Destinator Technologies invests in China

Destinator Technologies today announces plans to strengthen its presence in the Asia Pacific region and particularly in mainland China to meet growing demand for satellite navigation solutions.

Destinator Technologies CEO Brian Barry said: “China represents one of the big opportunities for Destinator and we’re very excited about the progress we have made since entering the market two short years ago”.

China has overtaken Japan as the world’s second largest car market with sales surging 25 per cent in 2006 to 7.2 million vehicles. According to CCID Consulting, a Chinese market research firm, “Starting from 2007, China’s car GPS market will enter a brand new period of growth. Japanese car-makers will continue to lead the pre-installed market, with all high-end Japanese cars and some new car models to be installed with pre-installed navigation GPS. What is worth noting is that local car makers, currently making great strides forward, may well take the lead in the industry in the current round information system upgrading in domestic cars. The rapid rise of the post-installed portable GPS navigation product market now only hinges on one thing, namely services relating to GPS navigation products. These include traffic and road condition information services, parking lot information services and interest spot information services”.

Destinator has been established in China since 2005 and currently employs over 50 people in Beijing and Taipei. The company says that it will increase the number of staff in the region by the end of 2007. Destinator already has a string of contracts with regional personal navigation device manufacturers, including Shinco (PND manufacturer), Motorola and Sony Ericsson China. Strong relationships with local digital mapping suppliers have also been created to provide in-depth coverage of all the major regions in the country.

Recently, the company has developed a new Linux version of its Destinator 6 navigation software to meet growing demand for Linux Smartphones in China. Indeed, according to CCID Consulting, the 2006 Smartphone market was 15 million units (up 50% compared to 2005), with Linux (especially Motorola’s Smartphones built on this platform) accounting for 30% and Symbian (mainly Nokia’s Smartphones) accounting for 63%.

The company is also the first navigation software developer to work on the development of a TMC (traffic message channel) service for the Chinese market, offering drivers information on how to avoid traffic congestion. Destinator will be working with its partners to offer the service to visitors attending 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. TMC has been demonstrated in December 2005 in China through Dynasty, a European /Chinese project, but so far no service has been made available.

NIM Names David Shimoni SVP Worldwide Sales

Networks In Motion, the white label wireless LBS company, today announced that David Shimoni has been named to the newly created position of senior vice president of worldwide sales to serve growing international markets for location-based services for wireless carriers.

Shimoni has 15 years of experience in sales and marketing on the wireless market. Most recently, he served for 2 years as president of Mobixell Networks, a provider of wireless multimedia adaptation technology. Shimoni spent most of its career at Comverse where he held various assignments up to the position of vice president, wireless sales.

Shimoni holds a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia Business School in New York City and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Networks In Motion started its European expansion last February at the 3GSM World Congress, where it announced the availability of the European version of its products: AtlasBook (Navigation), FamilyFinder, and AtlasLink (mobile workforce management solution).

Networks in Motion is most notably known for powering the off-board navigation solution VZ Navigator (Verizon Wireless); the company has a staff of around 60 people and is headquartered in Aliso Viejo, California.

Mobile social networking patent sold for US$2.6 million

From our reporter in Chicago.

Just before 3:00pm today the US patent number 6,618,593 was sold for US$2.6 million at the live intellectual property auction organized by Ocean Tomo (see our previous article about the auction here) at the Union League Club of Chicago. This US$2.6 million bid is one of the biggest recorded for intellectual property during a live auction.

The lot number 25 was launched at a US$1 million starting price by the auctioneer and was disputed for several minutes by at least 3 different bidders. It eventually reached its final price when a quiet man seated in the middle of the crowd raised its hand and topped the last bid by US$100,000. After the usual three warnings the hammer of the auctioneer closed this record sale, followed by a burst of applause from the 300 intellectual property professionals gathered on the auction floor.

A hot market

This patent covers a location based match-making technology. The system, working with location-aware devices connected to a remote server, allows users to make connections with other users based upon specified preferences and their distance. For example, a user can setup a profile indicating the types of people he would be interested in meeting. When he comes nearby another user matching this profile, a notification is sent to both.

The field of application of this patent is essentially mobile social networking and mobile dating. Both markets are soon to explode, especially in the US with million of users on the verge to shift from PC to cell phone to manage their digital social life. These mobile applications are the obvious next steps for websites such as MySpace, Facebook or Match.com. Several start up companies are already launching their services, for example Loopt, which we interviewed recently (see here ).

While the buyer’s name is not disclosed according to the rules of these IP auctions, one can imagine it might be a large online social networking portal wishing to lock the market with a strong patent, or a company specialized in the monetization of intellectual properties willing to license this promising asset to the various players on the market. But for now the only people making profit out of it is the group of inventors who filed this innovative patent seven years ago.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Magellan eXplorist 500 LE handheld GPS now available in Europe

Magellan announced that the Magellan eXplorist 500 LE handheld GPS is now available in Europe for 399 Euros. Featured with a built-in color map of Europe, it offers views of roads, rivers, waterways, greenways, city centers, airports and other major points of interest.

The Magellan eXplorist 500 LE calculates an area and a perimeter while providing vertical profiles and more. The interface allows users to load and access multiple programs on a single Secure Digital (SD) memory card. Using MapSend Topo software, hikers have a view of contours, elevations, detailed terrain and extensive points of interest to find the sights and services along the way.

On the water, the Magellan eXplorist 500 LE includes fishing and hunting times as well as a sun and moon calculator for any outdoor activity. Searchable points of interest available with MapSend Bluenav make it easy to find the nearest services, marina, tower, beach, bait & tackle, fuel, amenities and fishing and kayaking information.

Rugged and waterproof, the 14-parallel-channel, WAAS/EGNOS-enabled GPS receiver delivers three-meter accuracy, weighs less than four ounces and measures 4.6 x 2.1 x 1.3 inches. It is powered with AAA batteries (or an optional Li-ion battery) and features a color, backlit, high-resolution, 2.3" diagonal display.

The PC-style file management feature allows users to create multiple files, folders and directories to store and maneuver through information in a PC-like structure,.

In addition, optional Magellan eXplorist accessories include batteries, power adaptors, various mounting options and MapSend software, including MapSend Topo, MapSend BlueNav XL3, MapSend BlueNav Local plus other international titles.

www.magellanGPS.com://

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.