CES Continues to Highlight Navigation’s Market Supremacy

January 12, 2011  - By
Image: GPS World
It appears that the Consumer Electronics Show is back to its pre-2009 doldrums as hotels, restaurants, cab lines, and registration numbers were up. Despite large wireless carrier presence, CES seemed to continue to be a place where aftermarket navigation providers are hawking their new units. Either way, it still is possible for LBS players, after fighting their way through miles of 3D-capable TV screens, car speakers, and dozens of entities hawking electronic tablets, to find companies still adding location to their consumer electronics offerings.

LAS VEGAS — The Consumer Electronics Show here has historically been a place where companies rolled out new navigation systems–or enhanced existing ones. Despite wireless carriers touting how their next generation services can benefit consumers, the idea that CES is a location-based services show is misleading.

Whether folks with a fancy location-finding social network want to believe it or not, navigation still is king when it comes to consumer awareness and sales.  In fact, most of the bigger news came from automobile manufacturers talking about their new electronics and vehicles with navigation as a prominent part of the unit.

Ford’s honcho, Alan Mulally, said that its Sync unit is now in 3 million vehicles. He touted INRIX’ traffic services for road information.  Ford also rolled out a fully electric Focus that will have Sync and a full complement of regular systems.

OnStar announced it was offering an aftermarket product for vehicles other than GM products. Best Buy will begin to offer the unit, the company said. However, the price, $299, plus installation, and the $18.95 a month price point, may be steep, said Thilo Koslowski, Gartner vice president. “It is cool [OnStar] is doing this. Something they should have done a while ago,” he said. “However, they are going to have to come down in price.”

While navigation seems to be a big component in new automobiles, there still is this “oh yeah, we offer Google maps” mantra rather than explain how location-enhancement helps sell the vehicle. Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management of Audi AG, mentioned his company offers navigation with Google maps, while rolling out an electric car.

Brian Inouye, Toyota’s national manager of advanced technologies, said the embedded navigation device did not die, despite the glut of portable navigation and other aftermarket devices. “When we were selling in-dash units for $3,000, and PNDs were coming out at $300 a few years ago, we were concerned,” he said. “However, people are interested in the connectivity [embedded] units have, the few wires going into the unit they have [compared to PNDs] and new personalization.”

INRIX, fresh off a recent 60 Minutes interview with its company president, had a number of announcements at CES.  Toyota and INRIX announced the automaker will use INRIX’s real-time traffic information for the new Entune multimedia system on select audio headunits.

INRIX also showed off its XD Traffic in a Volkswagon Passat at CES. The unit was built on Continental’s AutoLinq platform to show routes, recommended departure times and ETAs. “User personalization is one thing we have been working on.  This information includes aggregation of community routes that integrate routes and weather,” said Ken Kranseler, INRIX vice president of product management.

Navteq, in addition to being listed as partners in a number of CES products, had location-enable device offerings such as map data for geotagging and GPS positioning for cameras and camcorders. “We are integrated into the Panasonic Lumix and Fujifilm cameras,” said Toru Yoshimura, NAVTEQ senior manager, customer marketing

Navteq is high on its Discover Cities products for mobile device and pedestrian navigation.  “The market is larger in Europe for [pedestrian navigation]. People are walking large distances in urban areas,” said Nicki Harada, Navteq product marketing manager.    

Aftermarket Navigation Systems Still in Spotlight at CES

Most of the bigger aftermarket electronics manufacturers still are offering navigation in their in-dash systems. Kenwood is in top three highest selling in-dash navigation systems for 2011, said Keith Lehmann, Kenwood senior vice president. Lehman touted its partnership with Garmin and iBiquity as reasons for the company’s navigation success.

The systems are still for the high-end buyer, with the Kenwood Excelon DNX9980HD going for $2,000.  The unit features 3D Garmin navigation and Navteq traffic data service.

Lehmann also said Kenwood is working with Garmin, for the fourth year, to offer a rebate program.

Pioneer announced that it was rolling out a location-based Smart Cradle that has an external GPS receiver, gyroscope/accelerometer for smartphones. Ted Cardenas, Pioneer Car Electronics Division director of marketing, said that Smart Cradle will make smartphone better at getting quality GPS signals.  Pioneer is big on putting connectivity in vehicles. “There are some limitations of smartphones — they have small screens and require a user’s complete attention,” Cardenas said, driving home the notion that Pioneer can come up with products and applications that allow users to get all of their mobile information safely without the smartphone being the end all to be all device.

For the PND market, Magellan, Garmin and TomTom all rolled out new units with different features. Magellan’s RoadMate 9055 features lifetime traffic and Bluetooth connectivity to mobile devices. Magellan’s Stig Pederson said that the PND market will concentrate on future consumer personalization to remain competitive. “Sharing data and relevant information is something the consumer wants,” he said.

The connected GO 2505 M LIVE comes fully-loaded with powerful LIVE services, including the award-winning TomTom HD Traffic.  The TomTom GO 2505 M LIVE will be available at retail stores and from online retailers in mid-2011 for $349 MSRP. A trial subscription of LIVE services will be available for free with each purchase.

“The traffic is very personalized.  It looks at all considerations of the road—actual speed of traffic, rather than posted traffic speed,” said Tom Murray, TomTom’s senior vice president of market development.

TomTom also rolled out the VIA Series PNDs into the United States and Canada markets. The PNDs are slim with a new mounting system that limits exposed wires.

Also at CES, Nike and TomTom unveiled a new sports watch. The new running watch, which has CSR’s SirfSTAR IV GPS installed, is tied to Nike’s online running community that has four million members.

Other CES Observations:

  • Actor Seth Rogen stopped by a Sony reception to plug the new movie, The Green Hornet, and ran down a list of things his crime-fighting car has:  Machine guns, flame thrower…and “Sony GPS navigation system, of course.”
  • CES management had an LBS zone in North Hall with 25 exhibiting companies, many international.  The goodness is, while there was not a single CES-sponsored LBS panel (though there were two in-vehicle panels), the LBS zone had great booth traffic near anchor companies OnStar and Audi.
  • AT&T Location Information Services was rolled out at their developer’s conference a day before CES.  AT&T’s partners include LOC-AID Technologies and TechnoCom.

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About the Author: Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy is GPS World’s editor for location-based services, writing a monthly column for the LBS Insider newsletter. Dennehy has been writing about the location industry for more than 20 years. He covered GPS and location technology for Global Positioning & Navigation News for seven years. His articles on the wireless industry have been published in both consumer and trade magazines and newspapers.