Thursday, March 15, 2007

Navigation Systems and Driving Directions - do we need them in India?

In 2000, Satyam incubated a division/company that was know as Satyam Navigation. In the initial days focus (or at least that is what was known to me) of this group was to develop in-car navigation product. I was asked for my view the future of such a system in India and at that point of time I did not see much. My reasoning - instead of buying a car navigation system, I would roll down my car window and in highly populous and friendly India, I will find more than one willing person to help me in reaching my destination!! I had several personal experiences - if you ask for direction - people not just give direction but even offer to sit in car and lead you to the destination! Was I correct in my reasoning?

Krzysztof Kolodziej in his report "Location 2006 Conference – a Report from India" provides a great overview of Indian GPS and Telematics Market. Part of the report reads: "The Indian market is now at $22 million, but there is potential for growth to $448 million in the next three to four years. GPS companies (both local and international) are competing to grab a piece of this Indian market, especially in logistics for tracking cargo and trucks across the country. Prices for GPS devices in India range from $232 to over $2,325. Garmin will bring its 35 different models of GPS devices to India, ranging from $813 for a basic model to $2,325 for a high-end model (route planning with voice prompts). Local company SatNav launched SatGuide, a car navigation device, and is hoping to sell 3,000 units in the first year. This Pocket PC-based device (costing $883) has maps for 10 major Indian cities. Other companies like Sun Micro Systems (India) are building prototypes to provide location-based services for mobile roaming users. Wipro has developed GPS applications for clients such as those in fleet management, location-based services and automatic driver assistance." His report concludes with the statement - Watch out for the “Crouching Tiger” - it is set to pounce!

India VC Circle blog has a news that reads "Bennett, Coleman Acquires Stake In SatNav Technologies" So there is a future potential and there is action!

I like folks at SatNav. Not because two of the management team folk worked with me at RMSI Hyderabad office, but because these guys thought of a concept, ahead of it's time in India, have firmly kept their focus on the telematics market and are going great when the market seems to be poised for growth.

But has the situation really changed in India and can't we still roll down the windows and ask for direction? I can share one of my recent experience. Few days back, I received the following driving directions from one of my friends inviting us to birthday party of his son:
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From South Delhi/Dhaula Kuan/Central Delhi:
1. Come all the way to the Domestic Airport.
2. You will see the sign for Dwarka at the Airport roundabout.
3. Drive towards the sign- it is a straight road that will take you first under a bridge and then over a flyover. It is close to about 8 kms of stretch.
4. Once you get down of the flyover, keep towards the left. And at the first intersection (red light), take a left.
5. Once you take a left, you will see MTNL exchange on your right (other side of the road).
6. Now keep on the right and at the first red light, take a right.
7. Keep driving straight for maybe 1.2 kms, when you will hit a 4 way junction. It does not have a red-light but it is relatively busy. Cross it carefully!
8. Cross this and keep on driving straight. The road will curve slightly to right and then to left. This stretch maybe about 1.5 km or less- I have never measured it.
9. You will hit another 4-way junction- a again a busy junction and can't be missed. Take a left here and then drive straight.
10. After driving about .7 kms, you will hit a very busy cross-junction. This is Ashirwaad Chowk. On your left will be Pizza hut and Costa COffee. On left, across the road is Akash Institute. On your right will be grocery shops. On diagonally right, you will see Ayushman Hospital. You need to cross this junction. As soon as you cross it, the restaurant will be on your left hand side. There is a big board that says "SHUBHAM VALLEY RESTAURANT."
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We reached the venue, without the need to roll down window!!! If I did not had the directions, I would have surely required much more time and more petrol(gas) to reach the location!!!

The way directions were provided, by my friend, was really flawless. I felt that it will be difficult to model such directions in an application!! Answer came in my "Feedreader" box today -blog post (3/14) on the Live Maps/Virtual Earth blog - " Sending Directions the Web 2.0 Way" ! The post describes the feature of Live Map, that allows you to add your own personal driving direction notes on top of the standard driving directions!!!

So what should I conclude on future of in-car navigation/personal navigation/web-direction system for India?

Manoj Misra

PS: Action is picking up on the AUGTICS front and hence a bigger gap in posting the blog!!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Will the younger generation bring in a revolution in Indian GIS industry?

The best part of being an entrepreneur is that you explore and experience new horizons on a continuous basis and learn new things regularly! With clearer business plan, core team in place, first few clients in sight and groundbreaking portal getting ready for testing and launch, we have started preparing AUGTICS for seed funding. My search for potential investors took me to a news item titles “GVFL to fund RapidRadio's RFID Technology”. Apart from the decent funding and the funding company, what attracted me towards RapidRadio are the technology (RFID) and the 20 something founders of the company. And it motivated me enough to write this post!

RFID technology holds immense potential and has been talked in US and other countries for last several years. The good part is that RFID Technology has now overcome the technology hype and is now on the slope of enlightenment.

RFID technology, combined with GPS and GIS technology holds lot of promises and we will see a several applications bringing in changes to the way we do things today. It will definitely help companies in better inventory management and better logistics but a lot more will be possible! Imagine picking up all your groceries from store and bill getting generated automatically as you walk past the payment counter (well the RFID tags on your groceries will be read and a bill generated automatically – no need for long wait in the long ques)!!

Few days back, a 20 something person contacted me after reading this blog and wanted me to see his creation a “map editor” and a “map viewer”. The person is not from GIS industry, has not met anyone from the GIS industry so far and I was the first privileged person from the GIS industry to view is creation! He has been working on the SW creation for last several years, as his passion is to create tools for visualization! I must tell you that the work he has done is really excellent and if it’s productized, can easily create some unease for the existing order!

My recent discovery of routeguru that is started by 20 something folks (read my Feb 6, opening post Start of a Different View - Indian GIS Industry), 20 something Indian GIS professional outnumbering professionals of all age and of same age from rest of the world to participate in GIS communities on ORKUT (read my Feb 15 post Indian GIS data - bright future ahead !), my meeting with 20 something person who has developed a fantastic GIS data editor and viewer, & RapidRadio, set-up by 20 something, prompted me to ask this question: “Will the younger generation bring in a revolution in Indian GIS industry?”

The question is open to everyone to interpret & respond, but I must confess that looking at this trend, I do feel a lot more aged at 36! Happy Holi and go out and get a DIFFERENT COLORFUL VIEW!!

Manoj Misra

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