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18 Jun 2007, 11:59PM PT

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The Future of Personal Navigation Devices


Closed: 18 Jun 2007, 11:59PM PT

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As more and more devices add GPS capabilities, what features will really differentiate personal navigation devices (PNDs)? What location based services will be most valuable to drivers? To pedestrians? What will GPS devices look like in 5 years?

10 Insights


What will differentiate GPS and PND's now is what  the reality will be in 5 years. And that is an affordable solution included in mobile phones. The adoption rate will inherently increase when the application is integrated with mobile phones. 

I am an early adopter / gadget geek but I do not own a PND nor do I plan on it. Would it come in handy often? Very much so. But the last thing I need is another device to carry around.

What hurts the PND industry is the fact that within seconds I can query Google Maps through the browser on my phone which will give me directions based on the location that I input. The value PND or similar applications bring to the table is that the end user need not know their current location. This increased value / differentiation does not warrant the cost or inconvenience of owning a dedicated PND.

If I was a PND manufacturer not focused on the future of mobile computing / mobile web services I would do so right away because that's what all the competitors should be working on.  While R&D is working on mobile solutions I would only target frequent drivers or partnering with auto manufacturers to create brand awareness. I really like what Garmin has done in this industry by personalizing their brand and targeting non traditional GPS / PND owners like soccer moms.

But the future is all about access through integrated mobile devices. 

Vinaya HS
Wed Jun 13 10:40pm
I don't think it is possible to cram each and every feature on to a mobile device without losing the all important - and underlying - concept of "mobility." There has to be a line drawn somewhere. How useful can a navigation map be on a tiny mobile screen?

Segmenting the market into categories such as "soccer moms" might sound cool. But by doing so, are you pushing away your other customer segments? Don't you think that's a hit on your brand's perception?

I found this specific customer comment:

"My biggest frustration with the Nuvi lineup is the limited configuration options. Garmin, in an effort to appeal to soccer Mom's, has really dumbed down the interface compared to years ago when you could configure just about everything including display of MGRS data."

Isn't that proof enough?

Vinaya HS
The main differentiating factor between navigation units in a few years will be how effectively they draw on the collective intelligence of their user bases. Cellular data networks are becoming ubiquitous, and embracing this transition from standalone devices to connected terminals will define the winners.

This means more than just collecting traffic patterns. Envision a button on the dashboard that, when pushed, starts a voice recorder. The driver then announces "Debris in roadway, right lane, appears to be plywood", and pushes the button again. The voice sample, along with a packet of GPS data from when it was recorded, is sent over a cellular network to a back end service that classifies and transcribes it.

The back end service could take the form of a call center, like OnStar. Or it could be a user-driven service like LiveJournal voicepost transcriptions. In the latter case, the likely number of available transcribers wouldn't track the volume of messages through the day, so perhaps a two-button system (transcribe immediately / ok to defer) would allow drivers to set priority. Low-priority messages like "map indicates this is a two-way street. It is not!" could be transcribed later and sent to the appropriate party.

A third button would let the user keep her own notes, jotting things like "garage sale saturday", which would be placed automatically on the user's own map, and optionally shared with a group of friends or posted in messageboards. A common waypoint format (several already exist within the geocaching community) would make this data more useful.

As for door-to-door navigation, again, voice services could play a key role. Being able to push an interactive-help button and ask "Is there good pizza near here, or along my route in the next twenty minutes?" would certainly beat muddling through the GUIs and outdated datasets that present software offer.

The trouble will be unifying the useful data, like restaurant reviews, business listings (many of which are from outdated phonebooks), and jurisdictional boundaries for road trouble reporting. Like accurate map data, there's no silver bullet. Steadily improving a flawed dataset, based on input from the users, will yield the best results.

The physical form factor will vary. Many of these services are naturals for cellphones to incorporate, and cellular providers will salivate at the possibilities. The cellphone as a hiker's GPS, with waypoint functions and such, would be easy with today's devices but nobody seems to be doing it.

