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April 11th, 2016
What does the consortium model of HERE tell us about the future of mapping?

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The continuing evolution of HERE maps under the consortium of automakers AUDI AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG promises the accelerated deployment of real-time maps. This new group took ownership in early December, and they have been actively recruiting technology companies such as Amazon and Microsoft to partner and invest in a next-generation mapping platform.

HERE has long had deep connections with the automotive market and now with auto ownership, they are looking to make driving easier and safer with an eye on live maps that enable autonomous driving. The company has announced plans to use anonymized sensor data from their vehicles in addition to the already 80,000 data sources that already power the map to provide new insights and more customized and contextualized location experiences.

The vision of HERE is to create a live representation of the world. The platform is open to others to leverage location to create their own products and services as in the past, and with the expanded real-time inputs this platform could certainly challenge market-leading Google Maps.

Herculean Task

The live map is definitely a differentiator and an audacious goal given the amount of data and the number of inputs required to make such a map a reality. From a company that pioneered active data collection by driving roads with data-collecting cars for regular updates and street-level data, the commitment to expand to real-time certainly comes with an understanding of what’s involved.

The Google-owned Waze crowdsourcing platform has been making inroads lately as a partner to state departments of transportation as both a means to communicate their own data about changes and alerts as well as a means to return to them real-time traffic input about how roads are performing. HERE has similar alignments and connections to traffic sensors. However, this example illustrates the benefits of owning a mobile operating system and the ability to tap into the streams of live data that come from our phones. Google has a strong edge here with their Android operating system, their maps and their Waze crowdsouring platform.

This difference is a differentiator, but it also illustrates the carmaker’s reluctance to simply go along and give away their vehicle data for others to exploit. The automakers behind HERE understand that they hold the keys to valuable and important data and their investment in HERE was as much to preserve their independence and potential profits as it was to invest in technology for next-generation transportation.

Shopping for Servers

The power of cloud computing is central to HERE’s prospects and vision. The cloud is needed for storage and delivery of data as well as for real-time data processing for tailored solutions and services. The cloud provides the means for HERE’s service to scale and to become the real-time map that is envisioned.

HERE has strategically targeted technology companies that can help support their vision. Both Amazon and Microsoft previously mentioned above have cloud computing capacity that would help the HERE offering scale and chart new ground for constantly updated maps.

Connecting details on roads for navigation is HERE’s forte and they have added weather information, road conditions and other elements that impact safety. To take it to the next step where this data informs autonomous cars and where the cars themselves communicate to help each other improve efficiency and safety will require great computing power. It’s smart of HERE to target the cloud providers and to offer their automotive sensors as an exchangeable currency where both players benefit.

Enabling Mobility

HERE envisions a mapping platform that is all about the journey, but not all about the mode of transportation. They see the aggregating of information from active users as a means to assist and customize the experience to include discovery. While the HERE effort is about accelerating the automation of the automobile, it’s also about mobility as a whole.

HERE sees the potential for next-generation transportation where the map becomes a nerve center to add intelligence. Instead of simply cars, the idea is for cooperative intelligent transportation systems that improve speed and efficiency to our mobility by providing the means for interaction.

An intelligent map is on display on today’s Android phones when using Google Maps to navigate while receiving routes that are optimized based on current drive times and conditions. Imagine an elite experience that will appeal to the owners of some of the world’s most coveted vehicles. What could be added to make an intelligent map much more than just an accelerator?

The future of mapping encompasses more inputs, a real-time awareness and an element of automation that returns a custom experience. Those in the geographic information industry learned a long time ago that humans have a tendency to cluster together in like demographic units. Imagine the commercial potential of catering more readily to these clusters with an intelligent map that drives the vehicle and its occupants directly to what is being offered.

 

Resources

What are the implications of the sale of Nokia’s HERE to a consortium of German carmakers?, Perspectives, Aug. 3, 2015

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