Home Reviews Mobile Devices Navman is streets ahead with ‘rapid refresh’

Regular map updates on portable navigation devices (PND) remains the best way to keep up with massive road and traffic infrastructure changes and help prevent accidents.

Last year Navman (a MiTAC/Magellan company), via its map provider HERE (a Nokia company), added 42,000 km of new roads, changed over 7,500 street names, added 10,000 turn restrictions and identified 1,800 newly classified one way streets and road signs. No wonder research shows that the greatest contributor to an unsatisfactory navigation experience is an outdated map.

Navman went to great lengths to prove to journalists that Australian cities were changing extremely quickly. A 30-minute flight with Sydney Seaplanes at Rose Bay showed that new housing developments and major road infrastructure programs were rapidly changing the landscape.

To help drivers keep up Navman have introduced ‘rapid map refresh’ – a monthly map update service free with its flagship MY450LMT (LMT is an abbreviation for Lifetime Maps and Traffic). It is an option on other models for $149.

I interviewed a number of Navman and Nokia HERE executives and following are paraphrased responses.

Q. Are PND systems being replaced by in-car systems?

A. In-car systems are usually part of an expensive premium option often costing several thousand dollars. PND cost a couple of hundred dollars and buyers prefer to use them to in-car units. Demand is still very strong for PNDs.

Q. Why are in-car maps usually expensive to update?

A. It is about two things. Labour (a technician does the in-car update) and the distribution channel costs. The map company provides maps to the navigation software company that customises it for the particular model of navigation system, then rolls it out to the car company which sends it to the various countries, and ultimately it ends up at dealers who perform the service. A major complaint about in-car is that maps are often out of date when you buy the car and even updates tend to be a year old when you get them. It is all about scale.

By comparison, PND users download updates over the internet often directly from the map provider.

Q. Are PND systems being replaced by smartphones and does Navman have a smartphone app?

A. Navman does not. Smartphone navigation apps do not provide the same turn-by-turn guidance experience and driver support that dedicated PNDs do. There are many legal, grey areas over using smartphones, even in a cradle, that do not apply to PND. Smartphone apps provide a basic experience and PND provides much more. Smartphone apps tend to be monetised and supported by advertising and smartphone map updates can be costly. PNDs are about navigation.

Map update technology

It was interesting to chat to HERE people about the technology used to keep maps updated. They have nine, Nokia HERE blue cars constantly on the road “and we could use nine more.” The car has a military spec GPS system, on-board computer, LIDAR unit for 3D mapping, a 360 degree panorama camera, high resolution signage camera (and symbol recognition software), wheel encoder (distance), various sensors, and two humans – one to drive and the other to monitor data and manually curate any issues or inconsistencies. The cars are on the road 24x7 as traffic conditions change from day to night covering major routes. The remainder of the road system information comes mainly from government agencies.

HERE also uses truck, transport, and taxi companies to provide ‘probe data’ to help identify temporary changes, local conditions and more.

HERE staff say that their job is to create the pure locational cloud - unsullied by the monetisation opportunities its data provides to social, search, retail and other clouds.

Back to PNDs.

You have three main choices – TomTom, Garmin and Navman. Each has its strengths and weaknesses but be very clear – all will get you from A to B.

I have closely followed GPS navigation over the past decade, and recently smartphone apps, but I have little experience with Navman. I will do a full review of the flagship MY450LMT soon.

If knowledge and commitment of Navman staff at the launch counts this is a good company to do business with.

As a new resident of Sydney, I appreciate ‘rapid refresh’ concept – monthly-validated maps showing new road junctions and safety alerts like speed cameras, school zones (with time and date awareness). By comparison, my reasonably new, premium in-car system is hopelessly out of date and very expensive to update.

All Navman models below have 5” screens; spoken street names; PC/Mac compatible; Bluetooth; and windscreen mounts.

MY450LMT with monthly maps and Suna traffic is $279.

MY400LMT with quarterly maps and Suna traffic is $229

EZY 250LM with quarterly maps is $169.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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