uLocate’s GPS widget platform to launch on Alltel network

US wireless carrier Alltel and uLocate Communications today announced the launch of the WHERE GPS-enabled mobile widget platform on the Alltel network. The application is available for download in Alltel’s Axcess Shop for US $2.99 per month. The application will initially launch on five phones: The Waferâ„¢, The Alltel Hue and u520 by Samsung as well as The Wave and AX8600 by LG.

“WHERE is a perfect fit for our on-the-go customers who seek simple directions to everyday locations whether at home or while traveling”, said Wade McGill, senior vice president of wireless product marketing for Alltel.

WHERE allows content providers to easily develop a GPS-enabled application (widget) from a website with geo-localized content; then the user can access to this content through a GPS-enabled mobile phone and the WHERE mobile client. Today WHERE gathers more than 25 widgets on various topics as broad as to help you find the nearest Burger King or Rent A Car or to get local air quality or the biography of the local US representative. uLocate announced a ShopLocal widget two weeks ago (read here). WHERE uses the map data from Tele Atlas.

After Sprint, Alltel is the second wireless operator signed by ULocate. Alltel is the fifth biggest US wireless operator with 12 million customers and 5% market share (Source: Chetan Sharma Consulting).

Garmin Mobile debuts at US MVNO Helio

US-based virtual network operator Helio today unveiled a new device called Fin and announced the availability of Garmin Mobile for this cell phone as well as for the Ocean, another handset announced last March. After Sprint this is the second wireless operator signed by Garmin for its off-board navigation solution. But Helio remains a niche operator with around 100,000 subscribers (Q2 2007), even if targeting a young and connected demographics more inclined to use their device for data applications. Garmin Mobile is available for $2.99 per day, no monthly fee has been released at the time of publishing.

The new Helio Fin does not limit its GPS features to navigation, photos and video shot with Fin’s 3 megapixel camera are geo-tagged. Pictures can be automatically uploaded with their GPS coordinates to Flickr.com and be seen immediately on the Flickr map. Helio handsets also offer GPS-enabled Google Maps and “Buddy Beacon”, a friend finder application.

Real time traffic broadcast to debut in Australia

Intelematics an Australian Telematics solution provider and a subsidiary of Royal Automobile Club of Victoria started last week the first broadcast of traffic information in Australia. This broadcast has commenced in Melbourne using existing FM infrastructure to transmit the traffic information to compatible navigation devices via “TMC” (Traffic Message Channel, the international standard for delivering real-time information about road and traffic conditions to navigation systems). During the coming months, Intelematics will undertake final calibration and testing of the service called SunaTraffic, prior to it becoming available to consumers.

Melbourne was selected for the first broadcast owing to the assistance of the Victoria State’s transport administration in providing access to a range of traffic data. Unique to Intelematics’ approach is the identification of congestion levels using data derived from the traffic light control system. Intelematics combines this data with additional detail from probe vehicles and human observers. The company uses ITIS Holdings traffic platform to aggregate this information into a single real-time data feed.

“Intelematics has developed Australia’s first and only comprehensive real-time navigation service that is based on the global TMC standard. We have combined live data from thousands of traffic network sensors with human observation of road conditions to deliver one of the world’s most detailed and accurate navigation services”, said Adam Game, CEO of Intelematics Australia.

A well developed navigation market

This future traffic information service will give some additional reasons to Australian customers for purchasing a navigation device: according to Intelematics the 2006 sales for both in-dash and PND navigation solution were approximately 300,000. The forecast for 2007 is 600,000 of which approximately 80,000 is in-dash. Considering the Australian population is about 21 million, the penetration rate is not far away from United Kingdom and about the same as France.

According to a market study commissioned by local map provider Sensis (Nov 06 — Jan 07): 26% of consumers surveyed are currently using portable and – or in-car GPS navigation. 35% of all respondents surveyed are considering purchasing a GPS navigation device in the next 12 months.

TomTom agrees to acquire Tele Atlas for EU2 Billion

TomTom offered 21.25 euros per Tele Atlas share, Den Bosch, Netherlands-based Tele Atlas said in a statement. The bid is 28 percent more than the closing price on July 20.

Tele Atlas is the world’s second-biggest producer of maps and will allow TomTom to deliver real-time updates on routes to its more than 10 million navigation devices, the companies said. TomTom’s stock has doubled in the past two years on demand for its $280 products that stick to the dashboard and navigate drivers to their destination.

