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Interview with TELEATLAS

In this issue of EOMAG, EARSC had the opportunity to feature an interview with: Rob van Essen, VP Research & Development at TeleAtlas and Simon Glassman, Segment Marketing Director Wireless at Tele Atlas


Please tell us something about your company: your business focus, your market share and strategy for growth

Rob: Tele Atlas delivers the digital maps and dynamic content that power some of the world’s most essential navigation and location-based services (LBS). Through a combination of its own products and partnerships, Tele Atlas offers map coverage of more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, including nearly 29 million kilometres of roads, nearly two billion inhabitants, and 30 million Points of Interest (POIs)

Collaborating with an expanding universe of pioneers in personal navigation, Internet, wireless, automotive, enterprise and public service markets, Tele Atlas delivers valuable products and services that help users find the people, places, products, and services they need, wherever they are.

Today, Tele Atlas maps are developed with the insight of a community of millions of GPS system users worldwide, who are adding to the company’s unmatched network of sources to track and validate changes in real time, and deliver the best digital maps and dynamic content.

Tele Atlas is a subsidiary of TomTom N.V. For more information:

What is your company like to work for?

Rob: We are a global company that operates in a rapidly evolving market. Tele Atlas was founded in 1984 and currently employs more than 2,000 full-time and contract cartographers in 24 countries around the world. In a sense, “multi-cultural” is what best describes our company culture.

Working at Tele Atlas means working in a challenging environment, where everyone is encouraged to contribute their ideas, knowledge and efforts in order to achieve a shared goal and sustain our culture.

The Navigation Destination
Tele Atlas delivers the digital maps and dynamic content that power some of the world’s most essential navigation and location-based services. The information is the foundation for a wide range of personal and in-car navigation systems and mobile and Internet map applications that help users find the people, places, and services they need, wherever they are.


What expectations do customers have for product development and marketing?

Rob: Our customers also expect that our maps are the mirror of reality, with high-quality content and map coverage around the world. Community feedback enables Tele Atlas to update its maps quicker and to get reality into the database faster.

How do you strategise your business especially in the current scenario of competitiveness?

Rob: Tele Atlas believes that current customer requirements with regards to more coverage, more content and higher quality can only be met under the current and future business context by a rationalisation of the map production process. The acquisition of Tele Atlas by TomTom N.V. enables Tele Atlas to do that in a revolutionary way – providing Tele Atlas access to customer input of TomTom users regarding what they encounter while using the map. For this, TomTom has developed its proprietary Map Share technology which enables TomTom customers to very easily correct map errors directly on their devices and provide reports to TomTom and other users of the Map Share community on their feedback. The size of the TomTom community input at this moment already indicates that it will enable Tele Atlas to deliver the freshest maps possible. Tele Atlas also invites its other customers to contribute to the community via additional channels.

What are the forthcoming products/services from your company in next couple of years?

Rob: Community Input enables Tele Atlas to revolutionize navigation. Through the cooperation with TomTom it has been possible to generate and develop Tele Atlas Speed Profiles, which provides highly accurate speed profile information to allow end-users of navigation systems to better estimate their travel time and to find the most optimal routes to their destinations. In practice Speed Profiles can save minutes or even hours as opposed to the existing methods of routing calculation.

Tele Atlas will also make navigation dynamic, taking the actual traffic situation into account, deriving information from even more detailed and extensive sources than traditional traffic information. As a consequence, many more roads will be covered with much more detail.


What is the market reacting to merging technologies?

Simon: It’s an exciting time for the LBS market right now. Many major players, including Apple, Google and TomTom, together with the major mobile operators and device manufacturers are investing. The arrival of mainstream mobile phones with integrated GPS and other location technology is enabling compelling services such as navigation and mobile local search to be readily available to a wide range of consumers. We expect that the next generation of LBS applications will be characterized in a number of ways:

There will be more LBS applications for the consumer and the enterprise.

This is a result of both technology and commercial barriers disappearing and application developers gaining access the tools and enablers they need to build LBS applications. Additionally, consumer awareness, usability, quality and price are all influential factors that are now being addressed.

Location ‘enhanced’ applications are starting to appear.

