December 12, 2015
GPS Ubiquity May Flatten The Market
I've said it before and I will again, GPS navigation is about to get very cheap and will be included in everything that can display it. Players like Garmin and mobile audio players like Kenwood and Alpine are still asking stratospheric prices for a technology that is on the cusp of going dirt cheap. Why pay 2K for a nav package when you can get a cell phone with all of those features built in? GPS navigation software and hardware is available for PDAs, laptops, mobile computers and a host of other devices. It was only a matter of time before they were tied into cell phones. As this becomes more pervasive and successful, the market for larger more expensive systems will drop through the floor. Tying in marketing / ads with GPS phones will be a huge value-add for cell carriers, opening up a whole new revenue stream. I think that's a good thing, there is little or no motivation for the current players to invest in better POI data. Couple the carriers GPS phones with a meta-data holder like Google or Yahoo and we'll enter a whole new world of place-based marketing and narrow-casted content personalized to the users taste and lifestyle.
Knowing where you are in the world is great. Having my phone tell me that a highly rated Korean restaurant is right around the corner, and since it's lunch time, I should stop in, is much much better.
November 19, 2015
I Pity The Fool That Doesn't Turn Right In 200 Feet
Navigation seems to be one of those things where you're so happy to have it, you never give it a second thought. Get in, enter an address and some studio recorded voice guides you to your destination. If you're lucky enough to have a fancier car, you may get a posh English accent that informs you of a missed turn in the most dignified way possible.
It once did occur to me that voice options would be cool but I never hacked into a navigation DVD to see where the sound files were. It appears that someone else was wondering as well. And did something about it.
Wanderlust Media in L.A. (nach) is now offering up Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds and, of course, Mr. T. as your voice alternatives. The premise is that their voices will keep you paying attention to what they say. There could be a whole genre of voice types depending on what you prefer or just respond to. Imagine it, having the directions dictated to you
Ok, I think I get it. That said, here is a list of a few celebs who could add value to this space or at the very least make the ride more amusing.
People Who Should Do These Voice Overs:
Benecio Del Toro doing his Fenster voice from The Usual Suspects.
Brad Pit as the Piker from Snatch. I suspect this would only be useful for people who live in their caravan.
Bob Goldthwait a-la Police Academy
Angie Harmon - Nice low raspy southern drawl
Boomhauer from King of the Hill
Stewie from The Family Guy
50 Cent & Flava Flav as a duo
Hugh Grant - I know for a fact he was just giving that poor girl a ride home and he had no idea she was a "pro"
In the end I have two voice picks that I would pay top dollar for. I guess I have to choose so my second fav would be Sean Connery and my very first would be R. Lee Ermey who you would recognize from Full Metal Jacket as the drill Sargent or on his TV show on the History Channel, Mail Call. Hey, I gotta plug the Gunney.
Not one to leave out the ne'er-do-wells, We'll end on a different kind of list.
People who should not only not do these but should be banned from speaking, ever:
Anyone from The View
Maggie Wheeler (The girl who played Janice on Friends, see Fran Dresher for voice similarity)
Gilbert Godfried. Nuff said
Andy Rooney - Unless you want an old codger prattling on and on about stupid things no one cares about.
Downtown Julie Brown
Jacko and or OJ
If you're reading this and think I'm a big old meany check out the knowledge being dropped over at the FUG.
My father once said to me "I cry no tears for the pain felt by millionaires". Tru dat.
Thanks for the link Eri
November 11, 2015
Traffic Ouija Board
Traffic.com, the leader in all things having to do with gridlock and road-rage mitigation has announced an upgrade to their site. Now, it's been a while since people cared about website upgrades (see Internet money-wasting boom) but this one is rather significant. (queue spooky lights and fog machine) They'll be predicting the future. At least the near future of traffic in areas you care about. Now before you so "Well duh, we all know the 405 / 101 interchange is going to suck from 5-7PM every weekday" it's going to be a little better than that, or even a lot better.
