By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Motorola enhanced its Viamoto cellular-phone-based navigation service to make it easier to navigate around traffic congestion and get back on track after missing a turn.
Motorola launched its Viamoto service in May in 57 markets and has since expanded it to 60 markets. It uses Nextel i730 and i830 phones equipped with Java and assisted-GPS technology, which provides a quick fix on GPS satellites and is accurate to 2 meters, said Lee Callaway, product marketing director for Motorola Location Solutions. A downloadable Java application residing in the phone communicates with a Motorola server to provide automatic route guidance, voice-based turn-by-turn driving instructions through the handset’s speakerphone, and visual driving prompts on the phone displays, he said.
Drivers can enter destinations directly on the handset or, before they drive, enter multiple destinations on a personal Web page that the phone will access.
Besides offering driving directions, the Viamoto service delivers the locations of, and driving directions to, such destinations as nearby hotels, gas stations, ATMs and the like.
The service is available through Nextel dealers and through Avis, which calls the service Avis Assist and uses the Nextel i88s phone.
With the improvements, Viamoto provides automatic rerouting when a driver misses a turn. Previously, a driver had to press a button to ask the server to provide new directions. Now, the phone detects when the driver has veered off the assigned route and automatically calls Motorola’s server for new directions, Callaway said.
Automatic rerouting is also a feature of Telenavigation’s Java-based TeleNav application, which master agent and distributor American Wireless offers preloaded with Nextel’s GPS-equipped i730 phone. The company also distributes the application to dealers to load it onto other GPS/Java-equipped Nextel phones.
Also new to Viamoto: a dynamic detour function that calculates alternate routes to avoid the next one, five or 10 miles of a congested roadway.
In another improvement, Viamoto-loaded phones announce an upcoming road both by its street name and by its numeric designation (Bergen Boulevard and Route 9, for example) to reduce driver confusion.
Motorola sells the service to consumers for as little as $8.99/month for unlimited use with a one-year commitment.
The price goes to $9.99/month for a three-month commitment. Avis Assist units can be rented in conjunction with any Avis vehicle at available locations for $9.95 per day.
Phone prices through Nextel’s Web site range from $79.99 for the Motorola i88s, to $149.99 for the Motorola i730, to $249.99 for the Motorola i830, depending on the Nextel rate plan selected.
Viamoto is part of a Motorola effort to “bring navigation to the masses,” Callaway told TWICE. Though the handsets are less expensive than installed in-car systems, Callaway said he doesn’t believe cellular-phone-based navigation services will compete with more expensive installed in-car systems. “The big-map market will always be there,” he said, and the cellular services will only help increase awareness of the installed option.
He did, however, note the advantage of the cellular services’ ability to continually update their databases, whereas disc-based databases are “static” and can get outdated quickly.
As for the impact on sales of dedicated handheld navigation systems, Callaway noted that most are oriented toward hiking and sports activities, not driving.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.