News this week that Nokia’s HERE mapping division has settled on a suitor puts a multi-billion dollar mapping acquisition in the news again. The more than $3 billion price tag (converting from 2.8 Billion Euros) to a consortium of German carmakers (Audi, BMW and Daimler) is welcome news for those wishing that autonomous cars would arrive more quickly.
The high dollar price is further validation that mapmaking, and the legacy of the HERE location database, are deemed of great value and difficult to create from scratch. The long history of the company’s alignment with these car manufacturers as providers of data and directions is certainly further enhanced and probably informed the offer. The public bidding between other suitors including Uber certainly also helped to prop up the price.
The company has a well-deserved reputation for data quality that goes back to their days as NAVTEQ and their pioneering effort to have drivers on the road constantly collecting map updates and adding features that cannot be collected remotely. This legacy of active mapping has only gotten better over the years as the company has added new and different precision sensors to their data collecting platforms. The result of the longevity and continued innovation is a premiere global map dataset that underpins the offerings of many partners.
The years of hard work on data collection are about to pay off in interesting ways, with this further alignment with automotive brands that are pushing future automotive possibilities. The fact that data is driving much of these advancements, validating and informing autonomous efforts, is further reason for this alignment.
It will be interesting to see how engineers at the consortium car manufacturers tackle the integration between this data and the sensors that are critical for driving autonomously. The wealth of road-specific data adds a great deal of safety, allowing the onboard computers to likely know much more about the nuances of each roadway than a practiced local might know. The ability to build on this knowledge, and augment it with sensors on cars that are also collectors could dramatically increase the number of data inputs while also driving down the costs of constant collection.
Here has quickly stated that they are planning for continued collaboration and data sharing with all current customers, including all carmakers. They assert that collaboration and data sharing is key to their plan to offer more connected services for cars as well as for location intelligence to mobile devices and for business advantage.
We saw a preview of the company’s Reality Lens technology at the recent Esri User Conference, and this direct sharing of street-level panoramic views and high-precision LiDAR data is an example of potential advancements to come. The highly detailed street network data will be of great value to cities, planners and infrastructure companies that are interested in a very detailed map that they can use to measure and model. The direct connection of this data to ArcGIS Online makes it an intriguing tool for the continuation of 3D enhancements to GIS environments as well.
The hope is that this kind of open data sharing across companies and mapping communities will continue to add value to the Here dataset, and will help us all gain a better understanding of our built environments and our interactions within our cities.
While there is a pledge by consortium members to continue Here as an independent company that is a neutral mapmaker with no interference, the brand clearly benefits from the premier reputation of these German brands that are all household names throughout the world. Germany car manufacturers have rightly earned a reputation for precision and innovation, and this combination of future-forward innovation along with a pedigree for precision is something that bodes well for the future of mapmaking.
There are hints that this deal could result in further technology acquisitions focused on innovations thanks to this well-capitalized acquisition. The winners want to make Here more of a household name and to expand upon the brand while becoming a leader for autonomous driving.
This well-funded and high-profile acquisition helps to usher in a new recognition as well as an enhanced understanding of the importance of mapping. The open strategy ensures that some of the world’s best data can easily be integrated into many mobile offerings that will help to enhance the accuracy and currency of this data. Together, the openness and commitment to innovation stand to make Here a leading force for next-generation maps and mapping.