Monday, January 07, 2008

Free Map Updates, Bring it On!!!

South African drivers will now be able to update their own maps on their GPS devices as they drive, and harness the local knowledge of fellow users to receive live updates on routes and road closures, thanks to Map Share technology, brought to you by TomTom, the world’s no.1 personal navigation company.

TomTom Map Share is a unique map improvement technology that enables users to easily and instantly improve maps directly on their GPS devices, and share their maps with the rest of the TomTom community of users, helping people to “drive like a local, wherever you are”, says Rutger-Jan van Spaandonk of Core Group, TomTom’s representative in Southern Africa.

He added that this feature was especially helpful given the upcoming holiday season, when many of South Africa’s drivers will be on unfamiliar roads.

Users link their TomTom navigation device to their computer and the info is sent through to TomTom, which verifies the change and then makes updates available on a daily basis to all TomTom users for automatic download via their PC or Mac, and from there onto their navigation device. Users can choose whether to receive all corrected maps from fellow users, or just those that have been verified by TomTom. “We believe this will be a very successful feature, as no one can improve maps in the way that drivers knowing local routes can,” van Spaandonk said.

TomTom has beefed up the safety features in its product ranges as well. Of particular interest is the emergency 'Help Me!' menu, which includes information about the nearest car repair centre, police station or hospital, and allows users to either locate or call the closest emergency service provider, no matter where they are. It also allows users to quickly identify their exact location, so that they can provide this information to emergency assistance providers and receive help more quickly.

“In all, we want to make driving faster and safer. With these products, we want to take the 'E' out of 'ETA' (estimated time of arrival),” said van Spaandonk.

Services such as Map Share and the Help Me menu will become the key driver for GPS devices in the future, predicts van Spaandonk. “There are so many GPS makers out there and I don't think adding bells and whistles such as MP3 functionalities to players will attract more customers,” he said. “Services will be more important to users.”

TomTom’s Map Share technology revolutionizes electronic mapping in two ways. First, a mechanism allows the user of a TomTom navigator to correct their map instantly on their own device – rather than altering the main map database, a unique map correction overlay is stored locally on the navigation device.

Other errors and feedback can be reported directly from the device. These reports do not have immediate effect on the user’s map.

But the real innovation is that these map corrections can then be shared with all other TomTom users, simply by connecting your device to TomTom HOME software application via a PC or Mac. The process is of course reciprocal, so the user can simultaneously upload changes and corrections submitted by other users (at the time of writing, some 12 million people worldwide). These corrections will in turn reduce the level of map errors, so improving the accuracy and reliability of the maps.

TomTom’s van Spaandonk says the technology is in many ways a turning point in the history of the satellite navigation industry. “The moment when we first harnessed the local knowledge of our millions of users and applied it on a global scale, to the benefit of those same users, we started talking about the democratisation of map-making.”

No comments: