I've been watching the GPS market for a relatively long time and have seen the days of 100% year over year growth in profits but those days are long gone, and you can trace that change to the start of smartphone navigation. Sure the navigation market, like almost everything, was impacted by the recession, but the downturn has been particularly sharp just as smartphone navigation ticks up. To show you how far things have slipped, at the recent telematics update conference, one speaker even joked, "When was the last time you actually used your GPS? Doesn't everyone navigate by mobile phone nowadays?"
I know I am not the first to talk about this, but it seemed particularly important in light of yesterday's earnings call with TomTom. TomTom outlined the scope of the downturn, as they offered lower expectations for earnings in the balance of the year, while citing that the US market for personal navigation devices will SHRINK by 30% this year. With over 72 million smartphones in the US market, it's not surprising that they are capturing a larger share of the navigation needs for users. (Read More at the WSJ)
Apps and more Apps - The Road to No Revenue?
Given the trend, it was certainly a good move to get into smartphone navigation apps by the big buys - Navigon, TomTom, TeleNav and others led the way, with Garmin jumping in too along the way. What is not good for them is that the average user doesn't offer much residual income. I have a half dozen navigation apps on my iPhone, and for most, I haven't paid them a cent since I bought the application. I get automatic upgrades, new maps and a pretty comprehensive feature set, why pay more? The one thing I have paid for is traffic feeds; that is well worth my money (only about $20 per year), and saves me a lot more than that in valuable time.
On the other hand, standalone devices need new maps ($59 - $79 each), or simply need to be upgraded to the newest features and capabilities.
Branded Solution Provider
With the knocks on apps already on the table, the move away from the physical personal navigation device is a smart one - people don't need an extra box when they have a smartphone. The newest telematics solutions do however offer a way for auto makers to differentiate themselves with exceptional systems; and they can more easily take the place of a smartphone - always on, always there, won't drain your smartphone battery, and the huge screens are a plus. The Ford Sync infotainment system has been hot and has driven sales for Ford, where they cite a majority of cars go off the lot with the Sync option. This is the future of in-car navigation and Ford carries a TeleNav navigation solution. I have always said that it is easy to make a GPS, but it's hard to make a good GPS, and the last thing you need is a clunky navigation solution right in the middle of your dash to remind you of how frustrating and inferior your car is.
With Garmin moving into Chrysler telematic solutions, they too have seen that taking their top-shelf solution and embedding it in the dash not only offers them a way to consumers' fingertips, but a source of sustainable revenue. My hunch is that the margins per copy are limited, but it's a smart move for Chrysler to get the Garmin quality, and it's a smart move for Garmin to help stay relevant. So while the stand alone personal navigation device is in a decline, we should see Garmin, TomTom, TeleNav and others offering navigation in other forms for a good long time.
I recently attended the Telematics Update conference in Novi, MI and thought I would pass along some thoughts on how telematics is looking here in 2011. Recall that GM essentially started the whole thing with On Star available on one model back in the day, and now we have every major car maker scrambling to launch an interactive connected car system. With the advent of more infotainment related systems, the stodgy safety and security message that OnStar lives on has evolved to bring some genuine excitement to the future of telematics.
Intelligent navigation with real-time traffic is a top consumer demand; re-routing, learning your routes, and fully aware traffic coverage (not just highways, but secondary roads too) are all required to deliver the solution that people need. This is still THE top need in general polls, but I believe that entertainment is more likely the biggest need for younger demographics.
Telematics will evolve to be a hybrid system of full integration with your smartphone AND have its own connectivity for emergency connections. The need for users to bring a piece of their DNA into the car (that's their smartphone), and use it in that environment is too compelling. The need to have emergency connectivity is also compelling in the event of a crash - the car needs a cheap connection too. If the phone giants allow it; you'll be able to add your car to a pooled data "Family" plan.
Content and features will evolve to offer more that you need, dampened only be the fact that driver distraction is a big legislative issue, litigious issue and an evolving consumer concern. The content providers, telematics solutions providers and the auto OEM's are all in a race to deliver what consumers want. The problem is that "we" want more than is probably safe for us to have. The Line will be drawn by NHTSA in the coming years; they are NOT going to let driver distraction become a bigger issue than it already is. In what might have been the best presentation of the conference, David Strickland of the Department of Transportation said, "I am not here to help you Tweet better, I am not here to help people post on Facebook better. It's not my job." He went on to talk about how many people die each year due to driver distraction (thousands), and how a connected car environment needs to serve the driver in their task of driving. His very direct opening remarks drained the air from the room of Telematic fanboys, but as he talked about the reasons behind his fervor and how he will chart the future of safe telematics, the audience seemed to warm to his message.
