Here caps busy quarter with XYZ platform launch

Here Technologies, the automotive-focused mapping provider with a pretty big IoT strategy, has capped off a busy few months with the launch of Here XYZ, a new cloud-based service that wants to become the central system for applications that want to use location data. It’s an expansion on Here’s Open Location Platform plan, which would see the company become a data trading platform, one that could be central to the IoT.

Here XYZ is currently in beta, but you can explore its API via the web-based XYZ Studio or through the Here Command Line Interface (CLI). Here says that you can publish your data to Here XYZ, where it can be used by others, without every writing a line of code. This is, you will likely have spotted, quite good for a company that wants to create a platform on which to trade valuable IoT data.

Of course, some of the data available will be open to anyone, free to use it how they please, and perhaps contribute their own. However, some companies will recognize that their particular data is too valuable to just give away freely, and so Here hopes to enable such vendors to sell their data to waiting buyers. Any additional free data helps to improve the value of this proposition.

Examples of the maps available through Here XYZ include a global flight tracker, a seismic activity tracker, and an air quality map for a city. These are using Here’s expertise in maps, which has now evolved into closely integrating data pulled from other sources, which can then be explored through the map interface.

Essentially, you can add your own dataset to the map, tagging things in specific places and adding locational data. The data can be entered manually, or you could upload files – via GeoJSON, JSON, CSV, and Shapefile. These maps are initially private, but you can choose to make them public. It’s a bit fiddly, but the Studio does seem like quite a powerful tool, in the right hands.

Developers are able to invoke the API directly, but can use the CLI or the web-based XYZ Hub API, if they find a GUI easier. You could do everything inside the XYZ Studio, should you feel inclined, but the Studio is aimed more at casual users, rather than professional developers.

With traction and partnerships, Here could find itself collecting a treasure trove of public data. It would only take a small amount of code to port data from things like DIY weather stations into the XYZ platform, which could go about adding huge amounts of very useful data to the platform. Should those weather stations be as simple as a Raspberry Pi and some sensors, a hobbyist building the device might happily select the option in the software installer to automatically upload data to an open platform. Should such examples take root, then Here’s platform could be greatly enriched by some decidedly uncommercial interests.

In a similar vein, city councils might end up using the platform as part of their operations, and open data could find its way into the platform through that sort of avenue. Commercial businesses will be more reluctant to give away something that the big-name consulting houses assure them is valuable, ‘the new oil,’ but it’s certainly not impossible to have businesses contributing of their own accord. Imagine the scale should a government choose to legislate a similar measure.

To this end, Here XYZ might never be anything more than an interesting tool used by a few thousand people globally. Conversely, it might be seized on by institutions and help improve the value of Here’s main product – the Open Location Platform.

Launched towards the end of September, the Here Traffic Dashboard does what it says on the tin – it displays traffic information. The interactive tool lets users explore current and anticipated traffic conditions, and will display the distance from a city center that a driver could expect to travel within a given time frame, based on congestion.

For end-users, the tool can provide a guide for estimating journey times. For larger users, such as the city councils, the tool can let them understand how people move through the city, and how congestion in one area affects others. It lists construction zones, road closures, congested road segments, and hazardous roads, pulling data from Here’s OLP and creating dashboards for 180 cities. The data pushed to the OLP from cars using Here’s mapping services is especially useful.

Smaller announcements included a partnership with Altair Semiconductor, which saw the dual-mode LTE Cat-M and Cat-NB ALT1250 chipset have Here’s positioning software integrated into it. To this end, Altair says that this enables tracking devices that could run for five years on a single charge – by avoiding using the GNSS satellite sensor and opting to use cell-tower readings to find the device on the Here map.

Here’s database of cell towers is providing that feature, locating the device according to what its antenna sees. Here also has that capability for WiFi networks. The pair say that the single charge would provide tens of thousands of status updates. Roughly five readings a day (1,825 per year) would get you to around five years of battery life.

Another partnership was struck with Renovo, a company that develops its AWare operating system for self-driving cars, which will see the pair create an open-standards approach for importing data from fleets of vehicles to be used in mapping systems. The goal is to create a fleet-update system that can provide self-healing features for Here’s HD Live Map – the ‘high definition’ map that it provides to automakers that need such detail for self-driving cars.

The final piece of news was that Garmin, the GPS turned wearable maker, has joined Here’s Venues Marketplace, which will provide Garmin with interior maps for venues like airports and shopping malls. Here has been focused on expanding the Venues Marketplace ecosystem, since acquiring the assets of Micello back in March. There are now more than 50 partners.