Created in 2008, PhantomALERT has become the leading provider of traffic safety locations databases in Continental US and Canada. Joe Scott, CEO of PhantomALERT, answered our questions about this trend.
Q: Joe Scott, can you present me the market for traffic safety location databases.
Joe Scott: Yes sure. The market landscape is the following: every day over 150,000 drivers receive traffic tickets in the US alone. Over 6 Billion dollars in fines are collected from drivers every year by police and privately operated photo enforcement programs. You have large cities, such as Chicago or Washington D.C., which are making several hundred million dollars in revenue from these red light and speed camera programs. As a result consumers and the media have picked up on this topic. Now drivers want to find legal ways to get warnings and avoid costly traffic tickets. This is exactly what we provide at PhantomALERT.
Q: How did you get started in that business?
JS: PhantomALERT was incorporated early 2008. I started the company after I received a few tickets from speed cameras. My immediate reaction was annoyance, denial followed by embracement. I knew that I did not want to get another ticket ever again. I figured the best way to keep track of all the speed traps, red light and speed cameras was to use GPS technology. After a few weeks of research, I hired a software engineer and instructed him to build me a POI reporting tool using Google Maps. In doing so, I used the new tool to create a database of the 200+ enforcement locations that I knew off; and immediately download the database to my PND.
Soon afterwards I started sharing my POI reporting tool with friends, coworkers and family members. I reported the first 200 POIs and then other drivers would add 10, 20, 50 per person. I also noticed that people from different parts of the USA were using it. At this point it was clear that a large number of PND enthusiasts were interested in using the system. It was also apparent that the user-generated and verified database can grow very fast, cover a huge map area while still maintaining accuracy.
b[JS: Today we have well over 100,000 users. In 2009 alone PhantomALERT sales were approaching $1 million USD. Revenue was generated both from B2B licensing deal and B2C subscription sales. We are today by far the biggest provider of traffic safety location databases in North America.
Q: Is your database only speed trap, speed cam and red light POIs?
JS: No, it is much larger than that. We currently have in excess of 400,000 POIs that include Red light cameras, speed cameras, speed traps, school zones, rail road crossings, dangerous intersections, dangerous curves, speed bumps, and DUI check points.
Q: Beyond PNDs, what is your offer for mobile platforms?
JS: We have launched an app for Android which has seen 40,000+ downloads in less than six months and we are now preparing the iPhone, Blackberry and Symbian versions of the solution.
Q: What makes your product stand against the competition?
JS: What makes us different is that we are a customer- and quality-driven company. To back up this statement, let me explain you briefly how our database is created, updated and cross-verified.
We rely on two complementary teams to create and maintain our database: our users and also in-house data managers. User-generated content (UGC) is the backbone of our system utilizing the most credible source of POIs: our customers. Collectively, our subscribers report and verify POIs on a daily basis. They have a vested interest in creating, maintaining and using the datasets. As a result, they are the most credible and resourceful assets we have. In addition to UGC we have in-house staff which monitors all media and internet channels as well as communicating directly with police departments, city traffic engineers, city records, Municipal Codes of Ordinances, traffic bureaus and state transportation agencies.