Innovation in 3D City Models

Last week at the Where 2.0 conference a Swedish company called C3 Technologies was presenting their 3D city models based on aerial imagery. The data collection and image processing technologies developed by this company allow for high detail and full 3D modelization without LIDAR technology.

GPS Business News interviewed with Ludvig Emgard, product manager at C3 technologies. Watch the video below:

Australian 3D Cities available from Whereis

Australian mapping company Whereis has launched 3D City Models a new mapping feature that will bring the central business districts of Melbourne and Sydney to life for navigation users. Personal navigation device TRAX 5000 from Unidenwill be the first device to integrate this map data with public availability next week on the shelves of retailers.

“Maps of Melbourne and Sydney will be fully rendered and textured, which will allow drivers to easily orientate themselves to their surroundings and increase their situational awareness on busy CBD streets”, said Adrian Tout, a spokesperson for Whereis.

Additional versions of 3D City Models are set to be released later in the year for both Brisbane and

Perth, as well as Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand. Whereis expects an uptake from navigation vendors to occur early in 2010.

Google to crowdsource 3D cities

Google announced this morning yet another add-on to Google Earth called Building maker, a web tool which allows ordinary people to create in a few minutes 3D buildings for Google Earth.

As explained by Google: “Basically, you pick a building and construct a model of it using aerial photos and simple 3D shapes — both of which we provide. When you’re done, we take a look at your model. If it looks right, and if a better model doesn’t already exist, we add it to the 3D Buildings layer in Google Earth.”

Until now making a 3D building required the use of SketchUp, a free 3D software from Google, which, while less complex that other professional 3D software, was pretty difficult to use for non specialists. With this new tool Google can expect the number of cities mapped in 3D to grow exponentially.

Watch the Google video below:

Start-up claims 40m accuracy with cell tower data

A start-up company called GloPos went out of stealth mode last week announcing a new positioning technology based on cell tower information (GSM & CDMA) and capable to calculate a position “accurate to within 1 — 40 meters with a high level of confidence”.

The patent pending GloPos technology is said to work anywhere GSM and CDMA cells are available. The technology is using a server to compute the cell tower information gathered on the mobile phone.”The server can be located in any network suitable for serving data over GSM/CDMA networks”, said the company.

GloPos is a technology spin-off company of 4TS Corporation, a Finland-based company that develops location- and sensor-based technologies and solutions. Based in Dubai, GloPos co-founders, CEO Mikael Vainio and Vice-President Alexander Le Bell are both coming from Ericsson Middle East Headquarters. Prior to that they were working for Nokia in Central Europe.

At this stage the technology looks promising, but for the time being we have not seen more than good looking executives and powerpoint presentations.

SiRFatlasIV unveiled: low cost GPS and multifunction processor

GPS chipset maker SiRF is introducing today SiRFatlasIV, a new chipset self-described as a “multifunction location system processor” which targets entry-level Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs).

SiRFatlasIV is basically a low cost equivalent of the SiRFPrima platform launched last year which provides GPS and high multimedia performance on the same die. However, here the idea is not to offer high-level multimedia capabilities but rather to integrate as many peripherals as possible on the same chipset to reduce the Bill of Material. As a result, SiRFatlasIV embeds a GPS/Galileo baseband (which is exactly the same as the one found in SiRFPrima), a LCD touch-screen controller, 10-bit ADC, video input and high-speed USB 2.0. The system also has an integrated NAND and SD controller which supports both single and multi-layer cell (SLC/MLC) flash memory, allowing system designers to select either a low cost or a robust NAND product.

Impressive lineup of PND customers

SiRFatlasIV is based on pretty much the same idea as Broadcom’s “PND-on-a-chip” concept introduced last week (read more here). However, the Broadcom solution is only sampling for early access customers while the SiRF chipset is already embedded on PNDs hitting the shelves this month. Indeed, SiRF was able today to announce an impressive lineup of ODM and PND makers using this new solution: ASUS International/Unihan Technology Corp., Binatone Electronics, Cirex France, Foxconn Technology Group, Globalsat Technology Corporation, Maylong (GPS for Dummies), Navigon, NDrive, Nextar, Takara, Wistron Corporation and YF International.

GPS phones generate traffic information in Russia

The use of consumer GPS-enabled phones as probes to gather traffic data has been recently highlighted by Mobile Millennium, a project run by Nokia Research center (Palo Alto), NAVTEQ and the Californian transportation authority, Caltrans. However, this type of technology is already in use in Russia today. GPS Business News interviewed with Maria Laufer, the head of the Yandex.Maps service, a leading mapping portal operating such as service.

GPS Business News:
Can you give us a bit of background about Yandex?

Maria Laufer: To speak shortly, Yandex operates Russia’s largest internet search engine and are a leading Russian internet and technology company. During the first six months of 2008, our search engine was the largest in Russia, accounting for approximately 54% of all search traffic, according to Over that same time period, our portal gener¬ated approximately 3.3 billion page views per month. Today we have over 1,200 employees.

GPS BN: When did you start Yandex.Maps?

ML: Yandex.Maps was launched in 2004. At the very beginning, the service provided its users with detailed maps (up to a specific house number) of Moscow and the Moscow region, Saint-Petersburg and Kiev as well as with the maps of Russia and Europe. As of today, we have dozens of maps and satellite images, including the World map in Russian. In 2007, we launched Yandex.Maps mobile application which lets our users to search for a specific street and house number, view satellite images and traffic situation straight from a mobile device.

