All navigation manufacturers are facing an increasingly challenging market. While Apple and Google offer built-in or free software in the US, Korean Telecom companies offer even more state-of-the-art navigation software, informing drivers of speed limit zones and locations of traffic enforcement cameras. Despite the similar kind of market pressure in the face of evolving smartphone apps, the navigation manufacturers in the two markets seem to be moving in opposite directions. While American manufacturer hone in on location-based technology, moving away from traditional navigation hardware, Koreans are integrating smartphone apps as part of their automobile hardware accessory set.
While other location-based app makers and activity trackers are catching up in the wearable market, both TomTom and Garmin put out new running watches last fall. The TomTom Runner, the company’s first running watch not made in collaboration with Nike, simply offers basic features of a GPS watch: GPS capabilities, a compass and an accelerometer for tracking treadmill runs. On the other hand, Garmin, with many versions released already, wagering features that serious runners are still looking for beyond what activity trackers or apps offer. It estimates your body’s maximum oxygen consumption on a heart-rate monitor, and also measures your vertical oscillation and your ground-contact time (the amount of time your foot is in contact with the ground). Yet there are so many similar players like Pebble and FitBit, and even Apple moving in with its new iWatch, TomTom's new venture into sports watches seems like diving into a red ocean (which is why it's 165ft waterproof?)
While American GPS makers are focusing on making innovative hardware that maximizes their location-positioning technology, Koreans companies are focusing on developing applications compatible with the traditional navigation hardware. Last month, Halla Meister released Send to Car, a navigation hardware that comes with an mobile application that searches address with voice command--no additional Wifi or Bluetooth installation needed.
As the transportation industry, one of the most outdated, becomes integrated with the newest technology, automobiles will have to embrace applications. At glance, coupling is not so special. However, it has potential to grow when (and only when) applications are integrated into other ancillary automobile hardware like black-boxes, electronic toll-collection systems, and other devices that have teh potential for integration. The technology may not be the newest gig, but we should note that Halla Meister is studying the inconvenience "drivers" have. Even the most widely used navigation applications do not have a voice-recognition function, and I find it rather nerve-wrecking when taxi-drivers are trying to rummage through the little screen to search for an address, while negotiating hectic urban traffic.
Ironically, a couple days after the consecutive release of news on changing navigation industry, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US said it will begin taking steps to require cars to "talk" to each other, with so-called vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, technology, calling it a key to saving lives while also improving traffic flow in major urban areas.
Being the first-mover will also save your life in the face of ever-evolving and fast-growing tech-pressure, but insight on users' pain-point is a field that these navigation manufacturers should not miss while chasing after the hottest item out there.
Written by Heeseung Lee (2014)