Recently, it has become apparent that the success of a mobile platform depends heavily on creating a vibrant developer community to support it. One of the first international companies moving to build such a community in China is NAVTEQ. This week in Beijing & Shanghai, NAVTEQ held the first two of a series of events targeting Chinese developers who they hope will help expand their navigation, map, and LBS based solutions within the Chinese market.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to speak with Marc Naddal, Vice President of the Partner & Developer Program at NAVTEQ, to ask him about his company’s development plans. Below is the full interview.
What is NAVTEQ?
Marc Naddel: NAVTEQ is the world’s leading provider of digital maps and services. We’ve been in existence for 25 years. Our main business is collecting all the map data points of interests and all the attributes that are required to enable an application regardless of what platform it’s on, or what domain, or what vertical of the market. We enable location enabled applications and services, including; navigation, search, map display, GeoCoding, and reverse GeoCoding. We do this in a large number of countries around the globe. So we have 84 countries which we’ve mapped to create a navigable map called the NAVTEQ Map. That’s done using Geo-analystic approaches, that walk the street and drive the roads, and collect map data and PIO information that doesn’t get used by developers whether they are creating something for InDash, or for smartphones, or for a web portals to calculate routes, execute searches, or allow turn-by-turn navigation in vehicles or personal navigation devices. We also provide what’s called an intermediate or entry-level map in another 141 countries.
So you can see we cover the globe, 6 continents, hundreds of countries with our maps and services, as well as other API’s we provide like location point advertising, and capabilities from partners like those from the Dev Day events in Beijing & Shanghai. It’s a good example of where we would bring our partners in who have APIs in china, and use our underlying map technology and products to enable the creation of API apps and services by the developers.
Is there a platform you have the greatest presence on?:
MN: The way we do business with the developers, they can recall our maps either as a download from the NN4D, or as a map to create apps, or they can get access to APIs through partners of NAVTEQ. The developers are free to create their applications independently from NAVTEQ, so most developers create for a number of platforms and don’t have to identify which platform they are creating for. We are completely agnostic, so there are applications using our API on Apple, RIM, Android, feature phones, web portals, etc. All-in-all we have a wide distribution of product across different applications.
MN: China is a tremendous opportunity from simply from population perspective, but additionally, there is also a significant base of highly competent and skilled developers. Working with developers in China there are really 2 opportunities, 1) an opportunity to create applications and services and 2) an opportunity to find something very innovative and compelling to export to other markets.
One example we’ve seen includes an application developer working with solar GPS who has created a number of applications for iTunes. This developer had tremendous success when we introduced them to several channel and customer opportunities in North America and Europe. We have a very unique role in the industry due to our close relationship with OEMs in the automotive and phone business, personal navigation devices, as well as with operators and channels (like retail & distribution channels). We are in a great position to introduce customers to channels with interesting applications seen in other markets. We want to do our best in country, to partner with technology partners we have, and to enable developers in country to create exciting applications, provide coaching, business model advice, and make intros to create visibility for apps in diff channels. Which helps us simply to build our business.
What is NN4D?:
MN: The Navteq Network For Developers (NN4D) is a holistic offering that is tailored for the needs of software developing companies and individuals. It contains over 8,000 developer need sources (API, SDK, technical documents, training material, multimedia, tutorials, etc.). Additionally, NN4D consists of technical support and business development support to help fine tune apps and make it a better fit for commercial opportunities. 3rd party resources like the Virtual Device Lab, allows developers to create and account from anywhere in the world (on NN4D) and get 5 hours of free testing on a virtual device rod. DeviceAnywhere, provides device access via the web to developers so they can access devices configured for specific operator networks, upload apps, test apps and collect diagnostic info and screenshots to make sure their applications are fit for different markets before submitting them for certification.
What are some examples of resources, tools, SDKs and support NN4D puts in the hands of developers?
MN: Partnerships with key tech providers, like Vizio Globe which provides it Vizio Developer Kit that enhances use of visual content. Imagination Technologies, which is a leader in accelerated graphics, also provides an SDK to create the NAVTEQ sample map called PowerVR which allows developers to optimize their use of the most challenging 3D content.
Can you tell me about NAVTEQ’s two biggest partners ESRI and DeCarta?:
MN: These two companies have been close partners for many years and have been sponsors holding micro-sites within NN4d for a long time. They provide leading edge developer oriented APIs, each specialized in slightly different way. They provide online access to their API, documentation and tech support that gives a range of freedom for developers to create specific apps, using different business models that can then be used on the web or selective smartphones that developers are targeting for their applications and services.
What do you think about the growth of Location Based Services (LBS)?:
MN: The Developer Days in China are actually the first ones but we plan to roll Dev Days out in different markets around the world. We recognize China is a tremendous opportunity and think the dynamic nature of the Chinese market, and how prevalent phone usage is, creates opportunities for services here that could also be used in other parts of the world. Location is an attribute in an application that enriches the app itself and makes it much more personal.“Nothing is as personal as your own location, the places you’ve been, and the places you plan to go.” So apps that are properly architected, can take advantage of the awareness of the location of a smartphone, and deliver better info for users based on their preferences and curating their experience. This can be by making their applications more productive, more convenient, or adding more safety, in general curating the info they discover on the devices around them based on their location and the content used by that app.
What opportunity is there to make a business?:
MN: The opportunities are fantastic, even though it is still early in the wireless industry for location, we can foresee a time in the not too distant future where almost every application that is launched has some element of location awareness. The pportunity is ripe for developers now to become familiar with location and LBS and to start integrating location awareness into apps. As demand continues to increase, they will be in on the ground floor, “first-movers”, creating leading applications in driving utility and personalization to end-users. There is a tremendous enterprise opportunity as well. Businesses can be more efficient and more effective in the way they deliver services using smartphones with workers.
Any additional messages?:
MN: We are doing the DevDays in China in conjunction with visibility opportunities later in the year. In May we will be bringing a user group, an event where we bring our customers and channels together. This is as much an opportunity in country as well as for export outside of China. We want to do a number of Dev Days now and in the future, to make sure we build a portfolio of apps and services coming from Chinese developers that will allow us to then execute matchmaking at our user group meeting. We want to provide enough support in near-term to generate enough ecosystem opportunities with Chinese developers.
Over 300 developers requested to attend the 1st DevDay in Beijing, but there were only 100 seats reserved. We want to return to create opportunities for those other interested developers, to get hands on face-to-face training and coaching, and feedback from experts we bring to these events.
Developers looking ahead:
MN: At MWC, lots of device makers were talking about next gen 3D capable device displays. Some of the key digital content NAVTEQ creates are 3D city models. By the end of the year 116 cities will be created in 3D format. This is very rich info that can take advantage of displays. This is perfect if a developer is looking ahead, and thinking about what content they can access that will leverage the most exciting devices in the near future. This is just another example of a use case, waiting for apps and services that will excite the users, and generate lots of visibility for developers.
About the Author
An entrepreneur at heart with a passion for stimulating change for good. Proficient in Korean, and Mandarin, and currently working on Japanese, Nnamdi is positioning himself as a key liaison in the emergence of the worldwide market in East Asia.