For driving, a high-contrast screen will separate the leader from the imitators. Driver-distraction legislation will necessitate agressive dimmers, with the ability to run the screen two or three orders of magnitude dimmer than its direct-sunlight setting. The stray light thrown off by a "black" LCD will make it inferior to a plasma or OLED display that only generates light in the pixels where it's needed.
Vinaya HS
Wed Jun 13 10:51pm
Referring to your point: "Steadily improving a flawed dataset, based on input from the users, will yield the best results."

It's good in theory, but how do you ensure that someone doesn't game the system and still maintain the real-time factor? Your users are the best bet for live information, but verification and mass publishing of that information is not possible in real-time.
Nathaniel Bezanson
Mon Jun 18 7:19am
Karma, feedback, moderation, ratings. Whatever you call it, a reputation system will be essential to most forms of user-driven interaction going forward. Since each submission could be keyed to the hardware device it came from, there's no "army of anonymous lamers" to poison the data -- the few who do misbehave will be quickly rooted out and modded down below the noise floor.

Likewise, every product will attract its share of fans who contribute tons of data, advocacy, and good will. A way to encourage and reward that behavior, by bringing those helpful people on board, will pay great dividends. (Look at the Insight Community itself, turning Techdirt's commenters into a valuable resource.)

Wide deployment of GPS will have a significant impact on cities' ability to create "smart infrastructure"  Once the flow of vehicular, transit and people traffic is KNOWN not PREDICTED - then the behavior of traffic controls can be dynamically modified to gain incredible efficiencies.  The impact will be to reduce congestion, reduce the need for additional infrastructure, and make cities opearte at a higher level of effectivess.   Other benefits of GPSii would be to facilitate travel for emergency response teams.

The ROI just on energy savings (plus pollution reduction) should be enough for a company to develop GPS-enabled infrastructure intelligence.  Cool!


Mitch Brisebois


There are two questions folded into this one: 1. What will _todays_ navigation devices look like in a few years. 2. What  _other_ devices could get navigation capabilities.

To see what I mean with the latter, think about the WiFi indicators that you can get to put on your keychain nowadays. What if they were GPS-enabled, automatically positioning any WiFi network they found? And if you could connect them to your USB port to build a collaborative map of free wifi automatically?

 As for the first one, this will obviously be quite different in different parts of the world, and different markets. Where people typically take trains, especially subway (instead of driving), the most valued capability will be for naviagtion devices to work underground (or in stations). More intelligent devices would also be useful (it does not help a pedestrian to be directed onto the motorway), and the devices could easily be made to sense what modality a user is transporting themselves with (for instance, using an accelerometer, you can quickly determine the motion pattern of walking). So making devices more sensitive to the situation of the user is one thing.

Another is more intelligent maps. Not only sensitive to the transport modality, but also containing several levels of information. I need maps to get around, but if I am looking for a restaurant where I want to have dinner with my wife, getting the McDonalds is not sufficient. I want real restaurants with recommendations. The user interface is going to need a bit of work here, since the selection must be simple and non-intrusive. Preferrably, the accelerometer could be used to enable the selection as well (gesture interaction).

Real-time communications capabilities is also something that is relatively easy to build in, but where the GPS devices today are too stupid to leverage the possibilities. For instance, in Europe you can get data about the traffic situation etc over the FM radio. How can GPS devices display this in a friendly and intelligent way? There are plenty of other things which you can get the same way (including weather), and it does not require internet connectivity, just an FM broadcast receiver.

There is one more thing you can do with GPS today, which is rarely done, and that is the third dimension. Today, GPS devices are normally used to determine your coordinates relevant to a two-dimensional map. But if you can relate your position to the height, you could get a lot more information such as floor layouts etc into there. And you could connect it to phone books, which tell what floor tenants are.

In other words, GPS devices today should stay what they are - but get better at it.

The non-GPS-devices, however, that is a different story. GPS has become so cheap now that we could build it into litterally anything electric. Of course, the usefulness of having a GPS vacuum cleaner might be questionable. The trick is not getting the GPS information in there, but the trick is getting the information out, and into something useful. Devices which constantly stand still might not have immediate use for GPS, unless they are unexpectedly moved out of position (think safes). The sky is the limit, litteraly.

Hope that helps. Come back if you want more.


