The gold standard for telematics success is daily relevance. One of the greatest challenges for companies introducing telematics systems and solutions is to bring daily relevance to their offerings. Human beings are creatures of habit, which means
that driving directions are normally not required daily, gas pricing and parking choices are predetermined, and weather and news are available for free over the radio.
Movie times, skiing conditions and restaurant reviews are nice to haves. But they are available from other sources – most notably mobile phones – and are an occasional not a daily information requirement. And we all hope we never have to use either automatic crash notification or roadside assistance.
Traffic data, on the other hand, is something that is relevant five days a week to a substantial portion of the working public. Companies that get traffic data right have a huge competitive advantage not only in providing traffic data, but also for providing a wide range of data feeds and services. In fact, the very infrastructure required for delivering traffic data – storage and processing facilities and servers and, in some cases, broadcasting capability - is a suitable platform for providing other telematics services.
For this reason, traffic data providers Inrix, ITIS Holdings, TomTom and Navteq also serve as content and service aggregators. (It is also one of the reasons for TeleCommunications Systems’ acquisition of Networks in Motion and why TeleNav has a content and services platform.) The opportunity to provide additional telematics services is the brass ring for which traffic data providers are reaching. It is for this reason these companies are seeking to bundle traffic data offerings with traffic-influenced routing, developing mobile apps for smartphones and connected navigation systems, and other initiatives focused on moving up the value chain – ultimately leading to sponsored content, reviews and location-aware advertising and promotion.
The daily relevance of traffic data is a powerful elixir for delivering additional location-aware added-value services, including advertising. This is why Google, TeleNav, TCS, Nokia Navteq, RIM and TomTom are moving quickly to introduce or enhance their probe-based (handset GPS) traffic flow solutions to develop their telematics business.
The winner(s) to emerge from this marketing scrum will be the company or companies with the highest quality traffic data. Traffic data quality, in turn, is determined by a handful of critical factors including data sources, integration, and delivery. (The quality and nature of the user interface is important as well, but is the responsibility of the device or service designer/manufacturer.)
The determining factors within each of these areas are essential to understand:
Sources: There are a handful of key sources of traffic data and they include commercial fleet (ie. taxi cabs, trucks, etc. and other types of probes such as GPS handsets, PNDs, etc.), regional departments of transport, embedded and roadside sensors, and incident or journalistic data. A handful of companies – principally TomTom, ITIS Holdings and AirSage - are translating cell tower signaling data for flow data analysis. This technology is currently deployed by both TomTom and ITIS in parts of Europe. ITIS licenses its technology to partners in Australia, Ireland, Russia, South Africa and Singapore. A North American solution has yet to be delivered. TomTom delivers its cellular flow data in HD Traffic for its connected devices in Europe, which still stands as one of the best, if not THE best, live traffic solution in the world. (It is worth noting that HD Traffic received low scores in BMW’s QKZ evaluation.)
Traffic flow data from these sources is valuable for many use cases and applications including showing traffic on a map and traffic-influenced routing. Journalistic data complements the flow data by providing context about the cause, location and scope of the traffic problem. This is particularly useful to receive as a traffic incident alert before leaving on a journey or to provide context when actually stuck in a traffic jam, as the driver generally can’t safely read a description about an incident while driving.Incident data come from public sources such as emergency responders, department of transportation traffic cameras, or public or private spotters that may be on the ground or observing traffic conditions from some form of aircraft. Much of incident data is public information – some of it freely available to the public - and most is freely available to commercial traffic information providers. There are some private sources, however, including radio and TV stations with their own spotters, cameras or sensors and these include companies such as ITIS Holdings, SmartRoute, Traffic.com and ClearChannel.
ClearChannel and ITIS Holdings have emerged as the dominant suppliers of incident data in the U.S. and U.K., respectively. Market leader in Ukraine is Videoprobki. The three companies have the widest market coverage and the broadest roster of clients. Of course, operating a traffic incident collection and reporter network on a national basis (much less internationally) can be extremely expensive and unprofitable, and companies such as Westwood One and Traffic.com operate under the pressure of that expense.
Not surprisingly, ClearChannel and ITIS are also distinguished in applying the so-called QKZ traffic quality assessment standards to their solutions. QKZ, which is the name of the index used to evaluate traffic data, is the standard applied by BMW in evaluating different traffic solutions. BMW recently selected MILE Traffic and Travel (ITIS, Infoblu, Mediamobile consortium) to provide a pan-European traffic solution. BMW is already partnered with ClearChannel in the U.S. for their RDS-TMC solution.
