Competition to PNDs Coming from All Angles

April 25, 2013  - By
Image: GPS World

It isn’t the same old news that the portable or personal navigation device, PND, has lost a lot of ground to mobile applications found on smartphones. The reason it isn’t old news is that the drop in sales is being measured by the millions — from a high of 33 million in 2011 — to a little more than half of that amount. While consumers’ tastes are shifting, often to automobiles equipped with connected features, a smartphone is still the device of choice for quick navigation, location-based services and other features.

While stand-alone portable navigation systems seem to be a fading market driver, connected units seem to be the rage at trade shows and other venues. One example is the recent partnership of Audi of America and T-Mobile USA, who announced a data plan that includes real-time news, weather and fuel prices, Google Earth access and Google Voice Local Search.

The marriage of usually two distinct industries the past three or so years has generated new interest in telematics, which has always been a catch-all term for an automobile’s mobile information features.

While not exactly an eye-opening finding, Berg Insight says sales of PNDs are set to significantly decrease in coming years as consumers choose alternatives. The company says that PND sales will fall to 17 million units, down from the more than 28 million sold last year — and 33 million in 2011.

Berg says PNDs will face stiff competition from lower-cost embedded systems. The company says 150 million people use smartphone navigation apps, compared to 105 million in 2011.

Such companies as Dutch PND manufacturer TomTom said it posted a 13 percent fall, to $262 million, in first-quarter sales. The company is diversifying its product line to counter the loss of revenue from falling PND sales.

To diversify, TomTom rolled out a GPS watch recently to compete with rival Garmin, which has similar products on the market. According to published reports, the company said it is competing with mobile phones for the navigation market.

To echo the Berg findings, TomTom said about 2.1 million navigation units were sold in Europe last year, but in the United States, the drop was even more significant. The company’s PND products fell from 1.5 million units in 2012 to 1.1 million in 2011.

The competition to PNDs is coming from a number of areas. In the recent Audi and T-Mobile deal, users can retrieve information over Wi-Fi for $15 a month (the company says new and existing owners can receive full data services for 30 months for $30 a month). Through the Audi Connect system, users can get connectivity for as many as eight devices.

Audi Connect, which first went on the market in 2011, allows users to gain access to real-time localized weather, news and fuel prices.

Apple Buys Indoor Navigation Company WiFiSLAM

Say what you want about the recent surge in interest of indoor navigation. Some call it an over-hyped fad — or not technically ready for market. The bottom line is that Apple thinks enough of the market to have spent $20 million for Silicon Valley start-up WiFiSLAM in late March.

According to published reports, WiFiSLAM can pinpoint a user’s indoor location to within 8 feet, using Wi-Fi.

Apple has made several inroads to enhance its location portfolio since its Apple Maps debacle in 2012 when users complained about inaccurate directions.

The problems were so acute for Apple Maps that its CEO told potential customers to buy navigation from its rivals, including Waze.

Apple rival Google already has been in the indoor positioning and navigation market, mapping shopping malls, airports and sports venues in several countries.

DeCarta Launches Local Search Engine

DeCarta has launched the L2 Local Search Engine. L2 offers companies the ability to index their own data and make it searchable via a sophisticated single-line search, said Kim Fennell, deCarta president and CEO. Those companies might include local search, vertical search (hotels, restaurants), classifieds, newspapers, Internet yellow pages and others.

“Single-line search is the standard for most web search and for the big mapping portals, but is oddly missing from most local search sites,” Fennell said. “They still use a two-line entry, first specifying what you want and then where you want it. The main reason for that disconnect is that the technology to do good single-line geo-search requires a pretty deep understanding of geospatial data and technology, and is hard to do well. L2 solves that problem. We provide a fully featured local search engine with baseline map and POI data,” he said.

“The local site can clean and index their proprietary data using our tools and then host the search engine in the cloud,” Fennell said. “They get the control of the data and the user interface that the big map portals use.”

Some examples of a deCarta Local Search Engine point of interest entry may be, “coffee near XYZ company,” “restaurants on Main Street,” and “parking near AMC Theater.”

In other LBS news:

  • Telenav introduced its embedded product for the Scout for Cars product line. The embedded product features in-dash navigation with mobile and cloud services for real-time, personalized information, the company said. Marketed to automakers, the company said installers can connect Scout for Phones service in their cars for real-time services and personalization. The company said the unit comes with flexible branding so OEMs can offer embedded navigation in their vehicles through their own brands.
  • Audiovox’ $169.99 Car Connection kit tracks vehicles and monitors the driver with a built-in GPS unit and a two-way cellular data connection, without a smartphone, the company said. Once an account is established, and the unit is recognized by the Car Connection service, owners can track their cars’ movements and receive e-mail or text alerts in the event the car is stolen or used without permission. An interesting feature is a free app that allows users to find the car via a smartphone. Car Connection costs $10 a month, or $90 per year, and has a $20 activation fee.

Send your LBS news and announcements to Kevin Dennehy at

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