Verizon presented their view of an LTE based future with huge-pipe bandwidth and streaming media. In a direct question to Janet Schijns, VP Biz Solutions about recent studies reporting on the potential for LTE to interfere with GPS signals, she craftily side stepped the issue, indicating that she hadn't seen those studies. I can't imagine anyone in the LTE area who pays attention to the business not understanding a potential barrier like the FCC having a concern over GPS/LTE interference. I don't think the forgiving audience was that tuned in to catch the sidestep.
Who was there from the Navigation Space?
Inrix was there, having won an award for best content aggregator, talking about their solutions and best-in-class traffic offerings. They are sponsoring the next telematics conference in Brazil; they aren't currently in the market in Latin America, so draw your own conclusions about their plans. They continue to show that they are powering more and more applications with their offering. With consumer needs unmet, the quality of their data and their ability to serve their audience well (reference their award), things are looking good for Inrix.
Garmin was there showing off their connected devices, their new Chrysler UConnect system; where they offer the mapping on the system behind the head unit's other functions. Garmin Also showed off a prototype capability where they control the entire dash with an integrated and changable theme across the main dash readout to the head unit. It didn't show amazing new mapping functionality in the main dash area, but instead showed off where things might go around changeable themes and holistic integration.
TeleNav was showing off their integration with the newest Ford vehicles - the New Edge and the new Ford Explorer. Telenav works in the background to offer navigation on the new ford telematics system.
Finally, Google Maps/Earth was there in a way -T-Mobile showed off the Audi Telematics solution that navigates you over a 3-D Google Maps satellite view environment with traffic overlays. It looks amazing, but comes at a data download cost. Each 100 miles you drive requires 1GB of downloads to occur from the cloud. Luckily they are cached after you drive a certain route, but man if that's a lot of data if you ever go on that cross country trip.
Fans of the Delorme PN-60W will rejoice at the news coming out of the Delorme camp about their new InReach iridium satellite-based messaging communicator. While the SPOT-based solution that was announced last year gave you SEND capabilities - useful for help messages and to allow you to post progress through the wilderness, the new system uses the iridium satellite system to give you pole-to-pole coverage with send AND RECEIVE capability.
This is one of the best GPS related innovations to come along for an adventurer in a long time.
So, if you are out there and in trouble, you can send an SOS message and receive back a confirmation that your message was received. A big relief when the chips are down.
According to Financial Times Deutschland, Garmin is in talks to buy the German maker of GPS devices and Navigation software for somewhere in the mid double digit million Euros. This would bring Navigon, strong in Europe, under the wing of Garmin, the leader in the US to make a GPS/PND powerhouse. It makes sense to see consolidation in this market where the PND market has come under pressure by the prevalence of smartphone apps.
Navigon was in the US with their GPS/PND devices until their exit in May 2009, leaving only their very well done iPhone apps here. They were one of the first to launch the Navigation iPhone app, and continue to innovate it while also launching an Android version. when they were in the market with PND's here in the US, they brought innovations to the market that were quickly adopted by others such as Lifetime Maps, and Lifetime Traffic.
If you've been paying attention to the telematics game, you've probably noticed that pushing the Blue Onstar button to use its cellular connection is so 1990's. The future is headed in the direction of infotainment (Ford's Sync and MyFord capabilities) and the concept of using your smartphone as the center of your infotainment universe while porting it to your car's dashboard.
Pioneer is doing that now with AppRadio, bringing select Apps to the screen while you drive. Being able to interact with the large touchscreen of the AppRadio while having the connectivity of your iPhone is pretty powerful. Of course it will play your iPod music too. The AppRadio will also plug into your iPod Touch (latest version) to play music, but you obviously lack the connectivity piece.
inrix Traffic (shown above)- Their top notch traffic is ported to the screen giving you the ability to see in large, full color beauty the traffic snarls you get to run into or around on your outing will make the experience much better. With the App's prediction engine, you can also see what life will be like if you start to run into that traffic in a few minutes to a few hours if the trip is just a bit longer than usual. inrix Traffic at iTunes.