It is important to note those elements of the traffic data picture that are global in nature vs. local and to make a distinction between flow data and incident data. There are thousands of local sources of incident data and there are local aggregators of that data, but incident data is fundamentally a regional phenomenon. Flow data, in contrast, is ruled by systems that can be applied globally.
There are five providers of flow data currently operating across borders and these are ITIS, Inrix, Nokia Navteq, TomTom and TrafficCast. ITIS is unique in using a licensing model. TomTom has yet to find a customer in the automotive or mobile device market for its flow data. TrafficCast has a handful of customers. And Inrix and Navteq currently compete for contracts in North America and Europe. Car makers are most interested in identifying global solutions, while navigation device makers and mobile application developers are content with regional solutions.
Companies such as Waze, Aha Mobile and TrafficTalk are attempting to open up a new channel of user-reported incident data. But the industry is still seeking to determine how to evaluate the quality of these ad hoc sources and integrate their inputs.
Integration: The process of data integration produces a picture of traffic flow including not only real-time traffic flow or speeds but also a predictive model based on both historical and real-time data sources. This information is critical for determining accurate travel and arrival times as well as routing or re-routing.The five leading flow data companies distinguish themselves by their processes for integrating and manipulating traffic data, vetting sources and interpreting the different inputs. A virtual duopoly exists between Inrix and Navteq in the U.S. The European market is rapidly evolving from regional traffic providers to pan-European aggregators. TomTom has developed its proprietary HD traffic in a handful of countries, but is only deployed with its own smartphone and connected PND solutions. Navteq has a solution in place with Garmin, but has limited European coverage. Inrix and MILE Traffic and Travel appear to be emerging as powerful challengers in Europe.
Delivery: The last link in the chain is delivery and this is the area experiencing the greatest degree of technological change. The most widespread platform for communicating traffic information is radio, but there are multiple radio-based platforms for traffic information delivery. Analog radio is the most dominant and familiar source of traffic data reports and the most widely available traffic data broadcast network in this medium is RDS-TMC. RDS-TMC is widely criticized for the limited amount of information it is capable of broadcasting in a metropolitan area and perceived delays (latency) in delivering the latest information to the embedded or portable navigation system in the car.
Emerging digital radio technology enables a richer stream of traffic-related content and maintains the critical local elements. Digital radio is also a superior platform for delivering other forms of content. RDS-TMC is being replaced by TPEG technology. TPEG allows for a wider range of content, a larger volume of information and can be distributed over HD, DAB or cellular networks as it is XML-based. TPEG also encompasses arterial road coverage.
Handset-based solutions are promising, though hampered by the smaller screens and challenging in-vehicle user experience associated with mobile phones. While technologies such as Nokia’s Terminal Mode offer the prospect of delivering handset traffic images to in-vehicle displays these solutions will take a few years to reach the market. Many OEMs, however, are in product development now with solutions that use handsets (or are fully integrating embedded GSM/GPRS modules in the vehicle) for sending traffic data and other telematics information to/from the vehicle. Product development is moving briskly in the handset/smartphone space and innovative solutions such as TrafficTalk and Visteon’s TrafficCamJam are in the offing.
But the companies creating these applications will likely require expensive voice interfaces. Public authorities will likely not accept handset-based applications in cars that require a touch screen interface while the vehicle is in motion.
Part of the power of these smartphone-based applications, though, lies in the fact that they are location-aware and sharing location data even as they are reporting traffic conditions. As a result, these devices remain a wildcard in the evolution of traffic data.
The market of Russia and Ukraine: Unlike the European market, in the market of Russia and Ukraine leaders it is not observed yet if not to consider separately Moscow and Kiev. There is a set of the small local companies mainly collecting the data about traffic from GPS-devices through access GPRS. It is known that reliability of the data received on such technology, directly depends on quantity of the connected devices. And as any company can't brag of the market also reliability leaves much to be desired. On this background the Ukrainian provider of traffic information Ollie (Videoprobki) who forms the reports on the basis of the data from own web-cameras and traffic sensors is allocated. Reliability of such data is close, if isn't equal, 100 %. Large European players of these markets at times aren't so legible in a choice of the supplier that leads then to disappointment of users in world brands and to switching on local providers with more authentic data.
Conclusions: Processes go. The market of the traffic data has arisen and progresses fast rates. To choose service, anyway, there will be a user. And, being in a traffic jam with a device which a traffic jam has directed it to it, having specified to free movement, the user never to already such service will believe. Even if the provider is aggregator, the integrator and the supplier of the data simultaneously!!!