Sometimes a market niche appears to be heading toward better things — even if the economy is not. This year’s Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting had its highest attendance ever. While intelligent transportation systems meetings have been shunned in the last few years as being too government-focused, some forward-thinking companies are using the Washington, D.C.-based meeting as a springboard for their enterprise location-based services offerings.
WASHINGTON — While enterprise and government markets are not as sexy as traditional friend-finding location-based services, a lot can be said about companies trying to make inroads in this developing marketplace. At the recent Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting here, such companies as TomTom are leveraging its community input options from its consumer navigation devices and map-building to government and enterprise markets.
While saying the portable navigation device will endure for a long time — and will never disappear — Maarten van Gool, TomTom’s Licensing Business Unit managing director, said that the company is looking at providing navigation and location products on multiple platforms. “For decades, we have delivered location and map content to the government and enterprise markets and we work with such companies as ESRI and Pitney Bowes Business Insight and federal, state, and local government agencies,” he said.
Van Gool said that government experts and policy-makers need detailed and reliable decision-making support tools to make timely and cost-effective decisions on changes to their local traffic management programs. “The intelligent transportation systems market can benefit from accurate and comprehensive information about travel times, traffic speeds, local accessibility, and travel patterns, which are the basic building blocks for forming cohesive traffic management plans,” he said.
Also at TRB last month, TomTom announced a partnership with PTV where PTV will be able to deliver TomTom traffic content, via TomTom Traffic Stats, to its customers in the transportation sector. “We are really only at the beginning of what we can offer and we look forward to delivering additional products for the government and enterprise markets based upon our vast historical traffic database and real-time traffic capabilities; these will become available over the course of 2011,” van Gool said. “The total [government] market size is yet to be quantified, and as the technology innovation in this space expands, we are on track to support it. We believe we can revolutionize traffic information by utilizing our assets and capabilities and we are working to educate the market before its full potential is reached.”
In other TomTom news, if you haven’t seen it already, it looks as if the company is phasing out the Tele Atlas name at trade shows. Most company personnel are now wearing TomTom badges during this transition.
In one of the big TRB announcements, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration announced the Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge. The new competition seeks industry ideas for using wireless connectivity between vehicles.
RITA, through the competition, is soliciting ideas for products or applications that use dedicated short-range communications, which will be the basis for a future system of connected vehicles that will communicate with each other as well as the surrounding infrastructure, such as traffic signals, work zones and toll booths.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications can potentially address 81 percent of all unimpaired vehicle crashes. Selected prize recipients will be fully funded to present their ideas for connected vehicle technology.
The competition, which runs through May 1, is open to all companies, not just those involved in transportation. More information can be found at www.challenge.gov.
Qualcomm Makes LBS News with Neer
Concentrating on privacy as a market driver, Neer, which is a subsidiary of Qualcomm Services Labs, allows a users to determine where, when, and who their location information is sent to. The company says applications include not only allowing family members to know where a loved one is, but business users to schedule information to co-workers.
Privacy is what Neer, which had a strong presence in the Qualcomm booth at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show, hopes separates it from the Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, and Facebook Places of the world.
“First and foremost, Neer was not designed to broadcast your location to vast numbers of people. Instead, Neer allows you to selectively choose the people, places, and times you are comfortable sharing your location,” said Ian Heidt, Neer director of services strategy. “And because we enable private sharing only with those you are most close to, we have seen growing acceptance of sharing places such as one’s home or work, places that have typically been taboo in other apps. We also wanted Neer to fit in more naturally with how people behave, so Neer works simply, securely, and automatically — there is no need to ‘check in’ like other apps. And because we believe that people want to keep this information securely within their control, there are no means to share location outside Neer.”
Right now, Heidt said that Neer is free, with no charges or advertising. “In the future, we may explore ways of including relevant ads, but for now, it is totally free on both Android and iPhone,” he said. “We are looking into numerous ways that we can monetize Neer by connecting people to the places they go. But in all cases, our primary goal is to preserve the trust that Neer is both helpful to your day and under your control.”