Here, TomTom: focus on mapping and its future

At the heart of many discussions and financial dealings, mapping appears to have a very bright future. Why? Because the needs and geolocation movements are becoming stronger and are even brought to explode in the coming years with the development of mobile solutions such as autonomous cars. How are made digital maps? Who are the players in this market? What are the challenges for today and tomorrow? How far can you go in this area? All answers and more are in this folder. Follow the guide.

Basically, the mapping is implementation and study of geographical and geological maps. It is based on the data collected by various means of representation on a smaller carrier, formerly parchment and paper, and now digital.

Man designs cards in order to identify and help the community move and has been since antiquity. If yesterday was the matter of a few scholars today there is a market in strong growth and will become colossal. He is currently the object of special attention from the largest high-tech companies. Google, or TomTom Here are the leading global provider of maps which will power the numerous related services, such as moving or location. Parts of their own solutions or redemption of companies specialized in the realization of digital maps, these companies compete to offer ever more specific services and more and more mature.

Historically the leading company in the field of cartography, Navteq was acquired by Nokia in 2008 who then created the division Here by involving the teams of development and application of the Finnish firm. More recently, Nokia has acquired different companies like Medio, specialist in the analysis of Big Data or earthmine, which develops embedded data capture solutions. Here the maps are now used in hundreds of customers, including most of the car manufacturers but also on Garmin or Yahoo for location services, Microsoft and Samsung for example.

For its part, also in 2008, TomTom has offered the Tele Atlas, another specialist in mapping the world for a total of just under $ 3 billion. It provides services to many companies, one of the most famous is Apple Apple Maps.

To develop its mapping service and more generally of geolocation, Google acquired several companies specializing in this area, the most notable is Keyhole, originally the implementation EarthViewer become Google Earth.

In addition to these industry heavyweights, there is also an alternative called OpenStreetMap. Free license, this map is based on updates made by users. Some standalone GPS manufacturers like Mio, for example, incorporate into their navigation solutions in order to offer low-cost devices. The downside is that these cards are struggling to compete in terms of accuracy and validation, especially in the field of steps, which are made by TomTom or Here.

How are made the maps?

The first mapping of France in its digital form in 1990. That one is called TomTom, Here or Google, the basic principles for the realization of a mapping are nearly identical. Indeed, these companies all start from a start mapping it is to update and optimize in order to offer increasingly innovative and relevant services according to the demands.

“Today’s needs are as simple, route no longer sufficient,” according to Eric Fumat responsible business sales development of the business division at Here. Thus, besides digitizing paper maps, we must enrich the map with other information such as names and numbers of the streets, traffic direction, speed limits, turn restrictions to the right or left, and that the classification of the channels. 100 to 200 elements come model the environment around us.

To do this, TomTom and others rely on several sources of information. The first is the existing card itself. Then, it is associated with aerial and satellite images to verify its accuracy is if the shots are recent enough to be relevant. Much information are collected from public or private administrative services and construction companies but also private. This allows to anticipate possible changes traced to postpone the faster cards.

card providers also rely on their user communities that send (after acceptance) anonymously much information. These concern not only the plots of roads, any amendments, but also the traffic, for example.

Finally, each mapping company has a fleet of vehicles and as many engineers and technicians to conduct surveys on site. This is what is called the “Mobile Mapping”. At Here, for example, nearly 400 cars embarking highly sophisticated electronic systems that crisscross the world to conduct surveys and send them directly to the company’s information processing centers. TomTom did not want to give us the exact number of ground vehicles, but we said be able to cover 3.5 million kilometers per year.

Loaded vehicles to survey are equipped with many advanced technologies. They are clad sensors, inertial central to measure latitude, slopes and directions, several lasers and cameras.

Through these data centers within different companies, maps can be updated. Currently, TomTom puts its maps updated every month, but according to Hervé Clauss, director of imaging and information sources at TomTom, the Dutch company aims updates every 48 hours in two years. For this, it has recently revised its platform and its database to optimize the information input and their treatments. The input interface has undergone a redesign, always with a view to improved productivity. Started three years ago, the work should bear their fruits next year.

TomTom still all change requests, including those made by users are validated by technical teams that go to the field to verify the accuracy of the information transmitted. Treatment centers are responsible for recovering the many different data suppliers and, more generally, the information sources. Here has a dozen centers around the world, while those of TomTom are mainly based in Europe. They compile the information in a more or less accurate as needed, automatically interpreted to extract the traffic signs, traffic lights, etc. Then, the databases are made of semi-automatic day to finish in the autonomous GPS (PND) or the various mobile applications.

What are the challenges for today and tomorrow?

According to a recent study conducted by Opinion for Mappy (PDF), more than eight in ten French use a screen to guide them on the road vacation. They are 69% to use a standalone GPS and 15% application on a smartphone or a touch pad.

The navigation market, and thus implicitly that of the mapping are currently booming. One has only to watch sales and buying industry experts to realize it. Most recently, the US company Uber has offered the Bing maps from Microsoft to develop its own services and having made an offer that did not result from 3 billion to acquire Here. According to officials we were able to interview on this topic, mapping falls within a market that will become short-term colossal.

The needs of populations in terms of displacement are growing each year. Mobility therefore seems a promising vector for mapping. Publishers cards strive to provide services more and more precise, especially regarding multimodal travel – that is to say, the fact of using several means of transport for a single journey. Relevant information, including those of transport (routes, timetables, etc.) must be included in the mapping.

According to Hervé Clauss TomTom mapping has a second outlet interesting for the future: the Internet of Things. Indeed, are emerging more and more connected devices, some of which may require a geolocation, and if necessary, a certain level of mapping. In this field, and for companies in the original objects connected requiring this type of service, it would be for publishers to provide more or less detailed maps (with options for example) as required.

Finally, the third largest mapping vector of development is the autonomous car and, more generally, automated driving. According to Eric Fumat of Here, “finally, the car must understand the motorway network and this requires a more detailed mapping can and flawless precision.” And he continues: “In this area, it was almost like being back 30 years back so much innovation potential is huge.”

Mapping is essential to the autonomous vehicle. However, if today delivered by different vendors meet certain criteria requirement cards in this area, we must go further in a generalized way, according to Hervé Clauss, TomTom. According to him, the current maps are not accurate enough because you can get an average accuracy of 5 meters, which corresponds to the recommendations of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems). Eventually, he would get an accuracy of ten centimeters.

The evolution of the mapping work has already begun, including TomTom, which has already developed its fleet of “Mobile Mapping” in this sense. The Dutch firm is working with automakers wishing to develop autonomous cars projects and provided, for example, the prototype navigation solution for the Audi which was driving alone from San Francisco to Las Vegas in January latest.

In addition, of course, autonomous cars embark sensors, lasers and cameras but we must necessarily associate with a powerful mapping system to see that the sensors do not see. The autonomous car can not drive alone exclusively with embedded electronics: mapping allows to see beyond the mere scope of in-vehicle devices and, in anticipation of concern for a more humane conduct.

Imagine yourself inside an autonomous car that has calculated that she was able to move to 100 km / h between two posts placed at a larger distance barely the width of your vehicle. Surely you will panic. Yet “it happens”. This requires that both the car ultimately less like the man would have used to drive, and therefore, it passes at reduced speed in confined spaces. This is where the mapping will bring a lot to the conduct of tomorrow in terms of anticipation and accuracy.

Edited on 09/25/2015 at 4:33 p.m.

Comment (21)