December 17, 2005

NAVTEQ signs deal to license Australian map data

Posted in Articles at 11:41 pm by siddey

Navteq have signed an agreement with PSMA Australia Ltd that will give the Chicago based company access to the quasi-Government organisation’s high quality Australia-wide map data. This agreement will facilitate the release of Navteq’s first Australian based navigation product.

Now that we are seeing large international players coming onto the Australian mapping scene, one could think that the next evolution will be for Navteq to leverage their existing relationship with Google in the United States to finally bring open-access LBS Downunder. Arguably, this seems to tie in very well with recent reports of increasing local development on Google Maps technology at their Sydney headquarters.

At this point in time, if I were a senior executive within Telstra’s Sensis division, I should be very nervous about such a deal weakening my company’s ability to dominate the Australian LBS market and to capitalise on my own in-house mapping IP. If Sensis’ operating costs are high and margins are low, Navteq could undermine the very closed strategies of Australia’s largest Telco by opening up an LBS platform to the local application development community.

My main doubt is whether Navteq had sufficient capacity to include possible alternative revenue models in their licensing agreement with PSMA Australia. PSMA’s basic dataset and per-unit royalty charges would not allow for a delivery mechanism such as Google Maps general non-commercial access. That is, unless the revenue derived from that service could in some way translate into a per-consumer charge for which PSMA can receive a royalty. I assume they would also create a commercial access license similar to what is available through negotiation with Google in the United States. If commercial pricing is attractive to smaller LBS application development businesses, this would certainly look like a winning combination.

I will remain hopeful. If this does all eventuate, let’s just hope that the pricing doesn’t send us back to Telstra cap in hand.

Navteq + PSMA + Google Maps could very well see Australian LBS come of age.

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December 14, 2005

Australian connection to Google maps grows stronger

Posted in Articles at 7:18 pm by siddey

Today the LBS news drought has been broken within Australia. The Australian media reports that Google is increasing headcount at it local headquarters in Sydney, Australia. Google are reportedly hiring to increase work on the Google Maps technology which primarily originated (including the innovative Ajax interface) from Silicon Valley based, Australian firm Where2 LLC, acquired by Google in 2004.

Lars Rasmussen, founder of Where2 LLC, gave a keynote presentation in Sydney earlier this year, for the 5th International Conference on Web Engineering. Here is a brief introduction to Lars as can be found on the conference website. Rasmussen also gave an interview to ZDNET earlier in the year to talk about his past and future.

It’s certainly positive to see a continued investment in Australian software development talent. Unfortunately, however, there is no mention as to whether this investment will reach the dream of including local Australian map data with Google Maps.

Map data is hard to come by within Australia, due to the tight grip held on the limited market (by that I mean expensive, with high per-unit royalty requirements that almost kill the appeal for consumer focused applications) by Telstra and the quasi-Government body PSMA. Given Telstra’s recent attack at Google’s plans for world domination, it’s more likely that if we’re ever going to see a player such as Google enter the location based service market in Australia, it will be in partnership with PSMA.

I doubt anyone can go it alone.