TomTom bets on road 'IQ' in S'pore

Dutch navigation services vendor launches portable navigation devices in Singapore, touting updated and accurate "IQ Routes" data--thanks to direct contributions from company's installed base of commuters.

SINGAPORE--Dutch navigation services provider, TomTom, has introduced three of its portable navigation devices (PNDs) here and expressed confidence its speed-profile feature, IQ Routes, will be a key differentiator for the company.

Chris Kearney, vice president of marketing at TomTom Asia-Pacific, said at a media briefing here Thursday that its TomTom XL 250, XXL 250 and GO 750 devices will offer "great navigation experience for Singapore drivers". The three PNDs sport search capabilities by Singapore country postcode and commercial buildings in Malaysia. They also include maps of Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei.

Kearney told ZDNet Asia that TomTom plans to penetrate the Singapore market by staying relevant and keeping up-to-date of "all latest changes, updates and speed profiles".

"Singapore is a complex road network but it's not that hard to find your way around," he explained. "What we want to do is not necessarily [helping] people find a destination, but how to get people to their destination in the best way possible."

And TomTom believes its speed-profile navigation technology, IQ Routes, plays a crucial role here.

Kearney said TomTom's PNDs log where and how fast people are driving on the road and the time they take doing so on their devices. When the IQ routes have gathered enough data of the speed measures, it is overlaid on top of the maps, he added.

"So while a traditional GPS (global positioning system) will assume a [particular] road speed, we'll know [when there's a faster way] people drive because they told us. Our mapping is based on accurate data, not on assumed speeds, and that is the key differentiator for us," he said.

Community navigation critical
Kearney said TomTom's strategy for Singapore is to "get a foothold in the market and grow our channel presence and installed base", through which "community navigation" is key.

He noted that for the map updates to be accurate and relevant, "we need our community", be it to build speed profiles, contributing information and recommendations.

Kearney acknowledged that TomTom's entry into the Singapore market is late compared to existing competitors, but said the rationale for doing so was a "company focus".

"The software for Southeast Asia is different from the rest of the world. It took us some time to get the postcode search for Singapore [running]. This doesn't happen elsewhere in the TomTom world, but we know it's needed here," he said.

He added that the company looks at the navigation experience holistically. Rather than simply about getting from point A to point B, he said it is also about enabling people to reach their destination in the best way available and giving information that the user wants along that route.

"We want to build awareness for [the navigation experience TomTom wants to provide]," he said. "It's less about market share in Singapore than it is growing the overall market, because the market is still fairly small".

Optimized for car driving
Besides PNDs, TomTom also has an Apple iPhone app which was released in August 2009.

But while he acknowledged the iPhone's popularity in Singapore, he noted that TomTom's PNDs are optimized for car navigation.

GPS-enabled smartphones have had "some 'negative' associations", he said, such as battery consumption and small-screen form factor. He added that some phones can only run one application at a time, making it unfeasible as navigation devices.