A lot has been written lately about Google Maps Navigation. Google is basically giving away an incredible mapping application with good mapping data for free. Why would they do such a thing? Most of the guesses I’ve seen basically say “they like to give stuff away for free to push more advertisements”. That’s close, but everyone seems to have missed a huge detail, perhaps the most important detail of all.
Google is an advertisement company, particularly skilled at targeted advertisements. Almost all of their revenue comes from being able to show you ads that you want to see when you want to see them. What does this have to do with maps and navigation? Well, this is going to seem really obvious once you read it, but no one seems to have mentioned it yet, so here it goes:
Google will know everywhere you drive, and when.
Valued Lessons goes on to detail ways Google could use that data to refine the targeted advertisement that represents the lion’s share of Google’s revenue. But there is another reason for pushing Google Navigation…
Now that they have found the way to gather start harvesting the data at a really massive scale they are able to go head to head with all the navigation software editors that have provide traffic information. Here is a nice business model :
- Get the free version of Google Navigation deployed to as many terminals as possible.
- Harvest traffic data.
- Sell traffic data as a premium service. Or just give it away and kill everyone else…
Mobile network operators I know are going to hate this. They make partnerships with the likes of TomTom, only to be entirely bypassed by Google ! I love it.
TomTom will use two main sources of information, occasionally complemented by others.
First, travel times deduced from the movement patterns of mobile phones. TomTom has made an agreement with Vodafone NL, allowing us to use (anonymously) the country’s 4 million Vodafone customers as a potential source of information and developed the technology to transform this monitoring information from the mobile network into reliable travel time information.
Secondly, historical FCD (Floating Car Data) from our own customers. Every TomTom navigation system is equipped with a GPS sensor, from which one can determine the exact location of a car.
Yes, Google can do all that too.
The process of obtaining data TomTom has developed results in highly detailed traffic information. In the Netherlands, for example, it means up-to-date travel times per road segment for approximately 20,000 km of road (see figure) and historical information per road segment for all major roads in the country, approximately 120,000 km.
TomTom has developed the technology in-house to calculate travel times across the entire road network, by processing the monitoring data from the mobile telephone network through TomTom’s Mobility Framework software.
And that’s information from before 2007… Imagine what can be done today !
Letting Google know where you go and letting Google mine that data is the reason for Google Latitude too… Latitude does not have the same mainstream appeal as a turn by turn navigation application, but with so many Google Maps customers now using it inside their car we are now talking Google scale !