Denso selects Airbiquity’s in-band modem

Airbiquity announced yesterday a global licensing agreement with Japanese navigation and telematics supplier DENSO, for its aqLink in-band software modem to support a North American automotive telematics program.

“Airbiquity was chosen to provide DENSO with two-way wireless connectivity through our aqLink software modem, an already road-proven product with more than 12 million vehicle installations to date,” said David Jumpa, senior vice-president of global business development for Airbiquity.

The aqLink software modem can be integrated onto a wireless module, Bluetooth hands-free kit or a navigation system to deliver connectivity applications. aqLink uses the voice channel which has the advantage to transmit data without unpredictable delays, a very important feature for critical and time-sensitive applications such as crash notification.

Twitter to get geolocation

Last week Twitter announced it will include geolocation in standard in its short message system. Along with the option to geo-tag updates, users will be able to search for nearby tweets and view the geo metadata in user timelines.

So far many developers have been able to add location to tweets in their applications but it was not directly supported by Twitter. “We’re gearing up to launch a new feature which makes Twitter truly location-aware”, said a post from Twitter CEO Biz Stone. “A new API will allow developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet. […]We’re very excited about the potential of location metadata combined with Twitter. ”

Before launching it on its own website, Twitter is giving its developers a preview of the API to let them develop. “We’re going to release geolocation to platform developers before we add the feature to Twitter.com. Most of the mobile applications people use and love are built by Twitter platform developers.”

Back in June Twitter hired Ryan Sarver from Skyhook Wireless, a major provider of Wi-FI geolocation services. At Skyhook Sarver was director of consumer products and he was been at the forefront of the “geo-web” being the founder and chair of the Location Aware Working Group (World Wide Web Consortium) whose goal is to work with browser vendors, location providers and location consumers to define a privacy-aware standard for making a user’s geolocation data available through a simple API.

Privacy

In including geolocation Twitter will face the sensitive topic of privacy. In a post in a blog for twitter developers, Sarver notes: “As part of our Geolocation efforts we will soon be publishing "Geolocation Best Practices" to guide everyone through issues like security and privacy as well as discussing some ideal experiences for users. Topics will include things like storage of location data, what to do with a user’s historical data, how to present the concept of geotagging and more. The guide will create a framework from which we can address the challenges that come about when dealing with something as sensitive as someone’s location while hopefully allowing everyone enough creative freedom to create their own experiences around it.”

In addition, geolocation will be “strictly opt-in”, only the user will decide to add its position to tweets.

With all the rage we know about Twitter these days, this geolocation API will surely develop new use case for the micro-blogging service. From hyper local citizen journalism to friend finder and beyond, there are many innovative ways location can be used. If we also look at Twitter’s own monetization, this could be a way to sell geo-targeted ads, a good thing for a company which is still struggling to find a business model.

SPOT updates GPS satellite tracker

SPOT LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Globalstar, Inc. is unveiling today its new SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger. The new device is 30% smaller and lighter (5.2 ounces/147 grams) than the original SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker, offers additional custom messaging modes, and uses the Amy-5M GPS chipset from u-blox.

SPOT LLC is showcasing its line of products and services this week at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Unlike many other GPS locator relying on cellular networks for communication, SPOT relies on the satellite communication system from Globalstar which makes it perfectly adapted for outdoor sports. The only competition in this field is from personal location beacons (for example the Fast Find 210 from McMurdo) which cost a minimum of $300 and are only for emergency, without the possibility to send location messages to family and friends.

The new SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger also has some features to enhance the usability such as a GPS Acquisition light and a “Message sent” indicator light. There are also covers over S.O.S and Help buttons to prevent inadvertent messages. This new SPOT Satellite GSP Messenger is scheduled to be available at select retailers later this fall. Price has not been indicated at this stage, it is however likely to be in the range of the older model, around $149 with a one year service subscription starting at $99.

Since its market introduction at the end of 2007, SPOT has initiated more than 250 rescues and sent over 10 million peace-of-mind and track-me messages around the world. As of March 31, 2009 the Company had received orders to ship more than 120,000 units and it currently has a growing global network of more than 8,000 points of distribution.

