Destination everywhere: TomTom maps out the future for GPS

Keeping it real

Quality of the software is one thing, but then there's the issue that sat nav hardware is still seen as a 'buy once, update never' offering.

Stephane Hareau, global marketing director of TomTom international, told TechRadar that this is a stigma TomTom hopes to rid itself of with its latest release. "What we do need to do is bring a daily relevance to how people use their sat nav. A typical user for sat navs used to be occasional, but access to real-time information is changing this. We're showing people there is a benefit to using a sat nav every single day."

One way Hareau hopes TomTom can achieve this is by looking at how often people change their smartphones and try and get dedicated sat navs onto a similar product cycle. This is undoubtedly a hard sell, but Hareau hopes the promise of real-time features will prompt people to purchase new hardware.

TomTom in-car GPS

TomTom is proud of the accuracy of its location data

"With the new Go series, we're making a fundamental shift to realise that now is the time to replace your sat nav. An average change for a smartphone is every 18 months, but people always have a reason to upgrade. With sat navs this has never been the case, but now is the time with our new Go range. The real-time traffic service is a massive benefit. It's recognised as the top traffic service and consumers should use this."

The future of TomTom

Given that TomTom has lasted nearly 20 years in the mapping business, its data archives are undoubtedly the key to its longevity. With 350 million probes of data coming in from TomTom's community, whether passive data from mobile phone signals and PNDs, or active data from those who participate in map share programs, the biggest challenge for TomTom is how it simplifies this information for the everyday user.

"Our CTO calls us an information processor and he is right," said Raucher. "What TomTom does extremely well is take lots of data points that to the average person they are meaningless. What we do is transform all that data into actionable information. We are providing knowledge to people, we want to empower them by giving them that knowledge so they can make better decisions."

And where next for this data? Now TomTom is pushing itself in the sports market, expect more launches in this arena and maybe even some sort of Google Glass rival.

Google Glass is obviously a perfect fit for TomTom and is certainly an area that's being looked at but, again, TomTom is all about refining a product category and not driving blindly into one.

As Stephane Hareau explained to us: "The technology for glasses is not quite ready yet. It needs to improve before we think about getting into this area. Obviously we are constantly looking at new trends and how TomTom fits into these. We've seen ski glasses with this tech in the past and the lenses weren't great. You had to focus too hard on the information, which is tough when you're on the slopes. There is a fine balance in getting this technology right."

Hareau continued: "It's such a new space, you can't jump into something like this. But it's great to see how people react to Google Glass, it's a fascinating trend. It's an area that will happen but we aren't quite at this stage yet."

Commuter love

One stage TomTom is at, is that of using its real-time data to target a consumer who feels they have absolutely no need for a sat nav: the everyday commuter, or those who go to the same place every day without even thinking about it.

Raucher believes TomTom's real-time traffic data can help those who shun sat navs, noting that: "Commuters don't need turn by turn navigation as they know exactly where they are going. But what they don't know is whether they are better off sitting it out in traffic or taking an alternative route. Do you stay on the highway or take to the streets?

"Every single day, every hour, even every minute that answer can be potentially different, so we are looking for opportunities that make it very easy for people to make the right decisions so they arrive at their destination and reach their goals."

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.