New Zealand gets TomTom Car Navigation on iPhone first!


OK, we were only ahead of Australia by a couple of hours, but we need everything we can get. Maybe we should give some iPhones to the All Blacks to help them find the try line in the TriNations and Bledisloe on Saturday, but that’s another story. As another aside, when I wrote TriNations, my spell checker suggested ‘urinations’. We’ll let that one be too.

So this morning I got a phone call letting me know that TomTom Car Navigation is now available with GeoSmart maps, for New Zealand in the iTunes Apps Store. This is awesome news. We’ve had some routing applications available in New Zealand, but nothing with any real accuracy. Also the other apps required that you download data frequently, which means additional cost to your Telco, whereas the iPhone application has all of the maps and Points of Interest you need on the device.

The application requires OS3.0 but as I understand it, as long as you have the OS version, you can run the application on any iPhone as well as iPod Touch if you purchase the TomTom Car Kit. Neither helps me as I only have an iPod Classic and a Blackberry, but I hope to remedy that situation soon.

The car kit itself seems very cool and I hope to get the chance to try one. The car kit includes the new TomTom mount, which I really like. It also incorporates a speaker and a microphone as well as an external GPS antenna which means that you don’t have to buy the very latest iPhone with GPS and Compass (although that would be my pick right now) if you already have an iPhone or iPod Touch. The car kit also charges the iPhone when it is in the cradle.

Now the debate has begun in earnest. Why buy the iPhone App and Car Kit, when for the same price you can buy a dedicated PND (Portable Navigation Device) for the same price or maybe even less? This is a similar question to the one I get frequently, which is, what navigation unit or brand is the best? My answer is that ‘best’ is subjective. Different brands and different models currently have different features and the feature set is part of the argument that defines what is best for you.

TomTom and Navman both have new product ranges and different features relating to the user interface, functionality etc. Both brands in New Zealand have GeoSmart Maps (and if you don’t know by now, I work for GeoSmart) which are the most accurate for New Zealand. Why is not relevant for today’s blog. For example Navman now has AA Traffic and TomTom has IQ Routes (which are not the same concept, just an example).

Perhaps part of the answer is how often you travel. As I’ve said in previous blogs. your mobile is your ubiquitous device. You always have it with you. I always have car navigation in my car, but if I’m out of town (without my car) I don’t always take it with me.

The TomTom iPhone Car Kit solves another problem because you can use it as a hands free kit for your mobile. From 1 November, driving and talking on a handheld mobile will become illegal. You will either have to use a hands free kit of some sort or not use your phone at all in the car. I have stopped accepting or making any calls in the car, although I might accept important calls if I had a hands free kit. There is always a tension and anxiety around not answering calls on your mobile. People expect to be able to reach you, which causes an unpleasant feeling for both parties. So here’s a nice solution for your car.

So back to the application, this is essentially the same application as the one residing on the normal PND devices carried by your favourite consumer electronics stores. One cute thing is that on iPhone you can orient your phone to landscape or portrait and it will automatically adapt itself.

The nature of car navigation is changing and like most new technologies it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what will happen in the near future. LBS on mobile is a given and if you search through my blogs, you will find several about mobile applications, car navigation on mobile will become common place and of course there are many situations where you would like guidance while walking, exercising, travelling in a taxi or on public transport. These are often scenarios where you want to travel light, but wouldn’t go without your mobile.

If you had asked me last year, where car navigation is going, I would have told you about ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), for which R&D has been funded by the European Governments. This was to develop systems that would reduce accidents in a number of ways, including monitoring vehicles positions in relation to the lane markings on roads, legal driving speeds, speed and distance of vehicles in front and behind you and much more. Many of the innovations for this are being developed and in some cases launched by brands as far apart as BMW and Nissan.

This system was originally going to be made mandatory in all new cars sold in Europe from 2012 and if this was still the case, it could have meant significantly reduced demand for PND’s. When I was in The Netherlands earlier this year, I was advised that the date had been dropped and the European Union were having a rethink on the subject, and particularly their ongoing commitment to funding it. They determined that it would take more than 10 years before the majority of vehicles in Europe would have this system in place and therefore the deadline wouldn’t have any immediate impact. A cynic would say that this would mean that current politicians would not get any credit within their career to justify spending time on it.

