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Maps Are Not All Equal

There are reasons why smart car navigation companies use GeoSmart data on their devices. The reasons are that often near enough is not good enough. This week we have seen a good example of this, which was followed up in the news media.

On Wednesday the Otago Daily Times published a story with the headline GPS systems send Peninsula tourists off track. It quoted a Senior Constable who said that tourists were being guided onto paper roads and dirt tracks by car navigation systems and certainly into areas not suitable for most vehicles.

An example given was that people were trying to drive all the way to the seal colony shown on the map here, via Cape Saunders Rd. As you can see on our map, that isn’t possible, but there appears to be a paper road on some car nav products (obviously not using GeoSmart Maps) that say you can.

Because we are the premier supplier of quality car navigation map data for New Zealand, the obvious query came to GeoSmart for some clarification on this. We are the market leader in car navigation in New Zealand because of the quality of data. We have quality data because we are local and because we have invested heavily for over 12 years in having quality data for car navigation. We have a map room full of people who are committed to having up to date information on our maps including eliminating paper roads, maintaining speed zones, current information on Points of Interest, turn restrictions such as 1-way streets, no left turns, median barriers and also what we know as implicit turn restrictions, which is where a large vehicle may not be able to safely complete a turn even if it is legal to do so. As a consequence, brands like TomTom and Navman use our information in order to ensure that their valued users do get quality instructions.

I received a call from the journalist who wrote a follow up story for the NZ Herald with the headline Don’t just go where the GPS says – if it looks like a paddock it probably is one. I explained that when we first decided to become a car navigation map provider, partnering with brands such as Navman, Siemens VDO and BMW, we processed the Government data (which was never designed for guidance) and found that it was not suitable for car navigation. There were huge numbers of paper roads (roads that have been drafted but not (yet) constructed and situations where entire settlements were 60-80 or more metres away from where the maps said they were.

We then set out to drive every public road in New Zealand, getting accurate data with the technology of the day, eliminating the paper roads and at the same time getting key information such as speed zones, road class, points of interest including things like rest areas, ATM’s, public toilets as well as business, tourism and travel, hospitality, sport etc. Today we continue to drive, capturing a road centreline at sub 1 meter accuracy as well as information such as the incline of the road for eco-routing and the angle of the camber on corners for future truck safety systems and of course real time traffic which can be found online at AA Maps, AA Roadwatch and AA Journey Times and is of course used by TomTom and Navman.

A key issue that we have identified in recent times is that a lot of car navigation users don’t realise that they need to update their maps regularly. In New Zealand roads are changing continually. They are road realignments, new motorways, new subdivisions, suburbs and settlements being built all the time. Roundabouts get replaced with traffic lights and traffic lights get replaced with roundabouts and it never ends. GeoSmart does a new update each and every quarter, 4 times a year and they are all significant updates. Just because you have a navigation unit that is only 6 months old, doesn’t mean that it has the latest data. Even if you have just bought a unit brand new, it is worth plugging it in to your computer to see if there is a new map available.

The acid test is www.aamaps.co.nz. This also gets updated every 3 months. If a road or segment is on AA Maps, then it is in our data and will either be in the latest car nav map for the brands that use our data, or is about to be. If it isn’t on AA Maps, then we are probably adding it, but we would love to hear from you just in case. All you need to do is click on the feedback button on the AA Maps web page, select the type of feedback you want to give us and the information will go to the appropriate team member. We are Kiwis, we live here and we take pride in the quality of our data and want you to enjoy your motoring.

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April 13, 2012 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, car navigation, driving directions, geosmart, gps, navman, new zealand maps, satnav, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ageing of the workforce in freight and distribution

Baby boomers are a major part of our workforce today and play a very important part in the freight and distribution industry. I’m told that the average age of a truck driver in New Zealand today is 49. This presents positives and negatives.