Whereas LBS services such as navigation have location and mapping at the core, there will be new mobile application categories that have yet to exploit location in a significant way. For example, many of the latest Web 2.0 social networking applications that have seen major uptake on the internet are moving to mobile, and these are being enhanced with location, maps and presence in innovative ways. Similarly, mobile gaming, friend-finders, geo-tagging, blogs and travel guides, as well as business / enterprise oriented services in areas such as fleet management and logistics will become increasingly prevalent. At Tele Atlas we are working hard to build additional layers of content and attribution to further enhance our maps and ensure that there is plenty of opportunity for LBS application developers to innovate. For example, we have an extensive database of Points of Interest (POIs), 2D and 3D City maps, 3D landmarks, and aerial and satellite imagery that provide options for developer creativity. In addition to GPS and a variety of other location determination mechanisms, the latest mobile devices now have the necessary processing power and display capabilities to take advantage of many of these new digital map features. We are also collaborating with the major chipset manufacturers and specialized technology providers to ensure our products deliver the consumer electronics-quality user experiences on mobile devices.

In your opinion, what countries are showing the most growth potential?

Simon: The US and Asia are currently the most mature markets in terms of LBS application deployment but we see major growth potential in Europe and also emerging markets including China, India and Latin America.

What are your target markets? What is your marketing and sales model?

Simon: Tele Atlas serves a diverse range of markets including Automotive, Internet, Wireless, Personal Navigation, Enterprise and Government. We collaborate with partners to build marketing and business models and are frequently flexible to our approach in this area. For example, in wireless, which is still a nascent market, we see scope of a wide variety of business and licensing models including those based on subscription, transactions, ‘try-and-buy’ and, in future, advertising subsidised. We are part of the ecosystem that is helping to create the LBS market, and all players need to be flexible to ensure models are implemented that meet the needs and expectation of suppliers, and also increase the uptake of applications and services by consumers.


What trends do you foresee for the wider availability of low-cost and easy to base LBS and geo-information?

Simon: We see increasing use of community input as key to enhancing the quality, richness and value of map data and other forms of geo-coded content. At Tele Atlas, we are already embracing community input in a number of ways. For example, we enable consumers to feedback on anomalies they find in the road network or to inform us if they come across interesting new points of interest. We are also using the large installed base of TomTom personal navigation devices as real time probes in interesting ways. Both to identify and verify changes in the road network, and also as a means to build highly detailed profiles of actual road speeds. This data in turn leads, for example, to the availability of more accurate routing calculations in the products developed and sold by our customers. We also foresee wider use of mobile devices as a valuable source of community input, as consumers interact with the environment around them in different ways – capturing and geo-tagging photos of interesting POIs, for example. We also expect to see demand for more content to support out-of vehicle use cases – for example, data for use by pedestrians. 2D and 3D imagery – used not so much for navigation, but more for user orientation when out walking around cities, will become increasingly relevant.

Where do you think the location based technology or industry is heading for?

Simon: Location is moving from becoming just a discrete application to an enabler for a wide range of new applications and services. Turn-by-turn navigation will remain a key component of the LBS market proposition, but the convergence of web, mobile and even automotive propositions will bring about whole new categories of solutions that use location, presence, mapping data and a rich variety of geo-coded content to deliver new services to consumers. Also, as more devices start to include new technologies, including electronic compasses, accelerometers as well as A-GPS and other location determination mechanisms, this will open up opportunities for even more innovative LBS applications.

How are technologies like Galileo having an impact on the geo-information market?

Rob: Galileo is well poised to be an important stimulant to the LBS and navigation sector. It should give rise to a large number of Government based applications (e.g. road pricing) and safety critical applications. Based on this, also new types of commercial applications will develop. These all will contribute to a fast expanding geo-information market.


At the end of the interview, here is the opportunity for your final thoughts on latest developments In general which is your vision for the future? What do you see as the task ahead?

Rob: We are commited to driving industry innovation – to the next era in digital mapping which will be a world where community based input and real time data help create the best experience for digital map users by providing much fresher maps and more dynamic content. Our products will deliver and set the standard for a completely new level of quality, content and innovation that helps our partners deliver the best products. We’re very excited about the possibilities of what is to come next!

Sandra Van Hauwaert
Global Communications Specialist
Gaston Crommenlaan 4, bus 0501, 9050 Gent – Belgium
+32(0)9 244 92 22 direct