CES is an auto-show, Here and TomTom square up and buff offerings

CES 2017 was the first year that CES seemed as much an automotive conference as a consumer electronics one, and 2018 has been no different. With Intel, Ford, Qualcomm, and Samsung trading blows in the hardware front, Here and main rival TomTom used CES as the stage on which to announce a wave of news that sees them both expand their automotive mapping and services arsenals.

Here was going all out at the show, following a smaller flurry of news in December. Its major announcement was the launch of its new Here Mobility division, and specifically the Open Mobility Marketplace (OMM) – the platform that the new wing of Here plans to use to link service providers with potential customers.

The software system ‘serves as a central hub for supplying and requesting mobility services. It functions as a unifying abstraction layer, providing a single, standardized point of contact for all mobility service types to seamlessly connect supply with demand. Any business of any size, anywhere, can offer multiple mobility service options to best fit consumer needs,’ according to the announcement.

Here Mobility also launched Mobility Dispatch, a web controller application and a app for drivers that aims to improve fleet coordination and productivity. It offers demand prediction features that claim to enable a fleet owner to more efficiently allocate its driver resources, and will be offered in tandem with the Open Mobility Marketplace – potentially allowing an enterprise to buy and deliver services entirely through the Here platform.

Of course, Here has to net customers for the OMM first, but taking a slice of all revenue or providing access on a per-unit basis could generate quite a lot of money for the mapping specialist. Its sales pitch going forward will be based on the strength of its maps, which power the OMM – maps that are going to be refreshed when Here-equipped cars drive past a location, thanks to sensor data integrations that will replenish the map and correct errors vastly quicker than one could do through a dedicated mapping fleet or aircraft-based system.

The second biggest bit of Here news was announced last December, in the run up to CES. The company launched a new PaaS, called Here Tracking, which as the name suggests, provides tracking services for logistics companies – covering sea, air, and land deliveries. Built on the all-important Open Location Platform, Here is hoping that system integrators, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) providers (SAP, Oracle, etc.), or traditional tracking system providers can easily integrate their systems with Here Tracking.

To that end, Here has signed up Airoha and Concox as the first partners for Here Tracking, using MediaTek’s IoT division (Airoha) to integrate its chip designs with Here’s PaaS, and Concox’s expertise in telematics and wireless communications. The trio hope to offer pre-integrated kits to customers, to make the adoption as frictionless as possible – and offer precise asset tracking using WiFi, BLE beacons, and cell signals to provide indoor positioning when out of satellite line-of-sight.

Pitched at all manner of IoT applications, Here says the API will allow it to plug into existing cloud deployments. EPAM Systems swiftly announced a collaboration with Here for Tracking, focused on providing asset tracking solutions for transport, logistics, and fleet management – housed inside a platform built by EPAM’s engineers and software specialists.

SAP is also getting in on the new Here Tracking wing, expanding its partnership with Here by integrating the new offering with SAP Global Track and Trace and SAP Transportation Management, and also letting Here integrate SAP’s Vehicles Network to provide a connected parking system. A deal with cloud-based supply chain tech company FreightVerify was also announced, towards the end of CES.

In separate news, it seems that Bosch and Continental have each bought half of the 10% stake in Here that was being pursued by a trio of Chinese investors – NavInfo, Tencent, and GIC. This comes after the US authorities declined to approve the deal in October. We believe this means that Audi, BMW, and Daimler each own 25% of Here, with Intel owning 15%, and now Bosch and Continental each owning 5%. For the latter two, the stake may help better integrate Here’s offerings with their own automotive OEM portfolios.

Notably, Intel’s Mobileye division partnered with NavInfo to better pair Mobileye’s Road Experience Management (REM) tech with NavInfo’s mapping systems inside China. This sees NavInfo competing against both Here (despite Intel’s 15% stake), and TomTom (which has won the support of NavInfo-rival Baidu). It’s a sign of how messy the crossover in the automotive and mapping markets could get.

LG Electronics also announced a partnership to offer next-gen telematics services to autonomous vehicles, and its compatriot MNO, SK Telecom, announced a collaboration with Here to develop joint services for Korean consumers and businesses – using Here’s OLP. They will expand Here’s HD Live Map to South Korea, and will explore three-dimensional mapmaking for Korean enterprise deployments. Another MNO, Vodafone Germany, also signed up with Here at CES, to collaborate on automotive and smart city applications in Germany.

Smaller deals were signed with MasterCard, to integrate payment mechanisms into a car’s dashboard for real-time interactions, Unifly, to provide airspace maps for drones and their operators, and Virgin Hyperloop One, to power the test version of the passenger app that the transport company hopes will one-day power thousands of trips through its subterranean vacuum pipes.

TomTom’s big CES announcement was AutoStream, which it is calling a revolutionary map delivery service for autonomous driving. Essentially a better way to get maps that have been more recently updated to the cars that are using TomTom’s systems, the first partners that will be using AutoStream are Baidu (Chinese internet titan) and Zenuity (Volvo and Autoliv’s joint-venture).

AutoStream aims to provide a ‘horizon’ of contextual data to these cars, in a stream that can be configured to include things like gradients and curvature settings from ADAS systems. As the name suggests, this data is streamed to the cars, and could then be used by the autonomous driving systems – adjusting to changing road conditions ahead, preemptively.

Baidu will be pre-integrating AutoStream into its Apollo autonomous driving platform, which it has promoted as an answer to the fragmentation in the current self-driving approaches of the automotive industry. TomTom and Baidu have previously announced a deal to use TomTom’s Real-Time Maps inside China – but Baidu seems to have a similar deal with Here, for maps outside China (as well as a deal for indoor mapping). It sounds like Baidu is pushing TomTom as the primary option for Apollo adopters – and we’ll have to see how that plays with those businesses that come to the trough.

TomTom’s other announcement was geared towards taxi services that eventually adopt autonomous cabs. Called MotionQ, the system uses a screen to help convey visual clues for passengers that will help them anticipate changes in direction – hopefully providing a more comfortable experience for them. The tech is being demonstrated in Rinspeed’s Snap concept vehicle, a robotaxi that can pick up and drop off pods that sit on top of its wheeled platform.