By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The GPS navigation market will evolve to embrace user-updated maps, personal navigation devices (PNDs) targeted to specific demographic segments, and navigation displays with 3D pictures of streets and buildings, a panel of navigation-industry executives said.
The executives also said they expect many consumers will use more than one type of navigation device, such as a PND in the car and cellphone-based navigation outside the car.
The panelists spoke here at a TeleAtlas-sponsored panel moderated by J.D. Power & Associates for reporters. Participating executives were Tele Atlas planning VP Jay Benson, MapQuest Wireless GM Alan Beiagi, Mio senior sales and marketing director Kiyoshi Hamai, and Russell Owen, director of location-based services for BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM).
Here's what else they had to say:
On the topic of user-updated maps, or "Wikimaps," panelists cited evidence that drivers want to provide feedback about the maps they use, said MapQuest's Beiagi. The MapQuest Web site, which counts 54 million users per month, receives 6,000 emails a week, many commenting on route accuracy, he noted. Tele Atlas's Benson said his company gets thousands of messages a month offering map feedback.
Two factors will spark the growth of user-generated GPS information, either in the form of updated maps, updated points of interest (POIs), or other data, panelists said. One is the growing PND user base, which will skyrocket from 2 million to 2.5 million U.S. users in 2006 to 9 million or more this year, said Mio's Hamai. The second factor is mobile Web access, which already exists in PNDs via Wi-Fi, a Bluetooth link to a cellular phone, and built-in cellular modems.
"Eventually, the majority of people using the Web will be mobile. They will be out traveling. So how do they make connections and find services?" asked RIM's Owen. Added MapQuest's Beiagi of the user-participation trend, "I think the industry has to embrace it" and must begin focusing on how to tap into wireless GPS users and encourage them to contribute.
After the roundtable, Tele Atlas's Benson underscored the potential for user-updated maps by noting that 10 to 15 percent of map content changes on an annual basis.
When asked how consumers would be able to trust other users' comments as accurate, Tele Atlas's Benson said device makers could, for example, offer options to display only changes generated by more than 10 people or only those changes vetted by Tele Atlas.
Eventually, Mio and RIM agreed, users will not only share map updates but will form instant "communities" on their connected PNDs or other GPS devices. Hamai envisions wireless buddy finders moving to PNDs from cellphones and wireless sharing of geo-tagged photos among users of networked camera-equipped PNDs.
To date, at least two PNDs offer early forms of user-feedback in maps and traffic. In June, TomTom began offering a Map Share feature in which users bookmark map errors on their TomTom device and then upload the changes to their PC for submission to TomTom. The company says that thousands of changes have been reported.
For its part, Dash Navigation is road-testing a cellular-equipped PND that lets users help generate traffic updates. The PND actually monitors the road speed of its user and broadcasts that data to other Dash users to generate traffic reports. The device will go on sale online in early January.
Another new PND capability noted by Tele Atlas is 3D views of buildings and landmarks displayed on the PND screen. Tele Atlas now offers this capability in limited form for many cities in Europe and is expanding it to the United States.
The GPS future will include PNDs targeted to specific demographic segments, Mio's Hamai said. Today's "generic products," he said, "don't speak to a specific audience." In the future, some devices might be aimed at the business traveler and emphasize POIs such as coffee shops and gas stations near rental car locations. For the casual user or vacationer, a PND might focus on theme parks or golf courses. PNDs will be available in different colors such as gray for the business user and white for the vacationer, he added.
Hamai said he sees camera-equipped PNDs appealing to casual camera users as well as to real-estate agents who want to take geo-coded pictures to post on a real-estate web site.
Content, Hamai added, will be key to turning PNDs into devices as ubiquitous as cellphones because they will become useful not once or twice a week but "everytime you leave the house." When that happens, navigation will become a feature that consumers will access in multiple ways" in the dash, in PCs, in cellphones, and in PNDs, he said. In the future, it will be available in digital cameras and portable media players (PMPs), "anywhere there is a screen."
Tele Atlas's Benson agreed that content will be the key to integrating navigation into everyday life. Content includes traffic updates as well as improved POI-search functions, he said. Improved search functions will turn PNDs into "find and guide" devices, not "just guide" devices, he explained. That functionality could include a search for gas stations that pump ethanol gas, and it could include icons of specific gas-station brands appearing on the display.
"People will have navigation on three to four devices," Hamai said, because navigation "will be incorporated into their lifestyle." One user, he noted, "might pick a favorite device, and others will choose multiple devices, but the point is, it will soon be incorporated into one's lifestyle."
Some consumers might use cellphone-based navigation for pedestrian use and an in-car installed system while driving, Hamai continued. Others might use a PND for both pedestrian and in-car use, he added. "We won't see a black-and-white world," he said. "There will be a lot of blending."
Tele Atlas's Benson also foresaw different navigation devices optimized for different uses and with different content. A navigation-capable cellphone, for instance, might integrate navigations functions with a user's contact list or calendar. After the event, Benson told TWICE that casual users might opt for cellphone-based navigation as the most economical option, given subscription plans that offer one-day and one-week subscription options. Because it's hard to use cellphone-based navigation and talk on the phone at the same time, more frequent users might opt for PNDs or installed systems, he added.
Someday, however, cellular bandwidth will reach the point that users will be able to talk on the phone while the phone delivers server-based maps and traffic updates to an in-dash monitor, Benson noted. "Where the map resides is not the be-all as network bandwidth grows," he said.
Also after the event, RIM's Owen told TWICE that he sees the potential for installed in-vehicle navigation systems to leverage a Bluetooth-linked cellphone to retrieve traffic updates. The phone could be used outside the car in pedestrian mode, but in the car, the driver could take advantage of the installed system's larger screen and roof-top antenna, which provides higher accuracy than a PND's built-in antenna.
Owen also sees location-based services, currently the province of GPS-equipped cellular phones, making their way into PNDs, if not via a built-in cellular modem than with a Bluetooth connection to a cellular phone.
During the roundtable, panelists also discussed the increasing "personalization" of PNDs, making them become more important to users over time. "Navigation is a very, very personalized experience," said MapQuest's Beiagi. He foresees customers saving preferences and places to go and accessing them from a PC, cellphone and PND.
For Tele Atlas's Benson, several factors create personalization. One is "a variety of content and a variety of ways to look at it." Another is "connectivity to add or delete content." And a third is tagging areas of interest to find all the time, he said.
Mio's Hamai said personalization is already taking place to a limited extent. Some PNDs switch between driving and pedestrian mode, which ignores one-way street restrictions and avoids taking pedestrians onto freeways. In addition, users can choose the fastest route versus the shortest route. "But in the future," he said, "people will look for dynamic content that's up-to-date, not just predetermined POIs, things that change."
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