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The Secret Sauce Of Dash Navigation

Dash Navigation — recently purchased by Research in Motion (RIM) — had an ace up its sleeve that might prove to be a boon to RIM beyond up-to-the-minute traffic reports.

Dash, as many know, spent eight months last year selling an Internet-connected personal navigation device (PND) that could track the road speed of its users and then create live traffic reports that were broadcast to other Dash users. Unfortunately, few retailers picked up the product, and it was pulled from the market.

But Dash was collecting more than just traffic information, as it turns out. It was creating live, up-to-the minute maps: live maps — remember that moniker, because you’ll be hearing it a lot soon.

So while Dash was tracking its users’ road speed, by default it was collecting map information. One supplier told TWICE it was Dash’s intention to eventually sell the maps its system generated.

Now with RIM in the driver’s seat, Dash technology could be broadcast to the 21 million-plus Blackberry subscribers, creating “live maps” of most of the U.S.

Maps these days are owned by RIM competitor Nokia and also by TomTom. The two respectively own Navteq and Tele Atlas. With its own map database, RIM can more effectively compete against Nokia in the up-and-coming location-based technology space.

If you think this is far-fetched, look at Waze, which offers a smartphone app that does just what Dash did for the PND. It turns the smartphone into a live traffic “probe” that monitors the users’ road speeds and creates traffic reports. Waze has 80,000 users in Israel and has mapped approximately 90 percent of the country (or at least it provides traffic reports to 90 percent of the country). But the app and service are free. So Waze plans to generate cash by “licensing the live-map data layers with interested third parties,” said a spokesman. As far as Waze is concerned, once PNDs get Internet connections, and they are starting to do so, then users will expect these live maps. “Don’t forget, the navigation data industry is about to be disrupted by the Internet. As GPS devices are connected to the Internet, the Internet rules will apply to them as well — namely free to consumer and in real time,” the spokesman said.

Waze is launching versions of its software for the iPhone and Android in the U.S.

Right about now TomTom’s purchase of Tele Atlas is looking even more untimely.