OpenWorld 2011: TomTom launches Geospatial for govt, business

New Geospatial service will steer enterprises in the right direction through making more visual sense of business information

TomTom senior manager business development, George de Boer.

TomTom senior manager business development, George de Boer.

Dutch SatNav device company TomTom is making another tilt at business and public sector windmills with the launch of a ‘Google Maps for enterprise’-style geospatial service.

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The service offers geocoding – the ability convert a street address to a map coordinate; optimal vehicle routing; and mapping information display; all for use in applications which are underpinned by Oracle’s Database 11g.

In addition to its better know consumer navigation devices and iPhone app, TomTom also runs an automotive division with customers such as Renault, Fiat, Toyota, and Mazda; a business solutions division focusing on tracking and tracing for the logistics sector; and a licensing business for its traffic and mapping data. Speaking at OpenWorld 2011 in San Francisco, TomTom senior manager business development, George de Boer, told Computerworld Australia that a logical use for the new service to add a new layer of information and use to Oracle’s Business Intelligence application.

In this way insurance companies could visualise geographical areas and contrast density of claims against an area known to be affected by flood or fire. Other examples included hospitals visualising densities of cancer patients, banks visualising ATM usage and need, and police agencies visualising crime densities.

Logistics companies could also visualise customer and asset locations and then optimising the most energy- or speed-efficient route.

“Just like you are used to seeing Google Maps at home, we are enabling the same experience for users in enterprise applications,” he said.

Only the freshest user data will do

Commenting more broadly on the geospatial data market, de Boer said the “freshness” of a given provider’s data was everything. As such, TomTom now heavily relied upon anonymous data from existing TomTom users to provide minute-accurate information.

“We have turned to community input,” De Boer said. “You as a user can tell us that a road is closed or that a turn isn’t right. All that information flows back to TomTom and that is part of why we acquired (mapping company) Tele Atlas.

“The ability of TomTom to collect in a very fast manner -- that allows for the freshest and most up to date map.”

Previously TomTom relied on government data, which could be as much as a year out of date, then its own fleet of mobile mapping vans similar to Google’s StreetView vehicles. According to de Boer, TomTom now has a potential pool of some 60 million devices globally to draw mapping data from.

Using purely GPS data collected from TomTom device users de Boer was able to display detailed maps of the US and Europe. Using GPS data of hundreds of users de Boer also illustrated how the existence of roads could be proved even though government supplied street maps suggested otherwise.

De Boer said the extent of mapping data at TomTom’s disposal was vast, equating to four billion measurements per day, while its entire database existed of four trillion measurements.

In addition to user input, de Boer said TomTom also made use of high-end algorithms which enabled TomTom to decide, based on information such as multiple users in the same area remaining static for a period of time, that a car accident or similar delay had taken place nearby.

“We have acquired some smart guys from the German NASA and these guys are great for making algorithms for checking and cross referencing from all kinds of data and looking at the historic data -- what happens at 9.15 at that road at that specific time,” he said.

“[We cross-reference it police and ambulance services] but we are mostly faster than the government [in deciding it is an accident].”

Tim Lohman travelled to OpenWorld as a guest of Oracle.

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