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With most of the planet already digitally mapped and high resolution 3D imagery of major cities and attractions also modeled, there are very few places left, which can’t be visited virtually.



Search engine Google has invested heavily in location based services by combining the most comprehensive satellite and street imagery with up to date street index information from most countries. The recent discontinuation of Google maps within the Apple ecosystem of mobile devices highlighted just how dependant many of us have become on Google Maps and Street View.


It is this dependency Apple wants to sever by removing Google maps from its mobile devices. The replacement, a new navigation solution using its partnership with the Dutch-based Tomtom navigation has not been so easy to replicate, and has effectively left its mobile users without a comparable maps solution.  For instance, Australian police in Victoria are warning iPhone users not to use the navigation feature to find the small town of Mildura where directions take users into a national park, some 70km away from the destination, leaving them in an area without cell coverage, fuel, and more importantly, food and water. Police have had to rescue 6 people so far. As a result of these type of navigation disasters, Apple has re-introduced the Google Maps application into the iTunes store, although some functionality such as off line maps is still unavailable.


Currently, the undisputed heavyweight leader in mobile mapping technology is Google. Although the primary delivery method is the Web, that is changing with Android enabled vehicle navigation systems. Why would Google invest so heavily in navigation only to give it away for free? The reason is clearly location based services, which advertisers will pay handsomely for. Knowing where your target market is physically can help you target advertising, plan for growth, calculate stock levels for the holiday season and much much more. Already, we are seeing a shift to location based services from the search engine giant. Substantial investment in driverless car technology, which if successful, will probably become the next killer application fitted to all new vehicles. 

Recently, navigation has seen a dramatic change in business models from proprietary solutions from companies like Garmin and Navigon, Tomtom and others to smartphone vendors, which also provide navigation alongside location services. Dynamic navigation which allows users to update points of interest and mapping data is providing a challenge to legacy solutions, which must depend on physical media such as DVD or an external data connection to update mapping data.

The one thing all location based services had in common is the American GPS navigation solution, which is controlled by the American military. The United States can selectively adjust the accuracy of the GPS network for public use during times of war, not only rendering it unusable for rogue nation to accurately deploy missiles but affecting civilian use. So dependant have other nations become on the solution not only for location based services but also clock synchronization for mobile networks, construction accuracy and a multitude of other services, that being dependant on a single solution is not an option. For example, new smartphones sold in Russia must also support the Russian GLONASS navigation solution to avoid import penalties. Apple and many other smartphone vendors support both. Both the European Union and China are also deploying their own navigation solution for the same reasons as the Russian Federation.

By Craig Sutherland 


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