Tele Atlas begins real-time traffic business in Europe

Tele Atlas begins real-time traffic business in Europe
Digital map maker Tele Atlas announced today it is starting offering real-time traffic information in Germany, Switzerland and Netherlands. Called Tele Atlas HD Traffic – and not surprisingly based on TomTom HD traffic - this product is delivering real-time traffic data to connected mobile devices on approximately 90 percent of highways and major arterial roads in the three mentioned countries. “We will be expanding coverage over the next few months”, added Rick Temmink, vice president product management at Tele Atlas. Since TomTom is already providing its HD Traffic service in the United Kingdom, France, Portugal and Belgium, we can anticipate these markets will be covered pretty soon.

This product has been in development since the acquisition of Tele Atlas by TomTom. However, it took a bit of time to get it to the market because Tele Atlas was willing to use an open format for linking the map data to the traffic feeds, which was not the case for the proprietary TomTom system. Tele Atlas decided to use a standard TMC map linkage table which will provide an easy path for its customers willing to move from RDS-TMC to HD Traffic technology.

Tele Atlas begins real-time traffic business in Europe
Market perspective
By entering the European real-time traffic market, Tele Atlas is further pushing changes in the landscape and modifying balance between the existing players.

Until one year ago the European traffic information market was made of local players, sometimes a de facto monopoly (Germany) or a duopoly (United Kingdom and France). This was the case until two North American players, NAVTEQ and INRIX entered the market with ambitious plans in the last 12 months. NAVTEQ's ambition really kicked off publicly with the acquisition of T-Systems Traffic in Germany in November 2008 and more recently announced an agreement with a motorway consortium in France (Autoroutes Trafic) while having in development a cellular-based probe system in Spain with wireless operator Telefonica.

INRIX, being a much smaller company, has been both developing its own real-time GPS probe network and signing partnerships with local players to gather traffic incident data through Arc Transistance, a European consortium of leading automobile clubs.

With Tele Atlas it makes a third pan-European player which will create more competition and ultimately will drive consolidation. But before it gets more consolidated, the market is likely to become more complex for two key reasons. First, more and more data layers (traffic incidents, road sensors, GPS probes, cellular probes) are fused to increase accuracy, but today none of the existing players are able to control all these data feeds in a majority of the European markets. Second, the distribution methods – hence to some extend the access to the market - are likely to remain very fragmented between RDS-TMC, digital radio and two-ways wireless connection. “Co-opetition” is probably the best word to describe what is going to happen at least until a definitive market consolidation happens, which could probably take several years.

In the meantime navigation providers will have to keep their options open to cope with disrupting move in terms of market consolidation, technologies, distribution channels and business models.

Monday, June 22nd 2009

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