If you're really tired of traffic, you could always just move away from the city. Just don't get all conservative and Intelligent Design crazy" out there in the sticks.
October 31, 2015
XM NavTraffic + Garmin = Useful
Garmin and XM NavTraffic are now deep under the duvet and the petting is heavy. The first litter of gene spliced offspring are three, count em, three XM NavTraffic enabled Garmin devices. Once these hit the streets, anything without it will be old. Old like beat-boxing, old like Barny Miller. Yeah, that old. The stakes are going to keep getting raised in the mobile NAV market. Each incremental add-on will, in the near term, render ones with those features, obsolete. Mobile NAV devices have a lot of work to do right now to justify their still WAY TOO HIGH price points.
You may have noticed in Best Buy that Westinghouse is selling their 32" LCD HDTV for $850. Sitting right next to a Sony that does EXACTLY the same thing, selling for $2500. People feel the profit margin on this one. They know the cost is way out of whack and it's not too far off before someone realizes that if they sell 10,000 units at $700 they might sell 40,000 units at $300. Pretty simple econ 101 stuff. Westinghouse changed the landscape of flat screen and HDTV by throwing down the price gauntlet. Garmin and XM are both smart companies but they also know this gravy train of massive margins cant last forever. Lets see if they can figure out the value of being the first to market with lower prices. Feel your inner Sun Tzu.
October 21, 2015
Traffic.com Gets Interoperative
Traffic data is just starting to creep into the NAV scene. Driving maps are nice and all but if your route planner sends you into a massive 18 car pile-up, it's not terribly useful. Having lived in LA and NYC, I know traffic can come and visit for a while without notice, keeping you hemmed in like the faux-meat in a hot-pocket.
Traffic.com appears to be ramping up their operations, connecting a whole mess of useful stuff together in order to help commuters get where they need to be without delay. Or, get there with a delay but they'll be informed that they're in for a terrible wait.
What it smells like is a coordinated effort that could spell relief and offer a single place for NAV systems to source their data. Wow, whoda thunk it?
If you listen real close you can hear me clapping. Woot.
October 06, 2015
Streets & Trips 2006. 1 Whole Year Better
Microsoft raised the stakes this time. No, no sarcasm here. Their mapping app that had fallen in between a desktop mapping app and a mobile GPS / NAV package decided that it was going to play for the traveling team. Their new release, aptly named, Streets and Trips 2006 offers voice commands (from you) and voice prompts (to you). In a word, neat.
I paid $99 for the 05 version and it came with the Pharos i360 USB / CF / PCMCIA GPS mouse which was cool except for the blue LED that you cannot turn off. That was almost worth some orthoscopic surgery on the unit but I thought better of it. Luck little bastard. Anyway, the Pharos GPS is a great mating as it's a very sensitive unit and I've got it mounted almost sideways and never get less than 7 sats. Spiffy.
September 27, 2015
The Future of NAV
Navigation is boring. Booooooring. Zzzzzzzz. The best systems are barely "simple" to use, POIs are from before the great flood and maps are not as accurate as they could be.
Location based services, something I am screaming about, is the future. Simply put, the navigation system you have now is dead. The resurection will be that of a portal, a symphony of live POI updates, personalization, suggestion, real-time traffic, current maps and so much more. Telecontar and "AND" are partering up to make that future a little closer to now.
Ok, im bored waiting... Someone buy me a pony before I get sad and we ALL suffer.
Navteq Uses Smart Outsourcing
Why hire smart people when you can get them to give you their smart ideas for free? Ok, not free, they offer up cash rewards.
Navteq is hosting their yearly challenge in San Fran. Don't let me make it sound all sinister, the prizes are pretty huge and contestants can mingle with other mapping software develpoers.
September 19, 2015
Destinator is releasing a live personalized NAV / POI system for mobile devices. The move towards personalization / location based portals is becoming evident. This is a bold and exciting move towards custom tailored systems that turn mapping and location systems into a feature rich tool that will make these systems compelling for a much larger audience. OnStar should be looking at their captive audience and existing infrastructure and figuring out how to integrate these types of systems.
