Mapping turned up the heat in June, becoming a hot topic across the board. Apple ended negotiations to buy Waze, a provider of crowd sourced mapping and traffic, reportedly because the company did not want to relocate from Israel. Google quickly took Apple’s place as Waze’s buyer. With almost 50 million drivers using Waze, many via Apple Maps, Google would get another leg up in the race to own mapping. The connected car industry, gathered in Detroit last week, discussed the need for intelligibility in the market, particularly more organized categories of offerings. Also of interest this month is the backpack-mounted Google Trekker used to map the world where cars don’t go, as well as the LocationTech working group.
Surprisingly, reaction to Google’s sweeping design of new personalized maps, now in limited release, has been muted. The maps show landmarks, restaurants, and other details tailored to the user’s plans, habits, and interests that will become increasingly individualized with usage. One person’s map may include bars and public pools, another’s may include book stores and playgrounds. Google also introduced other map features like blending of Google’s place images, 360 degree views within retail shops, and 3-D satellite images of earth without a plug-in or download needed.
Connected Car Gathering. At Telematics Detroit last week, the connected car industry tried to reach much-needed clarity on the state of the connected car, with attention to standardization, consolidation, increased collaboration, and partnership. Many are trying to build a smartphone experience in the car but, “compared to a mobile phone, you’re always going to lose,” said Robert Acker of Harman. “The car is another device on the ‘Internet of Things,’ and we need to optimize that thing for consuming content while driving. Don’t make it a bigger smartphone device. That’s all Google or Apple can do. Rather, completely change the paradigm. Make it totally seamless; introduce gesture, head-up displays, steering controls. Make it truly revolutionized for the customer.”
Auto OEMs Are Changing Really. Smartphone-like capability in the vehicle is revitalizing the staid OEM industry and has encouraged car manufacturers to take more risk and speed up development time. It used to be de rigueur that a car maker would first pick a supplier like Denso to build a component, like a radio. “Now the automotive companies are first choosing a platform and layering on companies to build the solution. Tech companies are specialists,” says David Jumpa of Airbiquity. “We stand in the middle of the platform that makes it all work together.” Jumpa expects connected car services to get bundled and consumers to pay a subscription fee.
Freedom to Choose. To the unhappiness of wireless carriers, the automotive industry is planning on building cars with embedded subscriber identity module (SIM). Unlike current SIM cards that are carrier-specific, these are universal SIM cards that would enable customers to pick their vehicle’s wireless carrier and then change it at will. For OEMs, embedding SIM cards creates great efficiency. SIM cards can’t be easily replaced, as they must be soldered into vehicles because of vibration and shock. With OEMs shipping vehicles to multiple countries that have different carriers, a universal SIM card provides great flexibility and cost savings. Apple once tried to pursue an embedded SIM card and the carriers rose against it, but let’s see how the OEMs fare.
Mapping the World on Your Back. You’ve probably seen cars loaded with GPS and cameras for mapping streets. It is less likely you’ve seen mapping trikes, carts, or new photo-mapping backpack. Google uses the Trekker, a 42-pound backpack equipped with GPS and 15 cameras. Every 2.5 seconds it takes a picture as a person lugs it along trails, narrow streets, alleys, and mountains. Photos are stitched together to create panoramic images for StreetView.
Location Collaboration. A new initiative, LocationTech, has arrived on the location scene and is dedicated to individual and company collaboration on open-source software with an emphasis on location. The non-profit Eclipse Foundation, has created the working group LocationTech, led by Oracle, IBM, OpenGeo, and Actuate. LocationTech will allow companies to jointly develop and deploy components that bring location awareness to enterprise IT. “No single vendor can address the range of issues our LocationTech working group members are going to solve,” said Mike Milinkovich of Eclipse. “By creating a multi-vendor, open platform for location technologies, we intend to spur even broader adoption of location aware products, devices and services.” LocationTech might sound similar to the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo); however, LocationTech offers full-service support and staffing for open-source location-aware technologies.