2007 is predicted to be the year when GPS technology will – to quote Geoffrey Moore – “cross the chasm” from early adoption to mainstream adoption. In today’s market, it is almost impossible to find a pure personal navigation device. Navigation has become just one of the umpteen features offered on a personal navigation device. Personal navigation devices can today capture FM radio signals and DMB mobile TV signals, masquerade as audio/MP3 players (with an iPod dock of course), double up as hands-free Bluetooth kits for your cellphone, and even display e-books. Talk about feature abuse!


On the other side, traditional devices such as cellphones, smartphones, and portable media players are now taking on GPS capabilities. It’s a feature abuse game being played from both ends of the equation. With so many manufacturers involved, navigation devices are slowly turning into commodity items. Indeed, market leaders such as Navman have gone on record saying that there’s not a great deal of differentiation that can be done on the technology side.


Although I believe that the market for pure personal navigation devices is steadily shrinking (simply because there are not too many manufacturers making them), the areas where differentiation is possible are:


Design – Stick to simplicity. Do one thing: navigation, and do it well. Be the best in navigation rather then being mediocre in multiple things. Make the devices compact enough, so that people can simply pick them up, stick it into their pocket/purse when leaving the vehicle and then use it for navigation in pedestrian mode. Again, don’t stick features into the device simply because you know how to.


Features – Provide plenty of navigation related features. Strive for connected information with ideas like social networking, safety-camera downloads, and dynamic points of interests. Make the device easy to use out of the box. Create a “Wow!” experience. Your customers will love you for it.


I believe that five years down the line there will be demand for both forms of the product. There will always be customers who want one of those all-in-one devices when they are in pedestrian mode, but when the same people get back into their vehicles they will want a pure personal navigation device with a big bright screen and clear speakers.


Location-based services:


I believe that the following location based services will be most valuable from a vehicle driver’s perspective (i.e. as a daily commuter):


Real-time traffic congestion updates

Shortest route from Point A to Point B (taking into account real-time traffic congestion)

Services that answer questions such as:

Which is the nearest fuel station offering gasoline at the lowest price?

Which is the nearest car-wash?

Which is the nearest garage (in case of vehicle breakdowns)?


From a pedestrian’s perspective, I believe that the following location based services will be most valuable:


Permission-based buddy services to discover friends nearby

Instant geo-tagging of photos

Location-based games

Location-based advertising

For a long time GPS devices were the reserve of a minority of users in a very small niche.  Outdoor enthusiasts used them for safety when walking.  In car GPS started to take a hold and now most high end cars come with either a CD or DVD based system onboard.


The next wave of GPS devices saw the likes of Navman and TomTom market a line of standalone devices that can be mounted in your car to help you navigate from A to B.


Today the latest trend in the Mobile Handset evolution is to see GPS added on as a feature.  This trend is now entering the lower end of the handset market and for those phones equipped with Bluetooth there are small GPS devices that connect to your phone, for viewing, via Bluetooth.


This handset trend is set to publicize GPS technology and with hybrid handsets also being able to use cell based location services the platform has been created for Location Based Services.  The use of cell based services is more preferable in urban areas where cell site saturation make the system accurate enough add where the tall buildings can hamper the line of sight required for satellite acquisition.


Where will the technology lead us to? What will be required to ensure adoption?

The move to mobile phone handsets and the use of hybrid services, either satellite or cell based, means that personal navigation devices (PND) are no longer for in car use.


Many devices today, like the Nokia 330, have modes for vehicle and foot.  This allows the user to get route selection by road or by pedestrian friendly routes.


Many devices have 2D and 3D viewing capability.  This moves from the flat, map like, representation to allow for a sense of height and vertical separation.


As the devices are increasingly mobile phones or PDA’s how will the use need to evolve to make the system suitable for pedestrians?


  • ICE – In Case of Emergency services
  • Franchise add-ons
  • Collaboration and Community


ICE services


A key feature for a PND will be the location of Hospitals, Police Stations, Dentists, Embassies and maybe Information Centers.


Directory services and web sites should start to include coordinates so that users can find their way to the site as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  IVR systems should start to include an option “press 8 to hear our coordinates”.


Franchise Add-ons


For travelers that find themselves in a foreign location that need the taste of the familiar franchise companies could start providing locations of their stores to be uploaded into the handset:


  • Where’s the nearest Starbucks?
  • I need McDonalds
  • Need some more books, where’s the nearest Borders?


