These Navs are Made for Walking

15 September 2008

Having taken the automotive market by storm, makers of Portable Navigation Devices (PNDs) now are targeting the walking people of the world, offering systems designed specifically to meet the needs of pedestrians. However, makers of PNDs and smart phones must overcome challenges before the pedestrian navigation market can take off, according to iSuppli Corp.

The market for pedestrian navigation systems is expected to emerge slowly in the United States and Europe until 2011, when the industry’s growth phase is set to begin due to the rise of Location-Based Services (LBSs).

Pedestrian navigation was pioneered in Japan, but these solutions are emerging quickly in the United States and Europe. Numerous companies are launching products and making alliances to cover this important segment.

The key factor for companies participating in this area will be devising ways to make money from their service portfolios. Ways of monetizing pedestrian navigation services under the LBS portfolio range from paid subscription to ad-based models.

"Pedestrian navigation opens up lots of business opportunities for content suppliers and advertisers utilizing location intelligence," said Danny Kim, portable and LBS analyst at iSuppli. "Advertisers can simply put contextual LBS content on top of pedestrian maps and make their businesses more accessible to pedestrian navigation users, more so than car navigation users, who have limited door-to-door accessibility."

Still, there are many challenges for pedestrian navigation providers to deploy a profitable suite of services in the mainstream consumer navigation market.

Pedestrian navigation gets around town
Pedestrian navigation offerings include:

  • Navitime Japan, the biggest navigation service brand for all Japanese wireless carriers, currently has more than 2.5 million paid subscribers. The company has accomplished not only pedestrian mapping/routing, but also the integration of pedestrian-centric content on top of detailed pedestrian-level maps. Navitime announced that it will begin distributing its portable navigation software in the United States.
  • Network In Motion’s AtlasBook Navigator delivers Point of Interface (POI) information geared specifically toward pedestrian users. AtlasBook Navigator is available in the United States and coming to Europe soon.
  • Thinkware, Korea’s leading LBS and PND company, provides its Pedestrian Information Mobile Services offering real-time traffic information, public transportation and estimated time for getting from place to place.
  • Nokia Maps 2.0, in Europe, includes the updated pedestrian navigation "Walk" function, which features public-transportation information with station entrances in 17 cities with localized icons for stops, as well as multi-sensor positioning using A-GPS, and pedestrian orientation using the compass feature.
  • Google is an emerging player in pedestrian navigation with its Walking Direction Mode, which is still in beta format. When the Google Maps user chooses "Walking Directions," the results come with a disclaimer that says the route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.

Pedestrian navigation outlook
The success of pedestrian navigation will depend on the rollout of pedestrian-centric content and the integration with pedestrian routes. Furthermore, how to seamlessly and intuitively integrate public transportation information, branded POI icons, and detailed local search information are challenges not yet faced by traditional navigation solutions.

Another challenge is the level of pedestrian navigation mapping. Pedestrian navigation mapping companies are expanding their map coverage into urban pedestrian levels such as complicated downtown sidewalks, alleys and even indoor facilities like shopping malls and movie theaters.

Yet another challenge looms: mapping companies need to provide more frequent map updates. More so than roadside maps in car navigation, map features of crosswalks, sidewalks, stairs, tunnels and bridges can be easily outdated by any type of construction. Updating pedestrian-centric map features also is a challenge for the advertising media and content aggregators since the number of POIs is relatively large.

Pedestrian navigation is largely an application for GPS-enabled mobile phones and this solves the connectivity problem as devices don't need to be updated but their servers do. Pedestrian navigation also promises to take full advantage of a larger market since the number of cell phones far exceeds the number of in-vehicle navigation and PND solutions.

Lastly, pedestrian navigation is hindered by lack of GPS in urban areas and indoors where GPS signals are not possible. To enable pedestrian navigation in these areas, the devices need to be augmented with dead reckoning sensing technologies emerging from a number of component makers.

Going forward, pedestrian navigation is a bright spot for the world of location-based services. Local search will become the catalyst that supports the take-up of pedestrian navigation and will become the basis for what is largely an ad-based business model.

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