If Destinator can do this, Imagine the data layers of companies of like Yahoo and Google. The possibilities are endless.
September 03, 2015
Blaupunkt has joined the GPS game. Rather than hit us with an inexpensive unit that will blow Garmin and the rest out of the water they added an iPod control / MP3 support. Hmmm. Yeah. Ok. Well, its cheaper than the TomTom. (say something nice, say something nice...) The 3D view is nice too.
August 27, 2015
I still can't see why people would spend $1100 on a uni-tasking thing like this when you could have a whole car computer for the SAME COST. Anyway, this one has real-time traffic capabilities built in. Since they're selling the subscription you would think they could subsidize the cost through the monthly fees. Obviously not. Way too expensive.
From Mobile Whack:
(Click their link above for the rest of the article)
Cobra Electronics Announces Solution to Help Drivers Escape from Traffic Entrapment.
Cobra Electronics, a leading manufacturer of navigation and communication products, today announced the first fully integrated portable mobile navigation device that features real-time traffic information, the NAV ONE 4500. Available at leading retailers this fall, the unit provides users with up-to-the-minute information on traffic incidents, congested roads and construction zones across the country.
The NAV ONE 4500 is available at an MSRP of $1,099.95, which includes the traffic receiver. The unit includes a three-month free subscription to the traffic feature, followed by a subsequent annual service subscription fee of $59.95. It will be available for sale from retailers by September.
"The average American driver now spends more than 50 hours in traffic every year," said Tony Mirabelli, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Cobra Electronics. "The NAV ONE 4500 will help drivers escape from traffic entrapment by changing the way people commute to work, enjoy a leisurely road trip, pick up their kids or just get around."
NAV Grows Up
I have to say that I thought it would be a few more years before traffic data was offered over NAV systems. I just didn't think that the municipalities could get their shit together to make it happen.
Sirius, the satellite radio provider with 1/10th the customer base as XM seems to have a few shekels left after paying Howard Stern to leave FM radio. I'm not sure how midget porn stars, homeless IQ trivia tests and rants about his diminutive penis = $500M deal. I swear I've had a harder time passing a $5M IT budget through finance, and NOT ONE line item included porn, midgets or homeless people. Perhaps that's why finance didn't like it.
Sirius is following XM in the data arena. This trend will likely lead to mobile data services that will compete with WiMax, GPRS and EVDO for in-car Internet connectivity. For now we're happy with plain old traffic and commercial free radio.
Sirius has a few more releases this week:
August 08, 2015
Google Maps GPS Tools
Google Maps is just tearing up the joint! From interactive sex offender maps to traffic cam locations, everyone is using Googs (that's what I call Google when we're alone) API for something interesting. A few nice tools for those of you with mobile Internet access and a GPS antenna are looking almost ready to start messing with.
Both tools let you use the NEMA gibberish streaming out of your GPS antenna to tell where you are in a GMAP powered window. I've not tried them yet but given that there are two applications to pick from, your odds are doubled.
July 28, 2015
Treo On The Traffic Warpath
About 18 months agou I would have told you Palm was about to kick the bucket. Windows was eating their lunch with their SmartPhone technology and it was all down hill. The Treo has changed all that.
I'm still a fan of the MS interface and think it's a little more intuitive but I still have love in my heart for Palm. A lot of love in fact. Their new traffic mapping app is the a great step in the right direction. They needed a subscription based revenue stream and just as I have been talking about all week, GPS, traffic, weather, righ media, all pointed at mobile devices is the next wave, the real meat of the Internet commerce stream for mobility. It's all very exciting but still in it's infancy. Give this market 3 years and you'll see some great integration and product offerings.
Mobile Crossing GPS - Is That Price In Pesos?
