|Topic:||Navigation–the cellular world’s new driving force|
Oren Nissim is the CEO at Telmap. His diverse background in IT, e-commerce, networking, sales and marketing provided him with the skills to guide Telmap from start up to major player in the navigation and telematics arena. Prior to Telmap, Mr Nissim was Co-founder and Head of Internet and Technology at Mustop.com, an e-commerce company. Mr Nissim also held key management positions at Netking, a portal and Web projects company, and at Golden Pages Advertising Directory in the US.
Cars have used on-board mobile navigation systems, with fixed database and GPS satellite location data, for years. Off-board navigation gets its geographical and point-of-interest information over a cell phone, in real-time. Off-board systems provide navigation information at lower cost than on-board systems. They can use real-time information about traffic and road conditions to plot the best route for cars and also pedestrians. Travellers can leave their cars, travel abroad and use their navigation system when they step off the plane.
Location-based technology relying on GPS, or network-based positioning, is behind some of the most exciting applications to come to market recently. Among them, is one that can be used on a day-to-day basis; it enables users to get from one point on the map to another simply by using a cellular phone. This exciting new product is known as ‘mobile navigation’. Before going into detail on the latest navigation technology, it is worth taking a brief look into the history and origins of traditional navigation systems. What is a navigation system? Traditionally, a navigation system is an in-car device, system, or application that guides a driver from any starting location to a programmed destination using automatic directions by means of a GPS (Global Positioning System), which automatically calculates the present location and end point. The system enables drivers to search for destination cities, streets and, optionally, POIs (Points of Interest such as restaurants, hotels etc.) and calculates the best route. Users, then, receive maps and/or turn-by-turn directions to their selected destination; several systems provide a combination of voice or text instructions based on GPS-assisted location, prompting the user to ‘turn right in 500 metres’ or ‘take the second exit at the approaching roundabout’, step-by-step, until the user arrives at the desired destination. On-board navigation systems Up until the recent mobile revolution, the only navigation systems on the market were on-board systems. These systems consist of an on-board embedded computer, a GPS antenna and a storage device such as a CD ROM containing digital maps. The GPS antenna receives signals from the GPS satellites, which in turn enables the system to follow the whereabouts of the vehicle. The main benefit of on-board navigation is that the system does not rely on any outside source of information. However, this can also be a disadvantage. The advantage is that all geographical data resides in the user’s car, providing the driver with rapid and reliable route and map downloads. However, robust on-board navigation systems are expensive to buy and the geographical data needs to be re-purchased every few months, in order to keep the mapping and routing data up to date. Also, on-board POI data is static, so users cannot receive real-time information such as updated theatre and cinema showings. This brings us to off-board navigation and the foreseeable future of navigation systems. Off-board navigation systems Using off-board navigation, all geographical and POI data is received by a cellular phone or wireless handheld device, in real-time, from a remote server. These systems are specifically designed to provide many of the benefits of in-car navigation, but without the expense of fitting a high-cost embedded system into the car. Additionally, contrary to most in-car systems, because these applications are off-board, all routing and mapping data is updated–including real-time traffic information and incidents–to help users find the best possible route, at the time of request, to any chosen destination. Off-board advantages The benefits of off-board systems are quite clear. Off-board navigation systems are more affordable than on-board systems since cellular carriers can provide navigation systems as a service paid for monthly by the user. This makes navigation more accessible to the mass market and not just a luxury item accessible only to top-end car owners. Another benefit is that the content provider automatically uploads all new map and content data so there is no need for users to spend money on costly new CDs. Most importantly, off-board navigation systems are completely mobile; users, vacationers and business travellers can leave their car at home, fly abroad and still enjoy all the benefits of a navigation system from the moment the step off the aeroplane. Off-board disadvantages Potential off-board system disadvantages include problems with cellular network coverage for downloading routes and complications in obtaining GPS coverage to obtain an accurate position. Today, however, the top systems on the market take this problem into account. There is now technology specifically developed to ensure almost seamless coverage and route continuity despite network or GPS difficulties. Development of off-board navigation