Facet Takes On Navteq, Tele Atlas

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Eden Prairie, Minn. - Facet Technology is launching this month a GPS-ready road-grade map of the continental U.S. in an attempt to break the duopoly held by Navteq and Tele Atlas.

In addition, two other mapping companies â€” Automotive Navigation Data (AND) and CloudMade â€” also hope to launch GPS-ready maps for the U.S. in 2010. 

Many of the market newcomers claimed there is strong demand for alternatives to Navteq and Tele Atlas, who were purchased last year respectively by Nokia and TomTom â€” competitors to the same companies that purchase their maps.

 "Since they were acquired, I think there's a reluctance to purchase maps from your competition," said Facet Technology co-founder Jamie Retterath, adding, "For example, Garmin is doing so now, but will they want to continue to get maps from a competitor?  So I think you have a number of players out there that are using legacy maps until there's a better alternative."

Facet maps offer more attributes than current maps but at a lower price, claimed Retterath. The company has already "signed some deals" for its maps with either smartphone and/or PND makers, but would not offer client names.

Retterath said Facet maps indicate stop signs, speed limits, traffic lights and 3-D heights of the roads to provide slope data, creating attributes not often found on other maps. He further claimed that his maps are accurate to 7 feet or less, which is more precise than current maps, he stated.

Retterath added that a larger personal navigation device (PND) maker "could save a lot of money by using our maps."

Facet's ultimate goal is that its maps will be precise enough to support an "autonomous vehicle" that could drive itself. 

AND, based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, provides road-grade GPS maps in Western Europe and is planning to complete maps of the U.S. in 2010, according to CEO Maarten Oldenhof. Where Facet and traditional map makers drive the roads in mapping vans, which take measurements of the roadways, AND said it "creates maps by combining many different sources, not by driving around in mapping vans," said Oldenhof. AND combines more than 50,000 "high-quality data sources, leveraging various source material including aerial photos, tax data, direct mail partners, topographic maps, publically filed documents, etc." he said.

CloudMade, which started in the U.K. and now has offices in Menlo Park, Calif., also hopes to offer navigation-quality maps of the continental U.S. in 2010. Its maps are based on user input, where thousands of users create "Wiki" maps.

"When you think of maps, you think of road maps and types of roads," explained CEO Marc Prioleau, but he said that Wiki users can add attributes beyond road location, including maps of city foot paths and cycling paths, historical trails and hiking trails.  "So the target isn't to be the next Navteq, but something richer than that because it's built on community input, not just creating the road network," he said.

When enough Wiki users work on a map, you start to get a road grade "navigable map" said Prioleau. He said the CloudMade map is now active in the U.S., with the top 30 metropolitan areas offering display and search capability.

Yet another form of maps under development are "crowd source" or "live" maps, created by tracing the routes of many drivers, ultimately resulting in a navigable map, as Waze is pursuing in the U.S. through smartphone apps.  Waze already offers a popular crowd-source map in Israel with approximately 80,000 users that claims to be 85 percent accurate. The company launched a smartphone App in the Android Marketplace this month and is planning an iPhone App.

Also, Delorme on Monday announced it is entering the OEM topography map business for outdoor GPS devices.


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