NAVIGON to ship PND with photo realistic cities and optional TV

German Personal Navigation device (PND) manufacturer NAVIGON announced yesterday a €449 premium device called NAVIGON 8410 Navigator. A 5-inch display, realistic 3D urban views (called Real City3D) and an optional module for mobile TV are among the top new hardware and software features.

The new display is said to be particularly reactive under the finger: “[it] is extremely touch-sensitive, and reacts far more sensitively to touch than other displays,” explained Jörn Watzke, Vice-President, Product Line Management. NAVIGON has also further improved its voice command system, allowing to call up names from saved contacts or name special destinations.

Real City3D (see picture) will be available for 16 cities in Europe. Further cities are planned for the future said a NAVIGON spokesperson. The provider is Zenrin Data, a well known Japanese map data company.

For an additional €59.95, the NAVIGON 8410 can be equipped with a digital TV module for DVB-T reception, converting the device into a mobile television. In addition, NAVIGON integrated a media player for viewing films and images and listening to music.

This device also includes all the bells and whistles found in the previous premium products such as TMC, Bluetooth, lane assistant, junction views, advanced parking search, etc.

High-end PND market

With this new product NAVIGON is further pushing the boundaries in terms of high-end PND. It further underlines the marketing strategy which tends to position the company as a high end PND brand. As a matter of fact, after recently stopping to sell its PNDs in the United States, the German company is now more than ever lacking the scale to effectively compete in the lower end of the market against TomTom and Garmin.

As European consumers are getting more mature and a second time buyer segment starts to emerge, the product mix getting a bit more balanced towards more advanced functionalities. However, in the short term the current economic situation in Europe is not favorable to that trend and many retailers are therefore limiting the display of high end products on their shelves. This short term situation might reveal dangerous for NAVIGON.

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.

French D-Day beaches get GPS tour guide

For the 65th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, an association of local towns in the American sector of the invasion (Sainte Mere l’Eglise, Utah Beach) commissioned a GPS tour guide to visit the beaches and the inland countryside to better understand the events which took place on June 6, 1944.

Created by the French GPS multimedia tour guide company Camineo, the whole project cost was €60,000, reported the local press. The tour is offered on a Windows Mobile PDA from Mio Technologies. The rental cost €8 and is available at the local tourism office.

Based on many unpublished visual documents from the US Army and the Caen Memorial (museum), the tour includes 30 minutes of videos and almost 500 pictures of the invasion, as well as a spoken text from French writer Gilles Perrault, well-known for writing several books on the Normandy invasion and World War II. The guide is available in English and French.

“Having a multimedia guide is particularly interesting because there are many steles in the local landscape with nothing left around to understand the context of the battle,” said Xavier Zimmermann, co-founder and sales director at Camineo.

This GPS-triggered guide offers a first layer of information made of a 3 minutes presentation for each of the places to be visited in the tour; then visitors can dive into more information, quizzes and a full encyclopedia of the Allied invasion of Normandy.

The guide encompasses 11 places scattered along a 50 km loop which starts inland in Sainte Mere l’Eglise. Camineo has been using Tele Atlas raster map data – which allows a zoom between the 1/50,000 to 1/5,000 scales – to guide visitors from one site to another.

Continued…

Lowrance to enter European outdoor GPS market

Following on the announcement of Endura, its new range of outdoor GPS handhelds a few months ago in the United States, Lowrance is also preparing the launch of the same devices on the European market, GPS Business News learned this week.

Priced between €230 and €500-550, the Endura Outback, Safari and Sierra are expected to be on the European shelves early July — In the United States the introduction is expected around June 20.

These European products will be sold with a large range of mapping and POI content from NAVTEQ, Intermap and Navionics to be available on the device or sold through an additional MicroSD card. Specific local content such as Ordnance Survey map data in the United Kingdom is also expected to be available as an option.

Lowrance expects to make 50% of its volume with the entry level Outback, 40% with the mid-range Safari and 10% with the high end Sierra. The company will use its existing channel partner from its marine business and new distributors when appropriate.

Lowrance would like to position itself as a credible alternative to Garmin, the heavyweight on this market, and grab the number two position from Magellan’s hands.

Glympse: location sharing App launched by ex-Microsofties

Unveiled today at the WHERE 2.0 conference is Glympse, an application that allows sharing its real-time location for a definite period of time (maximum 4 hours) with whoever has a web browser, on a PC or on a cell phone.

