TomTom Buying Tele Atlas

TomTom, the world’s biggest maker of car navigation devices, plans to buy its main map supplier, Tele Atlas, to create an all in one solution for consumers.

TomTom, the world’s biggest maker of car navigation devices, plans to buy its main map supplier, Tele Atlas, for 1.8 billion euros ($2.5 billion), reports Reuters.

TomTom, a Dutch firm, makes navigation gadgets like all-in-one navigation devices which enable customers to navigate right out of the box. German-based Tele Atlas provides digital maps to application developers and device manufacturers for use on mobile phones, PCs, cars and in stand-alone devices.

This news will shake up other map companies, says TechCrunch.

Mapquest sucks and to be honest, I haven’t used it since Google Maps came along. Luckily, this acquisition is bound to shake up execs at both companies, possibly forcing them to come out with new features to stay fresh and compete. Daily map updates could also become a reality once the deal goes through. Sounds like a total win for both consumers and TomTom.

ABI Research says annual sales of GPS-enabled devices will climb from $15 billion annually to $22 billion by 2008. Web sites like Amazon A-9, Yahoo and Google are making digital maps a part of their strategy.

Tele Atlas and its chief rival Navteq have essentially a duopoly in mapping data, explains Newsweek.

Navteq was founded in 1985 to build mapping kiosks for rental-car desks, but it changed gears to work solely on digital maps in the ’90s and went public last August after becoming profitable.

Navteq enjoyed unchallenged primacy on American streets until recently, when Tele Atlas crossed the ocean. It was also founded 20 years ago, the result of a Belgian student’s college project to create digital maps.

Tele Atlas went public in 2000 on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and last year, it bought another mapping firm, New Hampshire-based GDT, to bolster its U.S. operation. Both Tele Atlas and Navteq are striving to get even larger, in order to afford the investment needed to keep their data current.

It’s harder than it might seem. The companies seek to know everything on the map—from the largest interstate to the remotest side street. Fieldworkers track items like street signs, speed limits, the number of lanes and “points of interest” like restaurants and hotels. There are slight differences in methodology. Navteq trumpets its team of wandering road warriors and uses their observations to complement a mixture of publicly available government maps, aerial photographs and satellite imagery.

Tele Atlas uses most of the same techniques; but while its crew of 400 field analysts is slightly smaller, it also has partnerships with thousands of telecom firms and governmental agencies that constantly drive the roads on their own and report back on areas that need updating.

Both mapping companies are looking to expand beyond their franchises and are laying plans to add features to the expanding universe of in-car navigation systems and GPS-enabled gadgets.

Traffic congestion maps produce a graphical, realtime or near-realtime representation of traffic flow. Data is typically collected via loop sensors embedded in the roadways, then processed by computer at a central facility and distributed as a map view to users. Athens, SeattlePortland and Los Angeles have them as do dozens of other cities. Yahoo! Maps is now offering alternative routes to Bay Area drivers, which are expected to be in effect for several months until repairs are completed.

Traffic maps on cell phones are available through Yahoo! Traffic Maps, Google Mobile Maps and Windows Live. Most Java-enabled cellphones use 3rd party software such as Mobile GMaps (right).

Web sites like FboWeb (above) and FlightAware allow you track a flight.

Zillow maps real estate sales. Housing Maps shows housing posted on Craig’s List. But how about local events?

The OpenStreetMap Project allows you to view, edit and use geographical data in a collaborative way from anywhere on Earth. WikiMapia is aimed at “describing the whole planet earth”, combining Google Maps and a “wiki” system. Placeopedia is an online gazetteer which integrates Google Maps with Wikipedia encyclopedia articles. Platial makes it easy for anyone to make map mashups.

CyberJournalist compiles Cool News Maps like the Cheap Gas Map. Other interesting GIS sites include James Fee’s GIS Blog, The Map Room, Google Earth Blog, Virtual Earth Blog, Google Ma

Written by: Luke Pensworth

Luke is the managing editor and site manager of Dailywireless. As a wireless enthusiast/consumer, he reviews a lot of services based on his own experience. Disgruntled as he may be, he tries to keep his articles as honest as possible.

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