After the merger Tele Atlas will continue its business as a separate unit in the combined group specialising in developing and licensing digital map products for and to current and future customers, both in and outside the group.

Commenting on the proposed Offer, Harold Goddijn, Chief Executive Officer of TomTom said: “We think that the navigation industry is going to change dramatically in the next few years as end customers will give ever increasing importance to intelligent routing and continuously updated maps. By integrating customer feedback into the Tele Atlas map manufacturing process, we will be able to considerably enhance the user experience and further increase all Tele Atlas and all TomTom’s customers’ satisfaction. We will supply all companies wanting to rely on the improved maps for their PNDs, wireless handsets, in-car systems, internet services and in-house routing services.”

Source: Bloomberg – TomTom press release

Garmin to sponsor well known UK football club Middlesbrough

Garmin on Friday announced it will become the prime sponsor of the Middlesbrough Football Club for the coming season. Commonly known as Boro, the club plays in English Premier League and went to the final of the UEFA Cup in 2005-06. “Garmin is looking to improve its brand awareness” said Clive Taylor, Garmin’s European marketing director. Garmin market share in the United Kingdom was around 14% in 2006, four times smaller than the dominant TomTom.

The deal was signed in three weeks, for an undisclosed seven-figure sum: the “biggest-ever” shirt sponsorship deal for Boro, according to club’s sources. Graham Fordy, Head of Commercial, from Middlesbrough FC said, "The deal is initially for 12 months but we are already in discussions about extending the sponsorship into a second year”.

As a prime sponsors Garmin’s name will be on the player’s shirts at home and away. As part of the association, Garmin will be providing Middlesbrough coaches and players with Garmin Forerunner sport GPS to aid their fitness training and development. “There are numerous activities where the Garmin brand will be visible, including advertising boards and online activity. Garmin will have a strong presence at the Riverside Stadium throughout the season and will also be working closely with Middlesbrough FC in community projects”, added Garmin.

Spanish authorities to fine GPS navigation misuses

In a press conference today, Pere Navarro, the head of the Spanish traffic authority (DGT) explained its administration is seriously studying a new law to fine drivers using their GPS navigation systems while their vehicle is in motion. The fine could be €300 as well as three points removed from the driving license.

Using a mobile phone when driving is forbidden in Spain and Pere Navarro explained that using a navigation device should be the same. DGT estimates that 1.3 million GPS navigation devices will be sold in Spain in 2007. According to a study done by the DGT about half of car accidents in Spain are caused by driver’s distractions.

This is the second time since the beginning of the year that Pere Navarro targets GPS navigation as a cause of driver’s distraction during public speeches. The probability of a new law is now higher than ever.

The DGT also intends to contact GPS navigation manufacturers asking them to modify their software in order to prevent its use while the vehicle is in motion.

GPS Business News published a large feature about GPS and road safety legislation in Europe a few months ago. It is available here.

Indian telecom giant BSNL launched LBS

Telenity, a provider of applications for communications networks, announced that India’s state-owned telecom giant, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) has successfully launched location-based services (LBS) on Telenity’s Canvas Location Enabling Server. BSNL has a market share of 45% in India with 75 million subscribers (March 2007 — Indian Telecom regulatory authority figures).

Four location-based services have been already launched in the East Zone of BSNL’s network:

– Friend Finder — alerts subscribers when one of their friends in their buddy list is in close proximity to their location.

– Location Based Advertisement – automatically broadcasts advertisement to subscribers within a defined geographical region via SMS messages.

– Location Based Chatting Service — enables subscribers to communicate and/or meet someone with same interests within the same vicinity.

– Real Time Fleet and Asset Management – enables enterprises to locate, monitor and manage their mobile assets and employees in a secure way using a simple Web browser.

“Location based services is the new genre of mobile services. This new service will attract new customers for BSNL and will also help in retaining existing customers. Proper marketing is required to attract the appropriate segment of customers. It will give BSNL an edge over its competitors in the country,” said Dr. Biswajit Paul, General Manager, BSNL East.

New survey gives insight about mobile advertising

MoMac a British mobile media publisher has released an interesting survey about consumers attitude towards mobile advertising. The Mobile Advertising Attitudes Report – done by independent research agency Tickbox – surveyed a cross section of 1,400 UK mobile phone users during May 2007. The findings of this report gives a good insight about how mobile navigation could be funded by advertising and which demographics could be more receptive to this model.