So now we have (I reiterate I haven’t tried it yet) a new system which will provide an all but identical experience to a PND on your iPhone. Of course TomTom isn’t the only mobile product available, but it is the first one being commercially sold in New Zealand. The new Android phones also have GPS and Compass and of course there are some very good Windows Mobile applications as well such as iGO8. Will there be a move away from PND’s? I doubt it, at least in the near future. Navman will certainly be hoping not.

There will be a camp that says a PND is the best device at being a PND. They said the same about PDA’s, but SmartPhones are now viable devices, even though I still have to reboot my new Blackberry Bold at least a couple of times a week. The future is going to be interesting. There are phone companies such as Nokia who showed their intention by purchasing Navteq and are planning converged devices that combine a mobile with car navigation. There are PND manufacturers who are going to be putting SIM Card slots into their car navigation devices.

The market will decide what the best is and the answer to all questions will be yes:)

I’ll leave the last word for today to TomTom.

eLearning, So What’s New?


This morning when I read the Herald, there was a story in a supplement on Education about eLearning. The supplement is obviously focussed on students heading for Uni for the first time and Abcd – e – learning was well written and researched, and it was a supplement, but I was also thinking, that it was ironic that it was presented as if it is something new. It was interesting that while I couldn’t find a link on the Herald’s website, I guess because it was a commercial supplement, I did find a story about using podcasting (which was key to this morning’s story) written in July last year called Pupils book place in world with podcasting, by Martha McKenzie-Minifie.

The story was largely about universities including MIT, Berkeley UC and Yale posting lectures as podcasts on iTunes U. It was about the benefits of students being able to listen to podcasts and make sure they don’t miss anything.

This was interesting timing because I have been having discussions with Massey University about eLearning for sometime and last month launched the Location Innovation Awards, which runs until February 16th 2009. I was considering adding eLearning to one of the categories, but given that the Awards are in fact a learning experience and the categories of Location Based Games, Social Networking, Proximity Based Marketing and widgets for AA Maps all provide scope not only for learning, but offer the opportunity for supporting education that is location based. For example a location based game music elearning could involve a treasure hunt in a community based around learning about the history of the area, which could be cultural, historical, ecological, environmental and so on.

In a recent blog I wrote about Music eLearning on the net and made reference to Gordon Dryden’s new book, Unlimited – The New Learning Revolution (which is totally about eLearning) which he told me will be on the retail shelves within a week or so. I feel I relate well to Gordon because I was also frustrated and bored with school as a teenager.

The problem for me was that I wanted to be a songwriter and musician and my parents sent me to a school where the major subject was rugby and music was a 40 minute session 3 times a month or so. By the time I got to 5th form I was bored to tears with subjects that I felt (and still feel) were irrelevant (although I guess there were a couple of exceptions, being French and Latin which have both served me well.

I didn’t pay much attention in class, was bored, found other ways to amuse myself. At the end of the year come exam time, I used a form of eLearning. I got all my school notes, typed them up on a typewriter, read them out loud into a tape recorder and played them back to myself while listening to Led Zeppelin in the background. Now I was aware already that Baroch music is far more conducent to learning, because it has a tempo that your brain matches into a state which is good for absorbing information. However, it wasn’t cool and this still worked and I did pass my exams, except for Geography which is ironic given that I speak a number of languages and have travelled aorund the world several times, it was just hard to record maps:)

I have been using audio tapes for many years to enhance my learning. I recorded radio shows and learned about cosmic string theory, and also bought and used Psychology tapes to learn about NLP, negotiation and other skills.

This morning in the shower I was learning about SPIME, which is very pertinent to my current focus of Location Based Services. I learned about it from a podcast interview with David Orban on the podcast of The Future and You by Stephen Euin Cobb. “A Spime is a location-aware, environment-aware, self-logging, self-documenting, uniquely identified object that flings off data about itself and its environment in great quantities.”

