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TomTom Demonstrates the Power and Differentiating Relevance of Mobile Devices in Cars

by Roger Lanctot | Dec 20, 2011

TomTom continues to cut a swath of innovation in the midst of a high wire rewiring of its business in the face of declining portable navigation device demand.  The latest announcement from the company – hidden in a whirlwind of repetitive press releases about adding HD Traffic users and miles of mapped roads – describes a collaboration with Vialis, a variable message sign (VMS) traffic information provider, in The Netherlands to communicate traffic routing information from TomTom’s cloud-based traffic service to the Vialis signs.

The announcement reflects similar moves by Inrix in the U.S. to integrate cloud-based, crowd-sourced real-time traffic data, derived from mobile devices, with roadside infrastructure. Vialis says that to enable their AMS solution with TomTom they created a standard interface to integrate TomTom traffic data into the central system which controls all signs in The Netherlands.

The objective of the TomTom deployment is to provide the city of Purmerend with real-time traffic information to optimize traffic flow. In particular, journey time information will be displayed on the highway message screen advising drivers of the quickest way out of the city onto the A7 highway.

Now, let’s set aside the real-time aspect of this solution and the fact that Inrix is providing a similar service for municipalities all along the Route 95 corridor in the U.S. The real significance of this deployment lies in a few key facts.

1) Local governments are recognizing the critical and intrinsic value of crowd-sourced data derived from mobile devices being used in cars.

2) The quality and accuracy of this data is sufficient to qualify for use as a public service.

3) In fact, the data derived from mobile devices is superior to and an invaluable enhancement to the information derived from cameras and fixed sensors of various types.

4) TomTom still has a unique value proposition in its cloud-based, crowd-sourced HD Traffic solution which may soon find its way into new markets globally.

The U.S. and European integration of mobile-device-based traffic information is a significant manifestation of the powerful cooperation to be derived from the use of mobile devices in cars. This is, of course, saying nothing about the value of mobile devices for reporting incident information including inputs directly from crash scene regarding the nature of the incident and condition of potential victims – and, of course, location.

The VMS scheme in The Netherlands makes use of TomTom’s HD Route Times, a turnkey solution for real time travel and delay times for a specific route either on a temporary basis or for permanent solutions.  The cloud-based service benefits from consumer and fleet inputs of vehicle probe data as well as user reports of roadway changes.

TomTom also leverages its historical congestion data to help planners structure their road infrastructure most effectively. This should lead to fewer traffic jams, less expenditure and lower CO2 emissions, the company says.  TomTom offers its feed in XML file delivery format and updates every minute by fusing multiple data sources. To facilitate its work with municipalities, TomTom offers fast set up and temporary installations.

The TomTom and Inrix initiatives reflect a wider movement of mobile-device-based data into different traffic platforms on the Internet, on television, radio and in cars and on mobile phones. Los Angeles traffic authorities involved Waze, for example, as part of a consumer information campaign during a recent highway shut down in Los Angeles for construction. Waze provided information regarding preferred routes to drivers via their mobile devices and on television.


Mobile devices are increasingly recognized by transportation executives around the world as valuable sources of traffic and travel information in real time. As efforts increase to communicate valuable traffic information to drivers to better manage traffic on major highways and around large urban areas, floating car data from mobile devices are an essential tool to increase awareness of overall traffic conditions.

Floating car data from mobile devices integrated with infrastructure-based systems for communicating with drivers will help turn the tide of growing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from vehicles stuck in traffic. The next step will be to improve predictive traffic solutions to better anticipate traffic conditions rather than simply responding to real time developments.

Mobile device inputs should also help to identify incidents and speed the process of clearing those incidents. Major initiatives are under way around the world to improve the process of clearing stalled or damaged vehicles and injured passengers to restore the flow of traffic.

Finally, TomTom's traffic and routing expertise are critical differentiators in a consolidating navigation industry.  The proliferation of public partnerships will alter the competitive landscape.


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