What Makes HERE Different From Other Map Platforms?
The digital navigation platform’s German auto company backers are also encouraging additional investors from other industries — but that doesn’t mean Microsoft or Amazon will have a piece of HERE.
In the nine months since digital map platform HERE was acquired for $3 billion by a trio of German carmakers (Audi, BMW, Daimler), the former Nokia property has been sharpening its focus on offline mapping to both differentiate itself from other mapmakers as well as keep up with the needs of “on-demand” app users and businesses.
Kirk Mitchell, vice president for Consumer, Sales & Business Development at HERE (photo above), offered his take on what the company is thinking about as it plots its product roadmap and continues to draw interest from outside investors.
GeoMarketing: HERE is a digital mapping pioneer. Now with last summer’s acquisition by German automotive companies can HERE’s identity be divided into three parts? Or has the identity of the company — what it does and who it serves — been largely the same throughout?
Kirk Mitchell: Our mission at HERE remains the same — to serve as an open location cloud accessible to all customers, in and out of the automotive industry, who want to leverage the power of location. There is a big opportunity to address the challenges of mobility – and it centers on data. By harnessing data in the right way, HERE can build advanced services that reduce congestion, ensure safer roads, and help improve the quality of life of people living in cities.
How has it changed in the last six months?
What has changed is that HERE is exploring incorporating anonymized data from Audi, BMW and Daimler vehicles to further advance its plans to deliver real-time maps. With our platform enhanced by data from multiple sources, HERE will be able to accelerate the development of the next generation map needed for automated driving, as well as further enhance the quality of its maps, products and services for other customers and consumers.
What is HERE’s current focus now? Is it on the ability to power self-driving cars? Or are there other projects that can be mentioned?
HERE enables rich, real-time location applications and experiences for consumers, vehicles, enterprises and cities. Our HD Live Map allows self-driving cars to see beyond the reach of their sensors. Our location platform is powering road hazard warning pilots. We’re providing HERE content and location-based services to developers to power their applications. We’re partnering with Samsung to power apps and experiences from third party developers on Samsung Connect Auto. Meanwhile, departments of transportation around the U.S. use our traffic services.
Most consumers take online maps for granted and can’t tell the difference between, say, Google Maps, Apple Maps, MapQuest, not to mention the maps powered by HERE. Do you agree with that? How should consumers — and brands — evaluate the online maps they use?
We believe truly offline maps via our HERE Maps app on Android and iOS are a significantly differentiator from other map providers. (Just check out our HERE 360 blog post on the topic.)
How has the rise of on-demand app-based services like Uber and Postmates, which depend very heavily on location accuracy, impacted the work that HERE does?
Location is so fundamental to the on-demand economy, and HERE can help new start-ups to think about building their business instead of focusing on whether their latest deliveries made it on time. To be able to deliver a parcel from place A to place B, you need to know where both places are, the most efficient way to get there and what your estimated time of arrival will be.
This is what we are already aggregating and we’re bringing this intelligence into all our services. We also see that as a large percentage of the ride sharing journeys start from large venues (such as airports, malls and stadiums), there is an opportunity to leverage the Venue Maps offering from HERE, where we have mapped in detail many of the country’s venues. We really see ourselves as basically doing all the heavy lifting under the hood so companies can build on-demand services on top.
Is there anything you can say about the current rumors about Amazon and Microsoft possibly investing in HERE?
While I cannot comment on any talks between the consortium of car companies that acquired us in early December and Amazon or Microsoft, what I can say is that our shareholders have stressed since the acquisition that they are open to additional investors from all industries.
Are there any particular initiatives or geospatial issues that HERE is otherwise likely to be focused on for the remainder of the year?
Digital Transportation Infrastructure (DTI) is a new initiative, powered by our Location Cloud, that we are going to introducing in pilots in Europe and the US this year. The pilots are Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), where HERE analyzes, verifies and validates traffic and road hazard data in real-time, and distributes the results to nearby vehicles via the cellular network, warning drivers immediately. Simultaneously, the results are sent to a traffic management center, which can react to upcoming situations in real- time, ensuring safe and efficient driving. Our first pilot in Finland will start in a couple weeks. We have another slated to begin in Colorado shortly, and we are in discussions with other countries and states.