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TomTom invite the GPS Sites for an information day

 

Article by Mike Barrett

 

I have just got back from Amsterdam where Lutz and I met with TomTom and other editors of GPS Community websites. TomTom invited us to discuss how we (the GPS Community) can help improve the TomTom products and services.

 

Overview

Last year TomTom invited some of the Community Websites to Amsterdam to give a presentation about the Traffic product and to show us around their operation. Only sites operating in the countries where traffic was available were invited so there was only representation from France, Germany, Holland and the UK. This year was different. The meeting was opened up to the whole of Europe and we had over 13 GPS experts turn up. And the guy to travel the furthest was our own Lutz, all the way from Houston!

 

Essentially the meeting had two objectives: To inform us of what is happening in the TomTom Navigation product ranges; and to find better ways for TomTom to work with the community sites.

 

The famous TomTom lounger.

The TomTom sofa

What's happening with the TomTom product ranges?

Well there were no surprises here, in fact most of what we were told we knew from first hand already. We had presentations on the history of TomTom, how the TomTom Navigator products had evolved from the simple mapping applications through to the current TomTom GO range.

 

Mapping will be moving into new areas, specifically Eastern Europe and Australia. Already the GO has been launched in Australia with the GO300 and 500 models.

 

Development and support will continue for PDA and Mobile versions of TomTom Navigator, but the main emphasis will be focused on the Personal Navigation Devices such as the GO and Rider ranges.

 

Probably the most interesting thing was the TomTom Rider. The ones we saw were still pre-production models, but it is getting closer to being released. One thing we did find out was that when it is docked on the bike the system only shows a limited number of options. This ensures safe use whilst riding, and better accessibility of the functions with gloved fingers.

 

TomTom Support

Those of you who came to the Wales GPS Meet will already know Roy van Keulen the TomTom Customer Services Manager. He gave us a presentation and tour of the support group.

 

TomTom Visit

Lutz gets his hands on a Rider
(he did give it back though)

 

TomTom Visit

The English Language TomTom Support group

 

Currently there are 65 people supporting TomTom in 9 different languages from Amsterdam. Roy is looking to recruit another 40 starting 1st September and a further 30 or so support staff before the end of this year. This will enable TomTom to keep their support lines open during the evening and provide a better service to clients. Especially those of of us living outside the Central Europe timezone.

 

For those of you in the USA there are currently 20 staff but this will be increasing to somewhere between 40 and 50 during the rest of this year.

 

TomTom Plus Services

The presentation of TomTom Plus services was very interesting. TomTom want to add value to the navigation experience. We all know about POIs and Speed camera Databases, but they are also building up libraries of Voices and other items such as itineries

 

Not a lot was discussed about the Plus Services during the meeting, but we had some animated discussions during the evening. There were 5 of us who were concerned about TomTom's POIs in particular the Speed Camera databases. We are still in discussion awaiting a response as to the of the origin of the data for these databases.

 

TomTom SDK

The SDK was about to be released, which of course it now has been. The SDK is designed to allow 3rd Party developers to "Add Value" to the TomTom Navigator 5 software. This has already seen some early applications developed and released.

 

The SDK though is really aimed at "Professional" use. This is the transport markets. Providing the SDK allows the development of Logistics and Service industry integrated solutions.

 

Teleatlas Presentation

There was a contingent from Teleatlas there to present the Teleatlas mapping process and to provide a demonstration of the Teleatlas surveying data collection vans. The main thrust of this was more what I would call a "marketing" presentation. PocketGPSWorld.com is visiting Teleatlas in their Belgium head office soon where we will be able to put your concerns and get down to more detailed and useful discussions. Click here for details of our TeleAtlas visit.

 

Dedicated Staff for Web Communities

From our point of view the most useful part of the meeting was appointment of a dedicated member of the TomTom team to liaise directly with PocketGPSWorld.com and the other communities. This will provide us with an official communications channel for both news, support. This will provide us with authoritative responses and official statements from TomTom.

 

The actual person is still being recruited so we are not able to make that announcement yet, but watch this space (as they say). The intent is there on TomTom's part, it remains to be seen how successful this will be.

 

A TomTom Road Test

Well TomTom is all about navigation products, and you cannot do too much driving a desk. TomTom arranged a trip in one of the pool of test cars that they use for road testing of the TomTom software. We took the opportunity to go to our hotel and book in leaving our luggage behind. We were given a demonstration of the TomTom Rider though the bluetooth headset was not available so we could not determine the quality of the output.

 

The Informal Evening

With the formal presentations over we went out for dinner. So what do you think happens when a group of 13 GPS specialists plus a few Amsterdam locals try to get from the TomTom offices to a restaurant? Yep you have guessed it we end up "Geographically Embarrassed" .

 

Eventually the two local experts consulted their SmartPhones and managed to get us to the right place. For me this was one of the highlights of the day. The opportunity to network with the other GPS Sites.

 

As mentioned above all our sites are community based with about half of them gaining business and visitors through POIs, Speed Cameras and other community initiatives. There is a lot of concern that our efforts are being eroded and marginalised by the TomTom Plus services. These concerns were discussed with Sander Van Der Meer the Product Manager for TomTom Plus. In particular we were interested in the way that TomTom were able to create a database of Speed Cameras for the UK, Belgium, and Holland within a few weeks. A task that has taken us over 3 years to achieve. Sander was unable to provide an answer for us and committed to provide us with these details later.

 

After the meal we proceeded to a local bar and the evening settled down to some general GPS chat and the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. The Brits and the Danes outlasted the rest of the group, but I had to retire at about 3:30 with Ashley from MoDaCo.com whilst the Danish lads went in search of more drink.

 

All in all a thoroughly worthwhile day providing a valuable opportunity to meet the other Website Guys.

 

"Hey Guys where are we?"

 

"I think we are here!"

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