Another extension could be the convergence of your PND and your travel guide.  I previously posted an idea on how Lonely Planet could collaborate with location based services.  With the potential explosion of PND’s consideration should be given to add coordinates of key sights, hotels and such into the guide so that tourists can, if they wish, find the way there.


This would lead to additional modes for foot users.  At present personal navigation tends to plot the fastest route.  In some cities this may not be the best route, what about the safest route? For convergence with tourism what about scenic route?


Collaboration and Community


GPS already has one strong community, Geocaching.  This is where users place objects or create interest points that can be found via your PND.  One sight might be a box that you locate and add your name to a log or a location where you take a photo and post it on a site to prove that you’ve been there.  Other variations are where you can log your note/bill and track where it’s circulated to through the community portal.


The ability for users with a common interest to log coordinates and share the navigation experience will be a key strategy to success.  TomTom now have a map sharing service available.  Users can edit the map, share it via the web and other users could share the edits to update their device.  This would tie in nicely with Lonely Planets Thorn Tree forum where travelers can help keep the guide up to date.


In order to support this PND vendor will need to have an open source approach so that handsets can have their maps edited, if need be through a website.


The other success factor, in addition to function, is size.  The newest generation of GPS devices will fit into your shirt pocket. 


Overall I see the trend of handsets to be more component based.  Many devices now integrate Bluetooth for connectivity.  I see a Bluetooth hub in your pocket that has a WiFi and GSM gateway.  The phone will be a small display and keyboard for voice, SMS and web browsing that connect over Bluetooth to the hub and out over the channel required.  In the same way the current Bluetooth GPS devices could then be placed in any pocket and still supply functionality, maybe eventually to a heads up display that projects into your sunglasses.

 David Mould

Find me on LinkedIn 

*If you use Jeteye then you can see my Jetpak for additional references

The GPS devices that will become increasingly more valuable will be the ones that can communicate with others and aggregate their collective information via a network.

Of course, real-time traffic data aids drivers immensely, but the way most of this data is collected is via street and highway cameras, and very little is via the cars or nav-devices themselves.  Dash.net is running their trial in California with two-way PNDs and I believe this hub-and-spoke two-way communication will prove more cost effective and accurate for real-time traffic info than other kinds of traffic monitoring.  Enabling PNDs to communicate amongst themselves, in a mesh or peer-to-peer kind of way would allow information to flow more efficiently.  Imagine the safety implications: a car in distress automatically communicating the SOS call to other cars passing by; quickly alerting other cars in the immediate vicinity that others are stopped; or an ambulance telling cars down the road to get out of the way. 

Other location aware devices, like digital cameras, will be able to provide a much richer experience when that information is exposed to online photo services.  While technology like Microsoft's photosynth generally compares images to extrapolate points-of-view in a 3D world, geo-location tagging will be the next step in automatically placing those photos and video in a place and time.  Imagine real-time photos of Google Maps Street View pulled from standard photos uploaded on Flickr.

Location-aware applications on mobile phones allow users to find where their friends are located, today.  Other applications offered today can help users find services and products right where they're standing.  We're going to see more online services tie into this data, like friends-of-friends networks, for both the social MySpace and professional LinkedIn crowds.  General web-searches will be more precisely tailored to the user's location for devices that expose that kind of information to the search engine.  Personal automation will also be greatly benefited with the additional location datum--your mobile phone will know you don't want to be disturbed when you're physically at the movie theater, or automatically reschedule events when you may not be in the vicinity of your next appointment.

What we perceive as an integral innovation of Web2.0 is the ability of products and services to mash-up open data sets to create a new innovation.  While two-way communication can give a device manufacturer / service provider a great edge, it's this writer's opinion that it would behoove the market to learn the lessons from Web2.0; PND market as a whole would be better served a if an open, two-way communication standard were developed.

I write a blog mostly covering the Printing and Imaging industry but this question pops up as interesting to me because recent user studies in our industry have found one of those most frequent print tasks in the home these days is printing driving instructions. So an optimistic printer executive might conclude that future personal navigation devices will include portable printers. More pessimistic types would say that the paper directions of today are an intermediate step doomed to go away when PNDs are more pervasive.