The maturity and experience of these drivers makes them very valuable. They know the road, they know their vehicles and routes and get the job done. They are largely professional drivers, many of whom own their own vehicles. Many were able to do that by borrowing against their homes and the average freight company as we have discussed in previous blogs is 0-5 trucks.These operators tend to be very good at their job, but not well versed when it comes to technology. Applications to help them improve efficiencies in their work need to be very user friendly. That is something that GeoSmart puts a lot of energy to.

The flip side is that not a lot of people are rushing to become truck drivers. Many companies don’t really want them until they reach around 24-25 and have burnt out the lead foot testosterone which could be a disaster in a big half a million dollar rig. By that time, a lot of the working stock that might have gone into truck driving have chosen other career paths, or have moved to other shores such as the mines in Australia where they can earn 3 times what they can get paid in New Zealand. We can hope that they will come back to New Zealand with those savings and experience and use them to invest in their driving career back here. These people are of course extremely tech savvy and will expect to have access to applications and services such as Real Time Traffic, Route Optimisation, Car Navigation, Fleet Management and Business Intelligence.

Car navigation with real time traffic

Keeping these ageing drivers healthy and productive is a sustainability policy in itself. Providing them with tools starting with car navigation with real time traffic is a good start. It’s easy to use and whist these people may know the roads like the backs of their hands, they don’t know that there is an accident or traffic congestion that is going to stop them from getting where they are going. They also don’t necessarily know alternate routes they could be using or what the traffic conditions are there. It could be driving out of the frying pan into the fire. A device that tells them there is a 35 minute delay on their current route, but an alternate route will only have a 10 minute delay could be gold for these people. If you are looking at one of these, make sure it provides coverage for the are they are driving in and has the very latest map data as there have been many changes in New Zealand roads over the last year. GeoSmart produces new map updates every 3 months.

February 28, 2012 Posted by | AA Traffic, Auckland, Business Tools, car navigation, Distribution, driving, Freight, geosmart, new zealand, new zealand maps, Oil Price, real time traffic, route optimisation, Route2GO, territory management, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sustainability Generates Profit in the Transport Industry in New Zealand

This month I had the pleasure of presenting to the New Zealand Freight Summit at Auckland University to a diverse group of people from all facets of the transport industry. There were a number of common threads and one of them was sustainability. This is a word that is bandied around a lot, together with concepts like carbon emission trading and taxes, but I wonder how seriously a lot of companies are taking it.

One motivator is compliance. Government departments and many corporates today have KPI’s which require that they do business with companies who have sustainability policies and practices. We have responded to a number of tenders recently which have asked us to specify what sustainability practices we have put in place.

I have read many articles that say that companies which have sustainability practices are more profitable than those that don’t. Obviously the above is one good reason, effectively there are contracts they won’t win simply based on the policy.

There are of course other good reasons that also hit the bottom line. The most obvious one is the rising price of oil. If you use tools such as Route Optimisation and Business Intelligence, you can potentially do more work whilst driving shorter times and distance. That means reduced running costs, reduced maintenance costs, saved time which potentially means being able to do more work in the same amount of time and bottom line increase in profit. Whether your fleet is one vehicle or hundreds, there are savings to be made and they are easy to achieve.

Wellington Traffic 28 February 2012 1:15PM

I really enjoyed showing people AA Traffic by GeoSmart. Many of the delegates were not aware that we have real time traffic congestion information covering virtually all arterial roads and highways throughout New Zealand and Australia. There will be some announcements about this in the very near future. If you are a transport operator, how would you like to be able to see exactly where the congestion is in real time and on the same map, see your vehicle fleet?

Does traffic congestion cost your company by not letting your vehicles get where they want to be on time? Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a birds eye of what was going on in real time 24/7? What would that mean to your business? We can help you with that.

Utilising technologies like this can help your company to focus on reducing overheads when the economy is tight and allows you to tell the market that you have sustainability practices, not just policies. Of course in doing so, you are actually taking practical steps to reduce your company’s carbon footprint and doing something good for your country and the planet.

Want to know more about how you can use these technologies in your business? We’d love to talk with you. Contact us today.