This technology is very relevant to my work in car navigation and future driving safety. Imagine if every car had SPIME technology and independant of any internet or cellular telecommunication technology, cars could communicate with each other, ensuring safe driving in terms of car proximity to each other, safe following speed and distance and the ability to react to an emergancy. For example, if the car in front of you engages its ABS and brakes suddenly. A SPIME technology could potentially tell your car which is following it, about the situation and have it react potentially seconds before your brain and foot can engage with your brake pedal. This could be a marvellous development of ADAS.

Anyway, I am heading off on a tangent, but the thing is that eLearning continues to keep me abreast of the latest developments in the fields I am interested in and you do not have to be a university student to access the information.

I often listen to University Lectures at iTunes U and so can you. If you are interested in a topic and want to follow the lectures whether you are studyig at a university or not, they are as close as your iPod.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Car Design and Pricing


I was sitting on my soap box yesterday and thinking about car pricing and design and wondering about some of the rationale of car companies.

This train of thought started on my way home from the Hamilton 400 where I was the guest of Navman and Ford New Zealand who hosted me royally, thank you very much. I had lots of time to think about this because my trip of 120 or so km took me 4 hours as it seemed that most of the 60,000 people attending were taking the same trip north after a great day of V8 motor racing.

The first thing that I wondered about was why a Holden Commodore cost so much more than a Ford Falcon. What do they put in those cars that make them worth a huge premium? When it comes to German precision and safety and having had brief opportunities to drive BMW 6 and 7 Series cars, I can see where they get to charge a premium. They offer both highly sophisticated features including at the safety level and with new requirements such as ADAS,(which will include things like warning if you move out of your lane, monitoring distance and speed of the car in front of you, checking your eyes to see if you are alert and awake etc) they will continue to be in the forefront.

But when I was looking for my next car and comparing cars like the Commodore and the Falcon, I could not understand the price difference and even less when comparing to the features offered in Japanese cars today. You will appreciate that being a toy boy, I like to have gadgets and features as well as sleek lines and lots of power, so when I looked at entry level Commodores, I couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

Sure Commodore won the V8 series, but that was in a $500,000 racing car, not a street car. Anyway after pondering this for some time, I decided that the premium was about status and brand value, not necessarily about the end experience and practical value, which I am sure the manufacturers will argue, but not to my satisfaction as a consumer.

Then my thought process went on to the design of cars and the accessories and features included and decided that we are being ripped off. What a difference there is between concept cars and the cars that we get to buy. My theory is that they come up with a huge number of innovations and drip feed them to us so that they have something to offer into the next model to make us update our car.

The shape of cars doesn’t change significantly. Cars have slowly become more aerodynamic, which means improved performance through less drag. With the cost and future scarcity of petrol, performance is going to become far more important. Why do they move from the bulky square edged gas guzzlers to sleek aerodynamic shapes over 15 years of model enhancements instead of immediately? Are they afraid that they will not be able to come up with new design enhancements? Isn’t it likely that if they dramatically improve car design, features and accessories in one go that their cars will sell more competitively and be more popular. Given how creative people are in the industry (look at the annual Honda car design awards or the annual solar energy races they have in Australia), isn’t it likely that car design would radically improve at an ever increasing pace? It seems as though the industry is deliberately holding back.

I hope that one or two brands of car get the message and start sharing their creativity with us. We should have small (but impact safe) town cars that can slide sideways into tiny car parks in the city and have larger comfortable but economic sleek cruisers that are fun to drive and own for out of town driving, with all the features one would expect like ADAS, navigation with real time traffic, events, reservations for food and accomodation, electric seat memory controls, iPod dock, heated and cooled cup holders, personalised audio and climate control memory, tyre tread sensors and loads more, like TV, games and DVD players for rear seat passengers, interenet browsing……………………………

Imagine, if that was the starting point, how car design would develop for the future, the pace of change and growth would be unbelievable and people would happily upgrade their cars to new models more frequently.