March 5, 2010

TomTom - Fightin' Words for 2010


TomTom had their earnings announcement recently, but buried in the text are a few clues for 2010 that offer a bit of insight into what's up for the company. They announced that they will be looking at more accurate travel times and predictive traffic in some countries. They have been taking steps towards this for a long time.

  1. TomTom launches MapShare - TomTom starts with getting more accurate maps by crowd sourcing map fixes.
  2. TomTom Buys TeleAtlas - they now own their map source and start investing in more accurate maps.
  3. TomTom Captures User data from their trips - Result is more real-world trip data; IQ Routes is born
  4. TomTom Launches iPhone App - starts capturing travel time and traffic data
  5. TomTom Announces iPhone App ver 1.3 - Live Traffic on the iPhone

In their earnings announcement TomTom said:

Traffic information is a key investment area for us, as we know that our technology can substantially enhance accuracy and coverage. We will bring innovative, new product propositions to the market this year, such as predictive traffic information, in a growing number of countries."

It is unclear if TomTom will be using their partner Inrix for the data, or if they will be generating the information themselves through their network of GPS probes and historical information. It is not easy to do predictive traffic, as you need to understand historical speeds, as well as understand how accidents and the effects of those accidents and other effects like storms, large gatherings and special events can change traffic flow. Inrix has figured this out and also has very detailed coverage of secondary roadways in at least the US, and may offer similar quality capabilities in Europe where they have been making headway recently at data and client acquisition.

TomTom is also throwing down the gauntlet on the statement of quality:

"When it comes to location and navigation solutions, we are the only company in this industry fully focused on delivering an uncompromised consumer experience. By continuously enriching the granularity and completeness of our guidance solutions, such as by adding slope, lane and curve information, we differentiate what we can offer across the broad spectrum of our products and expand the available market."

Sounds like fightin' words to me. On top of that, I expect with that statement to see innovation in using additional map attributes to create new products this year. Back in 2007 when I went to visit TomTom, I rode in the TeleAtlas van and saw the future potential as they captured road signs, lane information and building image capture - all attributes that are used today in higher level navigation units with speed limit data, lane assist capability and in some cities 3-D drawings of buildings.

Back in 2007, TeleAtlas also talked about capturing information about lane position, and it seems like TomTom is positioning themselves to get into lane departure warnings too with their recent announcement. Never a dull moment in this field and ripe with innovation potential.

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Posted by Scott Martin at March 5, 2010 5:16 AM

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