Even though their
products share a common origin and are similar in many ways, the big three spatial
data vendors have since differentiated themselves within the spatial market. GDT
caters to the appetite of the traditional GIS user by promoting the extensive
thematic content of its data. Today, GDT leads in the variety of spatial themes
offered, supplying boundary and point data for telecommunications mapping and
territory boundaries for insurance firms, among others.
Navtech has always pursued the vehicle-navigation market, a strategy requiring a
much greater attention to detail than TIGER afforded, and necessitating its (now
proudly self-proclaimed) "drive, drive, drive" turn-by-turn data-capture method.
This meant that Navtech could only recently claim complete U.S. coverage, but it
has also won them almost 100 percent of the U.S. automotive navigation systems
market, seven of 10 European car brands, and at least 15 automotive partners from
Acura to Volvo.
With a foot in both the cartographic and navigational worlds, Tele Atlas has
targeted analytically focused customers by strengthening its dataset's positional
accuracy - ensuring a high geocoding match rate - and by refining its data model.
Tele Atlas's European dataset, for instance, captures the entry points to important
buildings, even specifying primary and secondary access (see Figure 1). Tele Atlas's
sophisticated data model is the basis for its current effort to become a leader in
real-time travel information and LBS markets.
Figure 1. Tele Atlas' sophisticated data model captures not only where a hospital
is, but where its primary and secondary points of entry are along the contiguous
So what? What makes any of these strategies newsworthy? Convergence and
emergence. The convergence is the simultaneous maturation of wireless, handheld,
and real-time tracking technologies. The emergence is of the spatio-temporal
services business model. A real-world example (in non-market-speak) may help
illustrate this trend. By the end of 2003, Ford plans to equip every vehicle
it manufactures with an onboard GPS, not as an option, but as a standard feature.
The convergence of wireless communications with affordable location-aware devices
makes it technically possible for Ford to fill the world's highways with
location-enabled moving objects. But how does Ford justify this business
expense to its shareholders? The business model is founded on Ford's belief
that drivers will pay for real-time navigation services, generating a revenue
stream that keeps flowing long after the vehicle's purchase.
Some calculations predict more profit from service income than from the new car
sales. An October 2001, article in the Boston Globe quoted the subscription fee
for "Virtual Advisor," a service from OnStar that supplies real-time traffic and
navigation information, at $399 a year or $34.95 a month. The cellular minutes
required to connect to Virtual Advisor cost extra, of course. Ford wants a piece
of that pie as do the telecommunications carriers. The spatial data vendors are
lining up as well. It's large, loose, and still-unfinished partnering between big
players in hype-filled markets like LBS that I predict will be the sign of the
times in 2002.