However, I'm somewhere in the middle, and understand that the portability provided by today's print out from Mapquest, for example, does have advantages in readability (visible in almost all lighting situations) and true portability (can't run out of batteries), for example. It's also less risky in the case of loss, and can be adapted to other complementary purposes  (like jotting down notes or phone numbers to go along with the directions).

So my perfect PND would have all those advantages of customized paper directions -- readable, portable, easily and almost painlessly replaced if lost, and updatable with companion information.

Weather! Not an easy one to solve, but it would be killer to know the weather on the roads ahead when roads are blocked from snow or ice, etc... But forgetting about that for a second...when I can connect my GPS device to online services, wirelessly (CDMA, GPRS, EDGE, etc...), in real time, so that it can help me find recommendations on restaurants, hotels, etc... while I'm browsing the list of destinations. Now we're talking!

As someone who has bought and used multiple devices from Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan, as well as is on the Board of Advisors of a LBS start-up, I think I can offer you some input into this issue.

What LBS Features Will Be Most Valuable To Drivers:

  1. Portability: One big advantages over OEM devices is the portability of PNDs. They can be moved from one car to your wife/husband's easily, and can equally be taken in a friend's or rental car. Battery powered models can even be used on a foot or bicycle trip. One big problem I have seen with highly portable models is that people don't know how to mount the device in the rental car when they leave their mount at home. There should be cheap, simple mounting solutions for many situations available for sale.
  2. Mounting Accessories: Devices that can function in a portable context should think through the whole situation. Magellan, for example, has a terrible long gooseneck mount for some of its device, which is a ridiculously cumbersome thing to bring on trips. Garmin's sandbag mounts are better but weigh too much. Magellan's mounts are also multi-piece and complex. Score this one to TomTom - a simple, lightweight suction mount should be available for every PND.
  3. Accuracy/reception: Without this feature, forget about it. WAAS is a minimum, and the new standard for accuracy is the SiRF chips. SiRF can get a lock with overhead cover.
  4. Boot time: Time to first fix is very important, because that's when drivers want to access the device - right after power-up. At least allow the driver to program the destination while fix is being established.
  5. Legalese: Most of the devices I use have a galling legalese BS screen that I am forced to look at twice a day for years. OK, your lawyers are breathing down your necks. But give the customer an opt-out somewhere in the setup menus. I know that this also "hides" boot-up latency, but don't make me click through this junk, or even look at it for more than 2 seconds.
  6. Traffic Info: This is becoming table stakes, and with Clear Channel's recent upgrade of their system to include real time traffic data from fleet vehicles, is becoming even better. Whether in partnership with XM or Clear Channel, accurate traffic data and routing optimization is essential in good devices. Also, accurate ETA results should reflect traffic now that Clear Channel provides real time road speeds. Also, XM seems to be a worse choice as partner because of the higher consumer costs.
  7. MP3, Translators, Audible, XM Radio, Mr. T, etc: These all fall into the long list of Extras that are being added in to top end devices that few people want. MP3 fans have a player, XM radio is cheaper in a standalone device, and professional voices get old fast. I had John Cleese on a TomTom, and he repeated the same joke three times within 400 yards of my home "You are now approaching your destination. You can get out now, but I won't help you carry your bags". Funny the first time, but etched in my mind even though I eBayed that PND two years ago. Some features just don't add much consumer value.
  8. Photos: This is one feature that may add some consumer value. Even as just a screen saver or a wallpaper. Slideshows are less useful, since the device should primarily function as a map display.
  9. TTS: Text to Speech is important in this generation of devices, but as many people hate it as love it. I turn it off since I use my PND on EVERY drive, even if I know where I'm going. (How else would I get ETA and traffic for my route?) The fact that the GPS is always talking incents many users to NOT use the device except for times when they are totally lost. I would suggest offering it, but having an EASY way to enable/disable TTS like a hardware button.
  10. Brightness: Make it bright, shaded by a lip, and auto-adjusting to conditions.
  11. Touchscreen: Essential. The best way for users to interact with the map.
  12. Hardware buttons: Essential. This is where the Nuvi line is weakest. Touchscreens are great, but people also need to activate/deactivate specific features quickly, like volume, find, view, waypoint, speak, detour, power, menu. It's a waste of screen space to put these buttons on the screen, offers no tactile feedback, and slows down the UI.
