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TrafficCast International Interview - TomTom Deal Announcement

trafficcastPocketGPSWorld.com interviews Nick Kiernan, VP of Business Development for TrafficCast International.

Q: Have you made any announcements at CTIA?

A: TrafficCast announced the launch of Dynaflow™ 2.0. Unique features of Dynaflow 2.0 are its 48 hour forecasting and its data quality including the use reliable and accurate local and regional GPS tracking data. Combined, the features will enable better travel decision making and road speed forecasting.trafficcast And we’re delighted that Dynaflow 2.0 will be integrated into TomTom’s GO 740 LIVE personal navigational device that will be available to consumers in mid-April 2009. It’s a connected device and TomTom will be able to take full advantage of Dynaflow 2.0’s coverage with robust bandwidth.

Q: Who do you sell your products to/what markets?

TrafficCast sells its products into four key market segments.

-- Mobile devices, which includes mobile phones and PNDs
-- Media, which includes traditional radio/television/print as well as digital online media
-- Fleet, logistics, enterprise
-- Public sector

Q: Do you have plans to roll out to other countries this year?

A: Yes. TrafficCast has already been active in major urban cities in China with its sister company TrafficCast China. In addition, we will expand coverage in North America in 2009; and have had enquiries about bringing our approach to traffic information to Europe.

Q: On average, how many driving hours does a US motorist save per year as a result of your service?

A: That’s a great question, but one that is rather difficult to answer because it would depend on the driving habits, commuting patterns and frequency of driving of each individual. For example, you may have seen the US Census report that said the typical commute in New York City is 38 minutes but we suspect most commuters there would give that average a Bronx cheer! Even if we could offer a precise metric – and maybe for that example the corresponding average time saved might be 3-5 minutes – we are confident that we are able to ease the stress of driving on commuters and casual drivers. TrafficCast provides the highest quality and most reliable traffic data information available in the United States, and often just being informed accurately and in a timely manner is the most important consideration.

Q: On average, how many extra miles does a US motorist have to drive per year to avoid traffic as a result of your service?

A: Claims that traffic information alone will help drivers avoid traffic are probably misleading. It’s really about helping drivers make informed decisions. And the choice drivers make among alternate routes is generally not based on miles but on travel times. There are a lot of cars on the road at rush hour – traffic information will not make those cars magically disappear, or carve out a new road, as some commercials would have you believe. With Dynaflow 2.0, we can deliver information about the best route home tonight – at the end of the day will that add miles driven? Maybe. But the driver utility is really about whether they’re able to save 5, 10, 15 minutes on their daily commute. And even for trip planning purposes, the goal of TrafficCast is to personalize travel information to provide peace of mind regarding route choice.

Q: What percentage of US roads are covered in real time?

A: TrafficCast data provides both real-time and forecast road speed data on more than 480,000 miles of interstate highways, expressways and major arterials in the top 102 urban markets in the United States.

Q: Predicting traffic flow using historical data can be problematical. For instance it is thought that fewer journeys are made now due to the economic downturn which therefore skews annual data. Do you foresee a day when all traffic data will be real-time and the predictive model abandoned? How accurate are archival forecasts?

A: You’ve touched on a couple of different uses for historical data, but there is definite value in predictive modeling. Archival traffic data is particularly helpful for things like logistics planning, site selection and long-range trip planning. And yes the economy has some impact on travel, but you can’t use changes in the GDP as a proxy for traffic congestion. With all the job losses on Wall Street, the long backups in the morning at the Holland and Lincoln Tunnel toll plazas really haven’t decreased at all.

But to your larger point, about the value of predictive modeling, it is critical for informed route decisions. Traffic congestion evolves quickly. Real-time road data, meaning the snapshot of current conditions, has reduced value the farther down the road you’re driving. If you have a two-hour commute, “real-time” data reported from road segments you won’t reach for 90 minutes is practically meaningless. The historical data provides a baseline to enable a realistic estimate of the route travel time, further impacted by other known conditions like weather, construction and other incidents.

Q: Do you think that the cellular data harnessed from mobile phones to gauge traffic will eventually fully replace the GPS data that is collected now?

A: No. We believe there will always be multiple data sources, and we’re always looking for redundancy in the event of an outage/natural disaster, etc. as well as to further refine the models.

Q: TrafficCast holds key patents which you say offers your company a significant competitive advantage. One patent covers the ability to deliver personalized, route-specific traffic incident and travel time information via wireless devices and Internet services and another protects the modeling that enables long-term and (of particular interest for personalized interactive services) short-term travel time estimation and prediction. Does this mean that these patents will disallow your competitors to provide traffic advice for personalized location based services?

A: All I can tell you is that our patents are meaningful and provide us near- and long-term advantages. How does your company address the public's privacy concerns surrounding tracking?

First, there is a perception vs. reality issue. Privacy should not be a concern because no private information about the individual or the vehicle is derived from these probe/cellular pings. And for the most part, we are currently dealing with commercial vehicles, where the data is owned by the enterprise. However, we are sensitive to privacy concerns as we integrate what might be considered non-commercial data. In that case, tracking would be a tradeoff with the service provided and would be addressed in any User License Agreement.


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