Despite the fact that mobile advertising is in its infancy, the report reveals that as many as 13% of 16-24s have already responded to or clicked-on a mobile advert. Given the limited inventory currently available for mobile advertising, and the relative rarity of mobile users being served mobile ads, the figures show the potential for a significant future take-up — if the communication is delivered in the right way.

When it comes to mobile advertising formats, MoMac’s research shows clear differences in the preferences of men and women and the different demographic groups. When on mobile sites, text based advertising links are the most popular (56%) with a clear female bias of 60% compared to just 47% of men. Picture or banner-based advertising was the second most popular option, favoured by 29% overall and just under one in three 25-34 year olds.

Interestingly, video based advertising has a strong male bias with 22% of men compared to just 12% of women stating they would be most likely to respond to a video advert. Video formats were also more popular with younger mobile users selected by 23% of 16-24s but only 12% of the over 55s.

Payment Models

The research results also indicate that content providers will need to consider a number of payment models to appeal to the diverse groups of mobile users in the UK looking for content. The ad-funded model could become dominant with younger mobile users, with 47% of 16 to 24s preferring to access content for free in exchange for viewing advertising. Only 32% of this group opted for a pay-as-you-download (PAYD) model and only 3.9% stated they would want to pay for content via a subscription.

In contrast the PAYD method is more popular with older mobile users, with 55% of those aged 45 and older opting to pay for content on demand, and also appeals more to women, with 54% choosing PAYD compared to 41% of men who are more open to advertising.

Germany gets free off-board navigation

German phone directory Das Oertlich has launched last week Ö-Navi, a free off-board navigation solution powered by Jentro with an advertising-based business model. The software is available for download for free on Oe-Navi.de and banners are displayed on the top of the navigation screen during the routing and feature local advertising. German customers only need to have a data plan and to buy a Bluetooth GPS receiver or to have a GPS-enabled mobile phone for using this solution.

The navigation software offers state of the art functionalities: 2D and 3D views, voice commands with street names and highways exit names, local search powered by Das Oertlich, full Germany phone directory searchable by name and phone number, nearest and cheapest gas station database, Traffic information and Western Europe maps.

This new solution demonstrates again (read our article about Mappy in France) the beginning of the phone directory companies in the navigation space, disrupting the market with their advertising-based business models. Wireless operators competing on this market will have to re-think their strategy accordingly: whether to partner with these competitors or decrease their prices and launch value added services if they want to maintain a subscription-based model.

TomTom Map Share: good news for map providers?

PND manufacturer TomTom announced two weeks ago Map Share a new technology allowing users of the TomTom Go 520 and 720 to correct map mistakes directly on their device and share these little improvements with the community of other users. Since TeleAtlas is the key map provider to TomTom, one might have thought Map Share would have been launched in co-operation with TeleAtlas and that the improvements made to the maps would be given back to TeleAtlas. But “At the moment, TomTom will not be sharing the information we collect with any of our map providers. This could very well change in the future”, said Karen Drake a TomTom spokesperson.

Map Share is a major investment from TomTom because such a solution needs a complex back-end system to process user’s updates, so it is sure the company is not likely to give back user generated map correction for free to TeleAtlas, and to see his competitors Navman and Mio — also TeleAtlas customers – getting the same information.

Despite Map Share TomTom will continue to provide its customers with a yearly map update, a high margin operation. If there is no agreement with TeleAtlas it means TomTom would have to compile its new maps with two sources: the new TeleAtlas data and its own Map Share updated data: probably not an easy task.

According to TeleAtlas spokesperson Erin Delaney, “Tele Atlas is excited by the launch of the TomTom Map Share program as we believe it will help enable users with the ability to further personalize and customize their navigation experience. Tele Atlas is committed to arming its industry partners and their end users with the freshest, most accurate map data and it’s been our strategy for over a year to solicit input from consumers via our Map Insight program. “

However we guess TeleAtlas might be more worried than thrilled by Map Share. So far map providers TeleAtlas and Navteq were fully in control of the map data value chain and business model. Of course end users update were most welcome, but for free and on the map provider websites.

But if PND manufacturers such as TomTom enter in the value chain and de facto control these end-user updates, it will change the rules of the game.

“Today, communities drive innovation and help facilitate experiences” added Delaney. We can not disagree, but the power is in the hands of who enables these communities.