MotionX Drive Navigation (shown below) - The navigation capabilities that you bought on your iPhone, get ported to the AppRadio.It's the best $0.99 you'll spend at the App store; really. Unfortunately that only covers the first 30 days, then the price is $19 a year. Still a bargain. MotionX Drive at iTunes.
The other Apps at iTunes available on the Pioneer AppRadio are Rdio and Pandora. The AppRadio is going to be available in about a month and cost $500.
Saw this and had to pass it along after on of our readers posted it in their comments recently. I know we all struggle with how to mount a GPS on the dash or windshield, and most are finally waking up to the fact that you shouldn't leave a GPS mounted to your windshield when parking that car.
Here's a cheap and easy GPS mount that can handle the task.
The internet was abuzz this weekend as a security issue was uncovered with the Zoombak personal GPS locator. So while the Zoombak system is touted as a way to track your valuables, the hacker said that he figured out how to track your Zoombak, and also spoof the Zoombak, sending back fake location information making it look like your valuables are in a location other than where they really are.
So while you want to track valuables like your car, your bike or even your kid; this hacker demonstrated that it was not hard to blow up that sense of security.
In the CNet article, the hacker identified that the Zoombak system's flaw by figuring out that the unit communicates over the TMoble GMS system. From there he figured out that it communicates without a caller ID, so with a little snooping, he was able to identify a set of Zoombak devices, their locations and then start to intercept their location broadcasts via short SMS bursts. He was then able to turn around and spoof the signal by sending erroneous messages back on that channel, making the Zoombak unit look like it was not in its actual location.
No word on how the recent launch of the eSafe emergency locator, a Zoombak sister product is affected by this hack if at all.
With gas prices pushing towards all time highs, the idea of driving less might just be forced upon us. Longtime users of GPS know that not only can you find a location faster without driving around searching and searching, but they also know it can be more economical.
There are several varieties of "eco driving" mode from various manufacturers, but the essence is the same:
Consider the route characteristics in light of saving time AND being fuel efficient,
Consider traffic patterns (the highway is efficient except when it looks like a parking lot at the mall), and
Reinforce better driving habits through driver feedback.
I've used several and they definitely change your focus as you drive, and am not surprised to see studies that say they can reduce fuel consumption.
Telenav powers the Ford MyTouch navigation solution, and they put together the infographic below, highlighting the potential. Maybe it's on the high side, at saving 15% but what if it wasn't? What if you only saved half that when driving smarter? The impact to your wallet and to the environment would still be substantial.
Don't think a little personal habit matters? I wrote up a piece on my Espresso blog, citing the effects of one small personal act of people that really makes a difference. In 2010, 32 million customers used their own refillable mug for coffee, and as a result, Starbucks saved 1.5 million tons of paper from going to the landfill. Small act. Lots of people. Big effect.
Here's the info graphic. TeleNav also has a SmartPhone App (BB, IPhone and Android) - more at TeleNav Apps
RADARDROID has just announced the capability to incorporate a Red Light Camera database from GPS POI US (that we've written about in the past) into the onboard navigation applications. The App is a "set it and forget it" type application that will pop up and warn you of a Red Light camera as you navigate.
GPS POI US house databases for all kinds of POI sets, including Red Light cameras. They pride themselves on the accuracy of their Red Light Camera database, and don't just crowdsource the data, and curate the database to make sure it's as up to date as possible. The database is also available for use in compatible Garmin and TomTom devices.
Nice intro to the ability to send text messages via satellite from the SPOT transmitter in the NYT today. The capability helps you keep in contact with the outside world when you are beyond the reach of cellphone towers. So while the walk in the park might keep you in contact with even an AT&T network tower, a walk in a National Forest might get you so far out that you need something like the SPOT.
We've talked about the DeLorme PN-60W GPS receiver that gets you out there and pairs with the SPOT transmitter to send SMS messages and location statuses via the SPOT transmitter. In the first quarter, SPOT is also going to release a smartphone App that will pair with a special "SPOT Connect" transmitter to send messages. The video below describes the service that is supposed to launch imminently.