cities – The new TomTom GO 720 will include 2-D outlines of buildings. TeleAtlas has also announced that they are working on three-dimensional cities, offering views of textured buildings as you drive by them. While this isn’t going to get you from point A to point B any quicker, it will enhance the consumer experience and your overall trust in knowing where you are. Of course this is going to require a pretty big jump in processing capacity and in storage space on your little GPS.

Finally, TomTom has made the leap to a world class customer service provider for their technical support. What was previously managed in-house was brought to a company that specializes in this capability and has the ability to train the needed personnel at a rate that is needed to keep up with the breakneck GPS category (and TomTom Sales) growth. So, while people may have knocked TomTom in the past for their support line, that seems like it's not going to be an issue going forward.

Other folks there for the visit were:

  • GPSReview.net
  • TomTom Forums
  • Directions Magazine

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    Posted by Scott Martin at June 21, 2007 9:44 PM
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