GPS BN: You have a mobile application that allows to send and receive traffic information, can you explain me how it works and how many users you have?

ML: This March, Yandex announced the launch of its Traffic 2.0 program aimed at gathering and aggregating user-generated data about traffic situation in city. Within the program, participating drivers automatically report traffic conditions in a real time mode. To participate in the program, any driver with a GPS enabled mobile device should download Yandex.Maps mobile application and indicate that he is fine with providing data about his speed and location to Yandex mapping service. The info will be traced automatically from his device to the system.

After being automatically processed, aggregated data from all the program participants appear on the Yandex traffic map where red segments indicate traffic jams, yellow segments – lightly crowded streets and green – clear roads. All mobile application users can see this traffic map. The more people participate in the program, the more exactly the traffic situation is demonstrated; and more and more drivers join the program.

When the number of the program participants becomes crucial, we start translating these user-generated data into the Yandex.Maps traffic monitoring service on the web. As for today, Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and Kiev Traffic Maps process drivers’ reports.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of people use Yandex.Traffic on the web and dozens of thousands on their mobile devices.


Navteq signed with Teletrac: GPS probe data from over 65,000 US vehicles

NAVTEQ announced yesterday an agreement with Teletrac, Inc., a leading supplier of fleet management, navigation and vehicle diagnostic solutions. In addition to utilizing NAVTEQ map data in their navigation products, Teletrac will be a contributing supplier of GPS probe data for NAVTEQ’s exclusive use as a map data and traffic services supplier. The Teletrac real- time probe data feed extends NAVTEQ Traffic probe coverage in the United States. Navteq now claims “the highest frequency of updating in the industry today”.

According to the 2006 annual report of Trafficmaster, the parent company of Teletrac, Teletrac was monitoring 65,000 vehicles in the United States at the end of 2006. Therefore this agreement will offer Navteq’s subsidiary a robust set of additional floating data to further improve its real-time traffic information. Nevertheless, key competitor INRIX is already gathering “real time GPS probe data from more than 650,000 commercial vehicles across the U.S” said the company early September.

GPS probe data, a must have for real-time traffic information

The “Real-Time Traffic Flow Ground Truth Testing Methodology Validation and Accuracy Measurement” study, published one year ago by Frost & Sullivan, was positioning INRIX as a leader in this field thanks to its GPS probe data. “Inrix’s Smart Dust Network provides a major advantage,” said Veerender Kaul, Program Manager at Frost & Sullivan. “Instead of primarily relying on static DOT and radar sensor networks, Inrix is uniquely aggregating real-time data from over 625,000 GPS-enabled commercial vehicles and combining it with data from multiple private and public sources. Inrix’s approach provides a scalable model enabling wide-spread road segment coverage of real-time speeds across the U.S.”.

SiRF GPS to Power New Intel Ultra Mobile Solutions

SiRF Technology today revealed its SiRFstarIII architecture will provide the GPS-based location awareness for products based on the new Intel Ultra Mobile Platform 2007 (UMPC) and Mobile Internet Device (MID) platforms.

"Location-based services provide consumers with a host of new usage scenarios on MID and UMPC platforms," said Rob DeLine, Director of Marketing for Intel’s Ultra Mobility Group. "The SiRFstarIII technology combined with Intel silicon solutions will enable innovative, location-aware platforms."

Despite Intel’s optimism and support from other industry heavyweights such as Microsoft, the UMPC platform is not really taking off. The cost of this kind of device is very high and its usage between smartphones and laptops has still to be demonstrated. In a study conducted in April last year Market analyst In-Stat thought the UMPC market would only reach 7.8 million units by 2011.

TI announced new GPS chip, cost under $5

Texas Instruments announced at CTIA Wireless a new single-chip device expected to drive GPS applications into mainstream mobile phones.

Texas Instruments is one of the important players on the GPS chipset market. According to Yoram Solomon, Senior Director, Wireless Terminals Business Unit: “TI has shipped about 30 million GPS chipsets so far; we rank at the third place on the market today. Our specificity is that we focus on the handset market, our GPS chipsets are made to be used in mobile phonesâ€?.

TI is particularly shy about the name of its clients in this area, but the Windows Smartphone P3300 from HTC, integrating the NaviLink GPS chip in its version 4.0, was showcased on TI’s booth at CTIA.

"We see strong growth potential for GPS-enabled handsets, particularly the high and mid-tier market segments. With GPS demand increasing due to location- based services and regulatory requirements, an affordable single-chip solution like TI’s NaviLink 5.0 device will help fuel GPS adoption in mid-tier handsets," added Patrick Connolly, Senior Analyst, IMS Research.

Built on TI’s single-chip technology, the NaviLink 5.0 solution has a footprint of 25mm2, delivering high performance in a small size at a an affordable cost, the bill of materials being under US5$.

The NaviLink 5.0 solution supports both assisted-GPS (A-GPS) and stand- alone modes of operation. It is also optimized to interface with TI’s OMAP(TM) and OMAP-Vox(TM) processors, which provide clear, crisp 3D images to further enrich the user experience. The GPS chip also seamlessly interfaces with TI’s 2.5G and 3G chipsets to deliver a complete solution for handset manufacturers. The NaviLink 5.0 solution is expected to be in high volume production in 4Q07.