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Auckland, Australia Maps, Business Intelligence, Business Tools, carbon footprint, Delivery, Distribution, driving, Freight, geosmart, new zealand maps, Oil Price, petrol, real time traffic, route optimisation, territory management, Traffic, university | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How we are helping the future greening of New Zealand

A couple of statements by David J. LePoire drawn from his essay “Beyond (Conventional) Renewable Energy?” caught my eye this morning. He said that “If energy use had grown as fast as the economy, the United States would be using an estimated 60% more energy than it does now. We’ve improved energy use in buildings, electrical appliances, cars and industrial processes. These applications are often motivated by cost savings.” There are often stories about how companies who focus on sustainability in a concerted way will become more profitable as a result, but often there is little information on where the increased profitability will come from.

There has been a lot of discussion about how green New Zealand really is and which initiatives are going to help us go forward in the way I believe most Kiwis want toThe elections are close and the parties are all telling us what their policies are going to be.

Meanwhile there are many companies who are just working business as usual with an eye to a better future. GeoSmart is one of those companies. So what are we doing?

First, we have driven every road in New Zealand for many years, but in the last few years we have been driving with phenomenal technology put together in New Zealand by Kiwis, which allows us to map New Zealand roads to sub 1 metre accuracy even when there is GPS shadow or at times (not uncommon particularly in the South Island) where there is no GPS sugnal available at all for periods of time. Tests show that we tend to be accurate to around 15cm which is as good as I believe you can get without having surveyors and laser theodolites on the ground.

This in itself means that we are able to provide highly accurate data to users of our routing web services, such as AA Maps and mobile applications such as Rugby2GO. It means that people will not be sent up paper roads that don’t exist, confirms speed zones and intersection controls and other information that doesn’t always get provided to us by the authorities.

Quality routing means that people can get the best routing information to meet their needs. For example the shortest route is often not the fastest.

We also collect road inclinometer. That is the rate of incline on hills, of which we of course have many in New Zealand. Our car navigation clients are getting more involved in eco-routing which means you can choose the route which will consume the least fuel. That means that effectively, irrespective of what type of car you drive, you can save money while also helping to save our environment.

We are also collecting data about the camber or angle of the corners. Because of the volatile nature of our country with frequent earthquakes, floods and slips, geothermal activity, the condition of corners may change. When a corner changes and noone knows about it, this can be the cause of serious accidents, such as with large trucks and trailors who may be obeying the speed advisory signs, but the conditions have changed since they were set. We are working with sophisticated Fleet Management companies who are going to use this data, combined with their knowledge of their clients’ vehicle set ups, roll over specifications and load information to alert drivers that they may be going too fast for the conditions of the road. This can save insurance conmpanies millions of dollars, not to mention reducing the inconvenience of motorists having to deal with travel delays as the incidents are examined and detours put in place.

Another major area for us is real time traffic. You are probably aware that we built and maintain the AA Roadwatch website and and provide services including real time accident, incident and congestion data throughout New Zealand and Australia to major car navigation brands. AA Spokesperson Simon Lambourne was quoted in an article in the NZ Herald earlier this week that studies have shown that “when 10 per cent of drivers use real-time traffic information to avoid jams, journey times drop 5 per cent for everyone.” Find out more about AA Traffic by GeoSmart here.

Route optimisation is becoming more important. We have written a number of blogs on this topic and more and more companies are coming to us to use this service and variations of it. Essentially  if a person has a number of sites to stop at during a day’s work, our SaaS application Route2GO Lite geocodes and calculates the best order to make those visits in, to drive the least amount of time via the most efficient route. This results in increased productivity and reduced overheads. It is also sustainable. Are you able to tell your clients that your business uses technology to benefit the environment as well as the company’s bottom line and provide better service to boot?

Talk to us about how we can help you become more sustainable whilst increasing profit.

