Saturday, July 14, 2007

Plotting the digital map

location based services

On the digital map

On the digital map

Nick Miller
July 10, 2007
Page 1 of 2 | Single page

Lines are being drawn in the sand as the makers of electronic maps go head to head.

The venerable art of cartography is set to become a digital battleground in Australia with the launch of a global brand determined to unseat the local champion.

Last night, Navteq, the global market leader in digital maps, officially began its assault on the local market currently dominated by Sensis, after spending two years mapping Australia's road network.

The Sydney launch follows a "soft launch" in August last year - the company wanted its official arrival to involve local customers, which now include Nokia phones, some luxury car manufacturers and a portable device branded by Ausway.

Chicago-based Navteq says it plans to use its global muscle to win major navigation customers such as Garmin, TomTom and Navman away from Sensis.

However, Sensis is ready for the fight, saying its local data is more extensive and comprehensive, and it has several digital mapping innovations in the wings such as 3-D models of tourist landmarks.

Both companies agree that maps are the key not just to navigation but to the lucrative area of local search.

Navteq estimates 4 per cent of Australian vehicles have either a portable or embedded navigation system, but by 2010 that figure will be 12 per cent.

"Navigation products are where digital cameras were three to four years ago," Navteq's Asia-Pacific senior vice-president Richard Shuman says. "A device to tell you where you are and how to get you to your next location will become a standard expectation for the majority of Australians in the next few years."

There are already 20 million GPS navigation devices in Europe, and prices are coming down quickly.

"How many phones were GPS-enabled two years ago? Hardly any," Mr Shuman says. "There is a lot of 'where am I and what's around me', but now we're also seeing a lot of 'where can I find something in my vicinity?'

"We are just scratching the surface. In the next few years we are going to see the convergence of products and services based on maps."

Navteq's local business development director, Kirk Mitchell, says he hopes to win the local custom of TomTom, Navman and Garmin, who are all currently using Sensis data.

The selling points would be the quality of the product as well as the ability to leverage global volumes. "Vendors want one source, and we are a global company," he says.

Overseas, the company is already experimenting with licensed content on its maps - Starbucks, for instance, pays for its logos, store locations and contact details to be included in Navteq's data.

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