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:
_____________________________________________________________
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."
___________________________________________________________________

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!!

6 comments:

bachi said...

Dear Manoj.

I partially disagree with the reasoning that an Automated and Scientific Process can be an alternative to any of the manual methodologies which involve human intervention.

Already this model is being implemented in Hyderabad for the Ambulance Services of APollo Hospital's in collaboration with Satyam, wherein they use the Shortest Path Module along with GPS navigation systems to find the best route to the nearest medical facility.

Worst case Scenario: Suppose i was driving in a remote village in Tamilnadu i would rather go with Car Navigation Product Systems than Speaking to the Guys where Language would be a barrier coz.. the guy knows Tamil and I do not know Tamil.

cheers
Bhasker

Anonymous said...

Certainly, it's a million dollar question

Not now, but in near future there will be a need for it, and who knows that the latest cars comes out with these techno gadgets embedded, and one has to slip in the car and punch the destination, and it will start working as autopilot.

Sajid

maneesh said...

Thanks Manoj ! This is indeed, One of the best possible scenarios putforth for decision makers and discussion.
if you see the fact file, no. of domestic travellrs by road, No of vechiles (cars etc) is increasing vertically hence forth, some kind of navigation system could soon become a necessary addition to the luggage they pack up. Conventionally, paper guide maps, tips from friends and directions from roadside dwellers have been the primary sources of information for travellers . But the future is set to herald a whole new wave of Road navigation systems that are easy to use, employ cutting-edge technology and are far more accurate than the techniques that have been in practical existence till date.
Now, About market penetration, Cars represent a small percentage of the total vehicle population. However, the potential for sizeable growth for GPS/GPRS-based navigation systems could come from two sets of consumers. One will be companies in the logistics sector, fleet operators , large taxi operators and two will be the individual car owner who travels a lot and is looking for a navigational help.
Biggest hurdle/challenges comes from the Government's strictures on making available digital data sets, which are mandatory to ensure greater reliability/expectation in performance of any Road navigation systems.
Digital mapping may require aerial surveying (combination of Photogrammetry & Lidar) as terrestrial surveying cannot live up to the level of accuracy (precision) and velocity of conversion that is required for atleast road navigation systems.
However, the availability of roadside assistance and the need for digital security systems could drive future demand for these systems.

maneesh said...

Thanks Manoj ! This is indeed, One of the best possible scenario put forth for decision makers and discussion.
if you see the fact file, no. of domestic travellrs by road, No of vechiles (cars etc) is increasing vertically hence forth, some kind of navigation system could soon become a necessary addition to the luggage they pack up. Conventionally, paper guide maps, tips from friends and directions from roadside dwellers have been the primary sources of information for travellers . But the future is set to herald a whole new wave of Road navigation systems that are easy to use, employ cutting-edge technology and are far more accurate than the techniques that have been in practical existence till date.
Now, About market penetration, Cars represent a small percentage of the total vehicle population. However, the potential for sizeable growth for GPS/GPRS-based navigation systems could come from two sets of consumers. One will be companies in the logistics sector, fleet operators , large taxi operators and two will be the individual car owner who travels a lot and is looking for a navigational help.
Biggest hurdle/challenges comes from the Government's strictures on making available digital data sets, which are mandatory to ensure greater reliability/expectation in performance of any Road navigation systems.
Digital mapping may require aerial surveying (combination of Photogrammetry & ALTM) as terrestrial surveying cannot live up to the level of accuracy (precision) and velocity of conversion that is required for atleast road navigation systems.
However, the availability of roadside assistance and the need for digital security systems could drive future demand for these systems.

MANEESH

Manoj Misra said...

Bhaskar, Sajid, Maneesh: Thank you so much for your views and analysis!

bachi said...

Hi Manoj..

Recently while on a Drive from Chicago to Indianapolis, came across one very smart Navigation device inside a Car.

The feature of this device is that It Speaks.. All you need to do is Pump in the From and To locations. Using GPS this tracks your vehicle and guides you the exact path to the destination.

It really works... Will upload the Photograph for your reference.

This Will be needed in INDIA. Very sooner or later this will take up the Indian Driving Mechanism.

Few of the Terminology used:
Please take a left after 800 yards.
Turn Right ..
In case you ignored this..
(Hi, you need to take another route... Please comply with instructions...)

Its literally just like a navigator guiding you to your destination..

Cheers
Bhasker

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