Mio to sponsor cycling team Discovery channel for Tour de France

Mio Technology Europe announced today it will sponsor the professional cycling team Discovery Channel for the Tour de France 2007 and all the 2007 cycling season.

The 94th edition of the Tour de France will start in London on July 7th and finish as usual in Paris on the Champ Elysées on July 29th after 3547 km. Team Discovery Channel will take the road of the Tour for the third time in 2007. The team includes Italian cyclist Ivan Basso who finished third in the 2004 Tour de France and second in 2005.

This sponsorship offers Mio a good way to give more exposure to its brand, which so far was not well known by consumers compared to its key European contenders TomTom, Garmin and Navman. Paul Notteboom, Mio President for Europe, recognized it when speaking to GPS Business News in March at CeBIT: “Mio is still lacking brand awareness. Our strategy is to increase channel communications, Public Relations and targeted advertising”. This sponsoring of Team Discovery Channel is the right way to implement this strategy.

AAA and Networks In Motion announce off-board navigation with roadside assistance

AAA, North America’s foremost motoring and leisure travel organization, and Networks In Motion (NIM), a white label provider of wireless navigation and LBS solutions, announced at CTIA Wireless a new application called AAA Mobile, offering off-board navigation and roadside assistance.

AAA Mobile subscribers can use their mobile phone to receive visual and audible directions to any travel destination in the U.S.; locate AAA Approved® points of interest (POIs), including Diamond Rated® hotels and restaurants; and find locations that offer AAA member savings. Subscribers can review detailed AAA descriptions for POIs on their phone, receive a map showing a destination on the mobile phone screen, and bookmark locations as favorites for quick recall in future.

When users experience vehicle difficulties the press of a single button on the phone sends the phone’s GPS location to AAA and connects the user with AAA for quick and reliable roadside assistance services.

“Unlike navigation devices that must be outdoors to work, AAA Mobile uses assisted GPS technology that allows users to find a route or get a map while sitting in a covered parking lot or meeting room,” said Marshall L. Doney, Vice President of Automotive Services for AAA. “AAA Mobile always has up-to-date maps and listings of restaurants and other businesses, eliminating the need to purchase software upgrades or maps for new cities.”

With about 50 million members, AAA is a very strong brand in the US. AAA is currently in discussions with major US wireless carriers, with availability of AAA Mobile projected for the second half of 2007.

This new partnership further illustrates the development of NIM on the North American market. NIM is already powering VZ Navigator from Verizon Wireless — its biggest client — and probably the biggest off-board navigation service in the US, a result from the strong and continued promotion of the solution since its inception in January 2006. Alltel in the US and Telus in Canada are also using NIM to power their navigation services.

Steve Andler, NIM’s Vice President of marketing, said: “we are currently serving around one million navigation requests per day on our servers”.

With a staff of almost 60 employees today, NIM is also launching operations in Europe with a first office to be opened in Sweden in the coming months.

Nokia Smart2Go: disrupting the business model of cellphone-based navigation?

With free mapping for over 150 countries and affordable pay per use turn by turn navigation in 30 countries, Nokia is reshaping the rules on the early stage market of cellphone-based navigation. But is it enough to create a consumer rush?

Nokia announced a few days ago that it is making its Smart2go mapping and navigation platform, available for free download on selected Nokia S60 and Windows Mobile 5.0 devices and is planning to roll out support for most of the major mobile OS platforms including Nokia S60, Series 40, PocketPC, Linux and other Windows Mobile devices. The platform allows for mapping and routing in over 150 countries and has support for full turn-by-turn satellite navigation in over 30 countries. While the map, the point of interest content and the route calculation is free, the turn by turn voice guidance is a premium service sold over the air via credit card payment and ranging from €8.99 for one week to €99.99 for three years for a region like Western Europe.

Nokia describes Smart2go as an hybrid map solution: Map data from Tele-Atlas and Navteq can be downloaded directly via wireless network (e.g. GPRS/3G/WLAN) or via an additional PC desktop tool. If all the desired map data is stored, no network connection is needed for mapping, routing and navigation.

At the same time Nokia is announcing two additional GPS enabled handsets to its high priced N95 device. Out of these three products the most interesting is definitely the affordable smartphone Nokia 6110 Navigator to be available in the second quarter 2007 for an unsubsidized price of €450. All new Nokia smartphones will also embed the Smart2go application under the name "Nokia Maps".

The Smart2go pricing structure is clever, flexible and particularly appealing to consumers. First the maps are free as well as the points of interest (restaurants, ATMs, gaz stations), therefore consumers will be able to try and use the solution for free. Moreover this will offer an excellent pedestrian navigation solution – where turn by turn and voice guidance is not needed. Second, the licence fee for turn by turn navigation can be purchased for one week, one month, one year or three years. Frequent travellers will be happy to have a navigation solution for under €10 when they are on the road abroad for a limited period of time. Additionally this onboard solution doesn’t require to be connected to the network and therefore to pay huge roaming fees to network operators.

Comparing this solution with onboard competitors on the market today, companies like TomTom or Route 66 are charging €119 to €129 for software and Western Europe maps with unlimited use. But this unlimited use is fictional because after three years — or even less — maps are out of date.

It is clear that in Europe Nokia is emerging as a very serious contender to GPS navigation brands in the cellphone space. Nevertheless, in the US the situation is slightly different. First, the Nokia brand is far to be dominant. Second, the off-board navigation solutions are getting some traction on the market. Most of the phones on the CDMA networks (Sprint, Verizon) already integrates a GPS and there is no roaming fees: unlike Europe the cost of data download is the same everywhere. Additionally Verizon Wireless has been marketing agressively its VZ navigator pushing its competitors to follow the same path.

While Nokia’s business model is smart and will give some headaches — if not more — to its competitors, its success will mostly depend on when and at what speed GPS enabled GSM phones will be available on on the market. Consumers will really adopt cellphone based navigation when the GPS will be integrated. Only the most technically advanced consumers will accept to carry a separate bluetooth receiver and its charger and pair it with its cellphone.