The agreement spans Google’s current and future map-based services and navigation offerings across mobile, online and desktop environments. These include the Google Maps and Google Earth services and mobile applications such as Google Maps for Mobile. The agreement also gives Tele Atlas access to edits for its maps from Google’s community of users. “This agreement is important because it gives us access to input from a significant online community of map users, whose feedback can help us keep our maps fresh and accurate,” said Bill Henry, the new CEO of Tele Atlas.
With this Google agreement Tele Atlas extends the breadth of map updates so far provided via its own website (today) and TomTom’s Map Share program (by the end of the year).
Google has developed several features that allow its users to make important updates to the map such as adding a place (business, landmarks, points of interest) or editing map information, for example changing the exact location of a street number, updating a phone number’s POI or even deleting a POI. Benefiting from these updates will be very interesting for Tele Atlas and complement TomTom’s Map Share features which are essentially navigation centric.
Even more interesting, on June 23 Google launched Google Map Maker. According to Google, it is “a significant step in our ongoing efforts to engage Google Maps users and equip them with an easy-to-use tool to build high quality maps of their neighborhoods, cities and countries. Map Maker allows you and your peers to add, edit and moderate most features you see on maps including roads, lakes, parks, points of interest, businesses, cities and localities. You will be able to trace many of these features using satellite images; as you trace, maps are immediately updated”.
At this stage Google is restricting the countries where Map Maker can be used. Only the following countries can be mapped today: Cyprus, Iceland, Pakistan, Vietnam and some Caribbean islands. However, once its use is enlarged to the rest of the world it will provide more than “updates” to Tele Atlas.
Nevertheless Tele Atlas map updates received from Google are limited to where Tele Atlas offer map data to Google. As an example Navteq is Google’s main provider of map data in North America, therefore Tele Atlas does not get updates in this part of the world.
More generally this partnership highlights a new paradigm in digital map production where the user is taking a new role as a content producer. This can be active or passive, being used as a probe through the GPS trace of its navigation device or cell phone. But this new paradigm has important business consequences too. Indeed, the more users you have the more accurate is the map and the less you need costly field surveyors. This trend is likely to increase the market concentration in giving a strong advantage to the current big players (Tele Atlas and Navteq) which have the biggest installed base.