Glympse was founded in March 2008 in Redmond, Washington, by former Microsoft employees Bryan Trussel, Steve Miller and Jeremy Mercer. “One year ago when we were looking at the location-based services market, there were a couple of unsolved problems we wanted to nailâ€?, explained Bryan Trussel, the CEO of the company. “The most important things were to make the service very simple to use but also to address people’s concern about privacy. This is how we came up with the concept of Glympse.â€?

This service is particularly interesting because it is hassle-free for the person receiving the location: no need to sign up to any network, download whatever application or even have a sophisticated phone: a web browser is enough. From the application side the service is simple (simplistic?) and straightforward: select or enter a phone number or email for one or more contacts, set the duration you want your location to be visible to the recipients, and hit send.

Business model

Glympse has a staff of eight people and has been funded by business angels. “We are not looking for immediate additional funding,“ said Trussel. His business model is relatively standard for a free location-based service: get to a critical mass of users, then sell advertising, premium features on the top of the basic free service and white label licensing to handset manufacturers or wireless operators.

The good thing for Glympse is that they have likely created a viral application: every time you share your location with a new person, you are de facto becoming a marketing volunteer for Glympse. The bad thing is that the technology behind this application is rather simple to replicate. It is likely that many friend finder applications will have soon a Glympse-like feature.

NAVIGON stops PND business in North America

After a few days of rumors about NAVIGON withdrawal from the North American market, NAVIGON’s CEO Egon Minar spoke this morning to GPS Business News: “Due to the difficult economic environment and the aggressive pricing we have decided to withdraw from the PND business in North America for the time being. We are however not closing down our Chicago office which will continue to serve our automotive and mobile phone businesses in North America.”

Egon Minar did not detail how many people are affected by this downsize, but it is a “significant number of people in our Chicago office”, he said. Only a few people will remain to take care of the existing PND customers: “we will continue to fulfill all obligations to our existing PND customers in terms of map update, etc.”, he added.

NAVIGON launched its first products on the North American market in September 2007. During the first quarter of 2008 the German company reached the fourth position on the US market with a share of 7.7%. To reach this share so quickly NAVIGON invested in advertising and was the first to introduce a lifetime traffic service bundled into the price of its product. The German company also had a local product team to localize its software to North American tastes.

It seems the NAVIGON presence on the U.S. market was sustainable as far as the A brands maintained a certain level of premium price. But with products such as the TomTom ONE selling at $99 during the last Christmas season and beyond, there was not much opportunity left to NAVIGON despite the good quality of their products.

Despite this downsize NAVIGON expects to increase its business in its mobile division in North America. Most recently the German company signed a deal with T-Mobile (in Germany) to equip many Smartphones with its onboard navigation software (read here; Egon Minar is now looking at extending this deal in North America. However, this might be a real challenge since European players (Wayfinder, Telmap) have had so far little success on the market. The Apple App store could be an opportunity, but here again price competition is likely to be fierce.

Important market concentration

A few weeks only after Mio decided a significant downsizing of its workforce in the US, this is another mid size PND manufacturer to be hit by the aggressive pricing policies currently taking place on the North American market. What is good news for market leaders Garmin and TomTom is certainly bad news for the rest of the value chain. This is the case for retailers which have now little options left when it comes to lining up PNDs on their shelves.

Japanese NAVITIME launches satnav service in APAC

NAVITIME, a Japanese mobile in-car and pedestrian navigation provider is launching its services in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. Together with the U.S. and European areas, NAVITIME is now available in twenty three countries worldwide. The service will be provided as a 4 weeks subscription costing $4.99 for Australia and $4.99 for Singapore and Malaysia combined. A free four-week trial is also available.

NAVITIME’s multimodal system gives the fastest and most practical travel route using a combination of walking, driving, and public transportation. In the Asia Pacific region subway routes are available for the cities of Sydney and Singapore and local train routes for Sydney, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

NAVITIME application now supports total of forty three devices, recently adding NOKIA 5800 Xpress Music and BlackBerry 8900 (Curve) and other Symbian, Blackberry and Windows Mobile Smartphones.

NAVITIME initially launched its service in 1998 in Japan where the company currently has over 2 million monthly subscribers. The global expansion started last year in the United States and more recently in Europe. But to date the company is crucially lacking partnerships with wireless operators and handset manufacturers outside of Japan.