Navtech - ‘Driving’ the Competition Crazy

By Joe Francica

Navigation Technologies, more commonly known as simply "Navtech," is at the forefront of providing digital street centerline data to both the geospatial and in-vehicle navigation industries.The battle to rise above the competitive fray with other companies and to deter "commoditization" of data is pitched. Judson Green, president and CEO of Navtech, has led the company to be the market leader in the in-vehicle market in North America and Europe and hopes to position the company for growth in the geospatial arena as well. Editor-in-Chief, Joe Francica, posed these questions to Mr.Green.

Joe Francica (JF): Navtech is behind the scenes of most every major Internet mapping site as well as in-vehicle car navigation system.How did you achieve this threshold of popularity and success among both mapping and automotive companies?

Judson Green (JG): Navigation Technologies has been a leader of high quality, innovative map data products since 1985.While the industry segments we serve are distinct in their needs and demographics, all of our customers demand the highest level of quality and accuracy.I believe the unprecedented accuracy and thoroughness of our routing attributes are the keys to our success.

(JF): Navtech is known for driving the streets in order to capture the most accurate street network possible.There must be a substantial ROI to justify this kind of overhead.Can you comment?

(JG): The level of accuracy and quality I just mentioned is the direct result of the fact that we literally drive the roads to collect our data.The investment in our database has been significant, over $600 million to date.If there were another way to acquire this data, believe me, we would.But our experience has been that publicly available data is simply not sufficient to provide reliable routing solutions.

(JF): During the past year, there seems to have been a "war" going on in the street centerline business for both mapping and navigation.What is Navtech's strategy to keep growing market share?

(JG): From our proprietary data collection methodologies to our current ISO-9001 certification program, we are passionate about producing the highest quality digital road network and points of interest possible. This strategy has propelled our leadership position in in-vehicle navigation, internet mapping and PDA navigation solutions, and is beginning to produce large wins in the fleet, enterprise and GIS markets.

Meanwhile, we have invested in technological innovations to differentiate us further with our customers; such innovations as our North American traffic initiative, and the addition of voice phonemes to our map databases.I think our customers value the impact our quality data has on their customers' satisfaction and productivity, and I think they appreciate that we aggressively reinvest in new technology that addresses their future needs.

(JF): The wireless location-based services market has been an enormous disappointment.What do you see in the marketplace, both North America and Europe, that would lead you to believe that this market still has life?

(JG): I believe the growth of this area is a function of timing. What we're seeing is a rise in the number of GPS chips embedded in devices worldwide.In North America, projections are that more than 50% of handsets will include embedded chips by 2006, driven in part by the E-911 mandate. This will create a baseline and critical mass of location-ready devices. Wireless carriers and device manufacturers will be in a position to leverage a location as an incremental revenue source.And in Europe, the increased penetration of data enabled smartphones signals customer readiness for mobile wireless services.

(JF): Do you see the in-vehicle market growing, and as a possible consequence, catapulting the wireless handheld market as well?

(JG): On-line mapping services as well as in-vehicle navigation serve as an introduction or educational starting point for consumers about turn-by-turn navigation and location-based point of interest inquiries. Both types of services have an impact on consumer awareness, comfort and adoption of navigation via wireless devices.

(JF): The GIS market has not been Navtech's strength.Is it difficult to get customers to pay for the level of quality that Navtech products exhibit?

(JG): I don't think it's about price, it's about value.If the particular aspects that define the quality in our database are of value to a customer's application, we've seen that the customer will pay for that quality.For GIS users who have any level of routing application, NAVTECH is an easy choice.For those who do not need routing, they find that our depth of coverage, geocoding accuracy, and most importantly, the accuracy of street centerlines is of high value.

(JF): Is there room for Navtech, GDT, and Tele Atlas in the GIS market along with low cost street centerline providers?

(JG): Any market worth considering has room for competition and, in fact, that competition makes the market even more viable.As for Navigation Technologies, we intend to stay focused on the quality and value strategy I outlined earlier.The market will decide who will be successful in the long term.

(JF): Microsoft entered the mapping market in 1998 and Navtech was included with that first release as well as subsequent releases.Microsoft has a different perspective on the value of data, as I am sure you are aware.How is Navtech fighting the "commoditization" of spatial data? Are you placing more value on your ability to supply POI, street impedances, or real-time data (weather, traffic)?

(JG): NAVTECH is in the technology business, and most technologies evolve at a fast pace.We are working closely with all of our customers to bring value added solutions to the market.For example, we have recently announced two new POI offerings as well as the selection of traffic data suppliers for a four-city trial of our North American traffic data solution. These are solutions that our customers are requesting and which will help push navigation and LBS applications toward mass-market adoption.As for Microsoft, they are a close partner of ours and we are excited about their ability to bring the value of digital mapping to a much wider audience.

(JF): Are there plans for Navtech to expand coverage to the Asia/Pacific region or will you work through your existing partners like Denso?

(JG): NT is already expanding its database coverage into other parts of the world, and considers the Asia-Pacific region as one of its priorities.We have already completed coverage for Singapore and portions of Malaysia, as well as initial coverage of Taiwan.We will continue to expand coverage in other parts of Asia based on customer demand and market opportunity.

(JF): Can Navtech remain solely a data company and how do you envision positioning the company for the future?

(JG): We are a map data company and continue to focus our resources on building the highest quality map data to meet the needs of the many industries we serve.Our vision is to revolutionize the way people around the world interact with maps.We already see a robust market for navigation and mobility applications, in North America and Europe, and we're seeing rapid growth in other emerging markets as well.

Published Wednesday, November 12th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica

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