One of the big announcements of the show was the Yahoo! oneSearch 2.0 that allows mobile internet search via speech recognition. While it is not really related to location, it shows voice recognition is not anymore a technology dedicated to early adopters. Not only it is available for the mass market, but it works! We have impressed by what we have seen in terms of quality of the recognition and speed of the processing (on a Blackberry device).
But Yahoo! was not the only one to show embedded voice recognition, so was Telenav for its navigation solution. We also had a demonstration from Telenav. While it was not as fast as Yahoo!, it was really decent and ready for prime time.
We believe voice recognition will become an important feature of cell-phone-based navigation systems. The first reason is rather straightforward: because it is an easier way to input a destination. With ten keys and no touch screen, most of today’s phones are offering very poor user interface to input a destination. The second reason is because it could very well become a strong competitive advantage against Personal Navigation devices (PNDs). Obviously PNDs are also starting to get voice recognition, but it has been so far limited to high end devices due to the necessity of implementing a good directional microphone which adds an additional cost to the bill of material for manufacturers. Furthermore, using a mobile phone in a car, there is a strong chance the driver has a hands free kit that will further enhance the quality of the voice input.
Moving forward the voice recognition feature could have a strong impact in differentiating mobile navigation solutions from competing propositions such as entry level PNDs.
In the past the LBS market value chain was rather clear; to make it simple, there were digital map providers (Tele Atlas, Navteq,…), geospatial software platform providers (deCarta, ESRI, AutoDesk,…) and application developer (Loopt, Telenav, Jentro, Wavemarket,…). Each of these three types of players was specializing in its own business and working with partners up and down the value chain. However, in the recent months the limits of each market has started to implode with application developers launching development platforms (uLocate, Loopt, Jentro, Wherify and others) and geospatial software providers starting to sell applications (deCarta). At CTIA this movement continued with two announcements: First, Wavemarket jumped in the bandwagon of the “LBS platform business” launched its own platform to develop LBS software with strong privacy tools. Second, deCarta extended its ambition in the PND market in offering a one stop shopping solution for connected navigation with its own software and back-end server and partners such as SIRF, Jasper Wireless, Weatherbug and INRIX.