systems Up until recently, off-board navigation applications encountered various obstacles such as cellular network data bandwidth restrictions, voice-focused mobile devices, cellular operators that concentrated mainly on voice-services and the inability of existing systems to deliver real-time navigation instructions. Today, cellular carriers realise the endless possibilities of data applications and are investing heavily to facilitate data transfer over the wireless network. As a result, networks and devices are being continuously improved, upgraded and re-designed, to accommodate data on an equal footing with voice. GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) and other 3G wireless phone systems that speed up wireless data for GSM, enable the continuous flows of IP data packets on mobile systems. Together, these make high-speed data transfer a reality and open the door to applications that could only be imagined a few years ago. Given the availability of greater bandwidth, mobile phone manufacturers are developing phones with larger user-friendlier screens in order to offer end-users a wide range of value-added services and stay ahead of competition. Open road to off-board navigation systems With most of the key obstacles out of the way, the road is now wide open for the development of off-board navigation systems for cellular phones. Using these systems, all the navigation information is sent via high-speed, real-time, wireless data transfers and is displayed on the mobile device. Content–a world of possibilities Due to the real-time information aspect of off-board systems, the content possibilities are literally limitless. The dissemination of POI information can be quite extensive; these systems can supply a simple address and phone number or dial directly to a POI from within the application, display a restaurant’s menus or play a personal video welcome–via streaming media–from the establishment’s chef. Of course, when it comes to road data itself, the benefits are immediately apparent to the driver. Geographical data can be constantly updated to include new roads, ongoing road works and new one-way systems etc. Moreover, directions can be designed to take into account the best route to take for the time of travel (rush hour) and routes can be calculated according to the latest traffic and accident reports. Pedestrian navigation One of the latest developments in some of the top mobile navigation systems is ‘pedestrian navigation’. Pedestrian navigation does exactly what its name suggests–provide directions specifically for the pedestrian, as opposed to the in-car user; this is revolutionary by any standard. Some of the more advanced applications on the market include both in-car and pedestrian navigation in one system, selectable by simply switching ‘modes’. One can use the navigator in the car to arrive at a destination and then continue to use it on foot, in pedestrian mode, to search for shops, restaurants, banks, etc. Pedestrian navigation data differs from data designed for in-car use; it includes one-way streets accessible to pedestrians from both directions in a route while excluding highways that are not accessible on foot. In its essence, pedestrian navigation introduces the cellular world to a completely new way of using the mobile phone while on foot. SMS connectivity Additionally, recent developments include the ability to send maps and locations to friends with the same application via SMS (Short Message Service). For example, two friends can plan to meet at a venue, send the location to each other via SMS and then use the navigation mode to get immediate directions on how to arrive. This feature is particularly appealing to the user and, indeed, the cellular carrier, as it tends to increase data usage and consequently, raise average revenue per user (ARPU). Who is driving mobile navigation forward? The market place for cellular navigation is broadening rapidly. In the beginning, when on-board systems were the only option, car manufacturers were the main promoters of navigation systems. Now, with off-board navigation, cellular carriers and other players have become critical both for their support of navigation applications and for the transfer of geographical data content. Indeed, more and more cellular carriers are recognising the advantages of off-board navigation as an important tool to raise ARPU, attract new subscribers and lock-in existing customers for the long term. In light of this, some car manufacturers with their eyes on the market are providing both on-board and off-board systems, selling the off-board systems as an aftermarket product. Handset manufacturers include off-board navigation systems to attract users to GPS embedded cellular phones and there are increasing numbers of devices designed specifically for location-based data services. Another rising player in this market is the distributor. Supermarket chains and large car phone distributors are keen to jump on the navigation bandwagon in their quest for providing a one-stop-shop for all your in-car needs, as are other mobile service providers. At this time, the market is at full throttle and the timing seems to be spot on. Application providers, cellular carriers, cellular device manufacturers, service providers and distributors are all working to get ready for the coming year. The year 2005 is sure to see some exciting developments in navigation.