  13. Fast Processor: Some older models were just too dog slow. Magellan's 760 is a snail, and the map moves jerkily, and like a circa 1995 PC the device ends up five button clicks behind you in operations. Consumer devices need to respond to button clicks in real-time.
  14. Built-in Memory: People never bought these devices until the map data could affordably be placed on the device at the factory. Early models that required PC-sync were doomed. Adequate Hard Drive or flash memory should be in place to handle at least two continents of map data and POI.
  15. Map Data Vendor: Let's face it. TeleAtlas is an EU company, and is behind Navteq in the USA. Perhaps someday they'll catch up, but for now if you want accurate data in NA, you use Navteq. You then thank TeleAtlas for offering you some negotiating power, but you still stick with the teq.
  16. Screen size: flexible based on the device. But don't waste it with soft-buttons. Use hardware buttons as suggested.
  17. UI: As Apple and Tivo have demonstrated, this is soooo very important. Perhaps the most important thing in this whole list. UI is an afterthought for far too many PND makers, but it is the key to user satisfaction. TomTom has terrible UI, despite nice industrial design in the plastics. Searching for a POI in a TomTom makes me want to pull over to a phone booth and use the torn up yellow pages. Garmin is the hands-down leader here, but other companies have some aspects right. Spend money on UI and test, test, test. For an example, Garmin Streetpilot devices boot to a) a splash screen, b) a "loading maps" screen, c) Legal warnings with an OK required, d) the default menu with big "Where to" and "View Map" buttons. This last screen stays up forever, meaning that if I touch no buttons, the device displays no useful information at all. Why? The @#$@ device actually HAS both "Find" and "Map" hardware buttons so the soft buttons on screen add absolutely NO value. It's just bad UI design. Another dumb UI example is when there is a yes/no question in the UI, and the choices are small touch buttons. In such a situation, why not have Yes and NO each occupy 50% of the screen? Clearly I'm frustrated. UI is important.
  18. POI Database: The more the better. 5 Million is table stakes. Get fresh data from partners like InfoUSA and similar. The end game is that this should basically be a Yellow Pages for the whole country.
  19. Customizable POI: PNDs should allow users to add their own POIs, and particularly to download POI datasets from the Internet. Speed cameras, favorite coffee shops, etc. could all be downloaded.
  20. Proximity Alerts: In concert with POIs, proximity alerts should be enabled when a target POI is close, or on the chosen route.
  21. Voice Input, remote control: Voice input is a future feature that OEM car SatNavs now have. This is a useful feature which could contribute to driver safety. Start with command recognition first, and evolve to destination input in future generations as the voice recognition accuracy improves.
  22. Routing Algorithms: Some are better than others. But certainly new ones need to be written to incorporate real-time traffic flow information.
  23. Bluetooth hands-free: A feature that many users will enjoy is hands-free. Since a speaker already exists on the device, add a mic and provide this for the increasing number of cell phones that have Bluetooth.
  24. Bluetooth DUN: PNDs can use a phone's data connection to connect to the Internet and access extra data, traffic data, or updates. The problem is, this is so tricky to configure that it actually ends up being more frustrating than useful. I would suggest skipping this feature, and using a PC to access updates, or a memory card.
  25. Wi-Fi: With newer versions of Wi-Fi, like draft n, the range of home networks is increasing. Devices that can access the network for data while the car is in the driveway can reach high-speed cheap data feeds. This connection could be used for map or firmware updates, traffic, POI updates, media sync, or destination input.
  26. Friend Finder: The ability to share locations with a friend, and see each other on the map, has appeal. Like the Garmin Rhino handheld, PNDs that are connected to a two-way data network could offer this feature.
  27. "Beam" from phone, PC, SMS, Calendar: One cool feature Magellan offered on the 760 was the ability to receive infrared addresses by beaming from a PDA. This saves the user from entering the address using the conventional methods. This could also be done by SMS, or if possible by sending the destination from the user's PC or to get fancy with the idea, using the "location" field of a user's Outlook calendar. Clearly some kind of data network connectivity is required.
  28. Back-up Camera: This is a decent use of the screen while the car is in reverse.
  29. Streetlight awareness: So far, I haven't seen a PND that is aware that stop lights exist at intersections. They estimate travel with the assumption that every light is green. This not only gives sub-optimal routing results, but also gives incorrect ETAs. I think the existence of streetlights is available in the Navteq and TeleAtlas data, so why is nobody estimating a "real" road travel speed based on lights?