I am still in shock and awe at the price some companies are thinking they could get for their navigation toys. The bubble is going to burst, trust me on this. Remember when RAM cost more than an hour with a criminal defense attorney? Remember how much a new processor cost? It could be MS, it could be TomTom, it could be any one the players but a cheap, sub $200 category killer is lurking out there in the deep waters and the whole GPS snake-oil pricing scheme will come crashing down around it. Out of the ashes will come value-add connected GPS services that offer accurate POIs, real-time traffic and weather and so on.
We will always be teased by Japanese electronics and automakers who flaunt their cool stuff but make us wait eons to get our hot American hands on them. If you want to know what we'll be seeing in the states in a few years, read the article. Given that we are so broken up when it comes to highway monitoring and control where Japan is unified, it's just easier to do it there. We have a way to go. I'm talking to YOU CalTrans.
July 20, 2015
Big Baby Steps In GPS Bodes Well For Everyone
I may continue to rant about where GPS should go until I'm satisfied or run out of steam. You may remember a recent post about Garmin where I mentioned some of their challenges in the marketplace. It appears that they may be thinking about the same thing. Who would have guessed? They are releasing a product that layers weather over maps. The weather data is no small fluffy cloud GIF, it's detailed stuff geared more for boats but useful for everyone. Now, if I may complain, while they where up, they should have added traffic too. Yep, I'm upping the ante. In fact, I am throwing down the gauntlet.
All of the data a GPS buyer wants is out there, some of it is free, the rest is nearly free. The challenge is creating the middleware that integrates the layers of data. The big portal players are in the best position to make deals with data providers. Their infrastructures are already set up to present and distribute data in layers. Adding to that would be as simple as inserting another data layer. A challenge would be for them to get the layers to interact with eachother, changing, suggesting, trending, discovery. A system that lays weather over traffic might take 2" of rain in a certain area, and rush hour and slight slowdowns over a few hours as a sign that a certain route may end up in gridlock.
Imagine Keyhole 3D maps combined with doppler radar slid over a traffic and street map that has links to live traffic cameras, points of interest, address, phone and business databases and bluetooth phone link? I'm not talking about something far fetched, all of that data exists right now. Yahoo already launched a traffic beta, Google maps hosts rich data agregation.
GPS in its current state is pretty good. Even the best ones are just ok. Not much has changed in the last few years yet GPS makers are still collecting astronomical fees for their antiquated technologies. I cannot name one package that offers map updates once you buy the main product. Oh, sure, you can PAY for map updates for some systems. The rest, the software packages? You have to re-buy it to get new maps.
What does that mean right now? Our choices are getting better but it may be a while before we see products that transcend the current offerings.
July 18, 2015
Pocket GPS - More of the Similar
Garmin has been making teeny GPS devices since before the great flood. Their devices have always been well packaged, designed and priced just above the imaginary line we expect to pay for something like that. Their foray into complete car units didn't see the explosive growth they may have been expecting. At nearly a grand, most people would rather thumb through the Thomas Guide and save $980.
Microsoft hit the nail right on the head with their 2005 Streets and maps by offering not only laptop software but free palmtop and Smartphone software too. It even comes with a USB / PCMCIA / Compact Flash GPS antenna that glows blue. When all things are equal, blue LEDs tip the scales in their favor.
Garmin is a little slow to the game here but their brand recognition is strong and that buys back market share. Up to the point where your product is too far behind to be relevant.
Products from TomTom, iGuadance, Pharos, Microsoft, Destinator, Copilot, are already filling the GPS software space. The Garmin product will have to be very strong and priced well in order to take some market share. Time and marketing will tell.
My side be is on TomTom. Their slick packaging and total EU dominance shows that they are in this to win and have a strong team in place that can execute the task.
GPS interface and map ubiquity is on the distant horizon. The future is in the application middleware; traffic service, POI, live map sharing, map blogging (speed traps, trendy places, etc) and interactive applications will make the mapping software itself merely a conduit for the really interesting stuff. This is a space where a Yahoo / Google / MSN could dominate. If one of the navigation companies are snapped up by the portal giants, we'll know what's in store. I'm almost giddy at the prospect.
Portal Giants: Feel free to hire me to architect this whole thing for you at a very reasonable price :)