By Gregory De Jans, Head of Product Marketing at TomTom, Enterprise Business Unit  

The Business of Mobility is an Urban Mobility Company series highlighting some of the most successful new businesses in the mobility sector. Featuring a closer look at the way in which companies stand out, CEOs, Directors and other c-level executives elaborate on what it takes to turn a great idea into a great company.

TomTom’s Enterprise Business Unit provides mapping and location technology to some of the world’s biggest brands including Uber, Microsoft, Apple, and Verizon. Here Gregory De Jans discusses TomTom’s important role in taking sustainable mobility forward and why they’re an unseen giant of the flourishing new mobility industry.

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The foundations of ride-hailing

Ride-hailing presents an interesting and important challenge for TomTom. A comprehensive and widespread ride-hailing offer like Uber’s relies on good location technology. We offer them four areas of functionality: maps, routing, search and data analysis.

Building good maps is about accurate addresses and places of interest, as well as the real-time responsiveness to changes. The Matrix Routing API, part of TomTom’s Routing API, is an API that juggles the variables of matching the driver to the customer. One of the great selling points of ride-hailing companies in general, is that the customer has so much control over the process. So, our matrix routing must be accurate on various algorithms, most especially ETAs. And then there’s a usual IoT data service that the business is well-designed to offer, which helps the ride-hailing client improve driver behavior in terms of safety and efficiency.

We have competitors within these four distinct offers, but there are few – if any – who offer the full suite. For some of our clients this is an advantage, given that it makes integration with their user app easier and potentially safer too.

User data for traffic information and real-time mapping

We’re fortunate to have at least 600 million devices connected to our system that feed us data, collected by moving vehicles. TomTom is a pioneer in this type of ‘floating car data’ (FCD). Thanks to advances in machine learning, it is possible to turn this free-floating data into very accurate information. Indeed, some of our legacy data collections systems, e.g. cellular networks, are becoming obsolete.

‘Floating car data’ has an almost futuristic ring to it…in keeping with the spirit of this new industry. The European Union and other government entities are playing their part in building this new future. They foresee that systems like FCD will form the foundation blocks of what they call ‘cooperative intelligence transport systems’, with its rather unwieldy acronym of C-ITS. Read more about how TomTom is partnering in C-ITS (here) to improve traffic services and create new ones.

User data is not only important for real-time traffic information, it’s also key to building real-time maps. Mapmaking used to be static, but today it should be updated in real-time. We collaborate with our partners – including Uber employees – to help edit our maps. In the past we would not make the changes before closing the database and doing a quality check. Today we can do automatic quality checks and therefore edit and update maps on the fly.

What makes us different to Google?

In the 1990s, TomTom was a consumer brand name and Google wasn’t. Today most of our end-users don’t know that they’re relying on TomTom. But we are still the world’s biggest location technology provider, with around a billion people using our tech on a daily basis. We’re also different to Google in terms of our business model. We don’t repurpose user data for advertising, which many clients value. And we’re also different in that TomTom offers uncompiled map data, which means clients can build their own search, routing or navigation engine on top of our data. Thus, our data licensing model is different to Google’s. Read How Sygic navigation solutions use TomTom map and traffic to show drivers the way.

TomTom’s future role

‘CASE’ (connected, autonomous, shared and electric) has become a popular acronym among new mobility professionals and those keeping a close eye on the important trends in the industry. By this matrix, TomTom is widely involved. In terms of ‘shared’, we’re playing a big role in ride-hailing, and in terms of ‘connected’, we’re using our 600 million connected vehicles to discern real-time traffic patterns. But what about ‘electric’ and ‘autonomous’? Here too we have an important role to play.

Range anxiety is one of the main inhibitors of EV uptake. So we’ve developed EV Routing and Range services that connect directly to the EV’s sensors and battery. Our system eliminates range anxiety by telling drivers exactly where they should recharge and when they should do so.

The widespread adoption of ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) is the start of the self-driving revolution. Clearly location technology will play a big part in the story. For now, safety is the key concern as we develop systems that help OEMs improve the safety features on their ADAS. Read here how Mitsubishi Motors and TomTom keep drivers moving smoothly and safely with driver assistance technology.

A culture of innovation

A wise person said: “The future is not something we predict, it’s something we create.” Since its founding in 1991, TomTom has successfully ridden a tidal wave of technological change. The key to this has been a somewhat flat corporate structure, an appetite for innovation, and a strong commitment to serving clients and customers. It’s a dynamic and fast-moving work environment. I should know, having worn a few different hats already in my career. I started in software engineering, then moved to pre and post sales (supporting large European firms like Mappy, Sygic and Michelin), after which I headed up the developer relations team, before taking on my current role in software development and product marketing within Enterprise.

Working in a customer facing unit is very important because I understand the importance of a client focused approach. Today our team is dedicated to wowing software developers from other companies with products that are both innovative and operationally rock-solid. We’re determined not only to keep clients happy, but to move new mobility forward with solutions that reduce emissions and improve traffic flow. I am delighted to be part of the company that gives employees the freedom to pursue these solutions with a sense of creativity and purpose.