What location based services will be most valuable to drivers?

  1. Good UI, accuracy, fast boot, easy destination input, real-time accurate traffic info, accurate ETA.

What location based services will be most valuable to pedestrians?

  1. Good UI, accuracy, battery life, size, friend finder, POI database, brightness, map data

What will GPS devices look like in 5 years?  

PNDs soon will be squeezed on one side by OEM car devices which are integrated with rear-view cameras, entertainment systems, HVAC, etc, and on the other side by phones. And phones have the distinct advantage of being connected to the network.  So in 5 years, PNDs will look like...Phones. Well, no joke, if you look at the Nokia N95, for example, you can see that the functions of the PND can be integrated nicely into phones today. The PDA market was big in the late 90s, but it got swallowed up by the Smartphone. And so the PND will face a similar threat. Palm became a smartphone company, as has MSFT with their PDAs. PND makers might consider doing the same. Worked for RIM! On the one hand, phone handsets are a cut-throat market, on the other hand, 1B get sold every year - that's an opportunithreat.

Thus, for pedestrian use, this market is going to go to phones. PND makers can either follow Palm, and make phones, or just let that market go bye-bye.

PNDs makers need to focus on other niches, such as competing head-on for the in-car market. The OEMs have some advantages, but their product cycle is slow, so stand-alones should always try to beat them on price, and modern features. Connectivity may be a differentiator in the next five year product cycles. PND makers should be the first to connect to wide area data networks (EDGE, EVDO, HSDPA, WiMAX, Wi-Fi) and stay in front of Delco and Denso. UI also becomes a very important differentiator. They may have better screens, but I still haven't seen an in-car model that competes with the best-of-breed PND for UI. That's the Blackberry/iPod advantage: even years after their release, still no one really can match their user experience.

But I think that the squeeze is going to be painful for PND makers. Perhaps partnerships with the automakers is the best long-term plan. Compete with them using your PND standalones, but hedge against obscurity by partnering with them to deliver best-of-breed SatNav.

Remember in the 70s-80s, aftermarket car stereos took off, and names like Alpine, Pioneer, Sony and such had big addressable markets. Then automakers started changing the form factors of car stereos, and putting better radios in cars. They became integrated with other car functions, simply at first - like dimming when the headlights were on. The aftermarket took a hit - and that has only continued. Yet the aftermarket vendors have seen some resurrection by partnering with automakers, and offering their products as OEM/branded solutions in new cars. There's a reason why Bose and such displaced Delco and such in the audio of high-end cars. Because of specialization, Bose delivers a better audio solution. Garmin, TommyTomTom, et al need to navigate the same waters.

Derek Kerton
Mon Sep 17 10:26am
So, September 2007 now, and it looks like my predictions are already coming true:


TomTom has struck a deal with Toyota to embed a TomTom device in the dashboard of the new Yaris, and to have the SatNav device integrate with the onboard radio.

Secondly, since the article above was written, Nokia has offered a standalone SatNav device (with no phone function).
Derek Kerton
Fri Oct 5 4:22pm
OK, now it's October 2007, and TomTom bought TeleAtlas, and now Nokia has bought Navteq for 8.1 Billion doll hairs. Those are major shifts, and my insight above still applies.

Gartner today reccomends, "that vehicle manufacturers and auto suppliers 'take an opportunistic approach.' Their best bet is to 'partner with Nokia and create intuitive solutions that leverage the navigation information from cell phones to be used while driving."

"PND makers, meanwhile, should think about ways to 'embrace the cell phone as a device platform to offer navigation to sporadic users' and develop 'connected services that leverage a wireless market,' a the report said.