November 7, 2011 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, Auckland, Australia, Business Tools, car navigation, carbon footprint, driving directions, geosmart, gps, Mapping Applications, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, route optimisation, Route2GO, Rugby, Rugby World Cup, SaaS, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crazy About Rugby

When Tango Communications and Air New Zealand came to us saying they were going to run another cool promotional campaign, we were delighted to have the opportunity to participate. Together with a number of other sponsors, Air New Zealand have put together a road trip in specially detailed Britz campervans, driven by Air NZ staff who won the opportunity to have an exciting road trip from Christchurch to Dunedin as outlined in this story.

The 10 campervans left Kings College late yesterday morning after a photo opportunity with Prime Minister John Key and are now on their way south.

The campervans all have GPS tracking in them and using GeoSmart Maps technology members of the public can view the current location of the vehicles in real time.

You can also view the route they took and read their journals, which are uploaded by mobile along the way.

Of course we are also keeping them up to date with AA Traffic Alerts to their mobiles, but fortunately so far the only possible problem has been a slip on the Desert Rd in the opposite direction to their journey.

The Air New Zealand Campervans Crazy About Rugby Tour is a great example of using location based services in a marketing campaign. We look forward to following their journey and invite agencies and marketers to talk to us about how they can also use our mapping tools and technologies in their campaigns.

July 14, 2011 Posted by | AA Traffic, Agencies, competition, competitions, geosmart, location based services, map tools, Mapping Applications, maps, Marketing, Mobile maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is the best Car Nav product for New Zealand

Every year or so the Consumer Institute does a test of car navigation products and produces their ranking based on a number of criteria. Almost always the top brands are the ones that use our GeoSmart Maps. In this case the top two products also featured AA Real Time Traffic which got a mention. We believe that in future this will become a standard requirement for all quality car navigation products. First, knowing where to go doesn’t help if the road in your path is obstructed or closed due to accidents or incidents. We have had many incidents throughout New Zealand  in the last couple of weeks which have caused major delays to motorists who weren’t fortunate to have car navigation with Real Time Traffic to warn them.  A recent TV3 News Story with a race including the use of a TomTom Go Live 1000 illustrated that Real Time Traffic can beat conventional routing norms.

AA Traffic Alerts on Car Nav

The latest comparison was no exception to the norm with the top 2 products being from Navman and TomTom, with Navman slightly ahead.

These tests are always subjective and we don’t get the opportunity to comment or assist in these tests. I would like to comment on a few items here.

Firstly these devices have become highly sophisticated and have a wide range of programming options that make it hard to fairly compare devices. Their algorithms are different and they have features that are difficult to compare directly, its a case of apples versus pears and the best unit in my opinion has to do with the functionality you desire rather than the brand.

There was mention on both brands where they were guided to a staff car park at an undisclosed airport. This makes it difficult to respond. We typically provide multiple locations to drive to at major airports, but without knowing what was entered or which airport, we can’t really comment. Several brands including Navman and TomTom use GeoSmart Maps which utilises the same Points of Interest data as used by the popular AA Maps website. This site shows over 40 locations that you can route to just at Wellington Airport, as provided by GeoSmart. Obviously they did make it to the airport and they are all pretty well signposted.

There was a comment with TomTom on the Go Live 1000 about the time it took to get a GPS fix. This is ironic because the TomTom Go Live has a SIM Card in it, and therefore has communications and one of the features of it called QuickGPSFix (TM) , is the ability to download the current GPS satellite locations which means that it is designed (if you use the features correctly) to provide very fast location of satellite positions, which is required for the device to function at its best. There was a comment that some of the devices were placed in awkward positions on the windscreen. This is important because in addition to placing the device where it can be easily seen by the driver, it is also important that the device has the best possible access to the sky in order for the antenna to communicate with the satellites in order to determine its position. Apples with apples should see devices being compared being placed in an identical location on the windscreen in the same type of vehicle.

There was a mention of a product on Trade Me which came with an illegal wall charger and adaptor. There is a thriving trade of devices typically imported from China that have illegally hacked navigation software and illegal copies of car navigation maps. One of these uses GeoSmart data that is already several years old and whilst the software is good, it is also old an not licensed. Whilst these may look like a good value purchase, the software and maps are effectively stolen goods and this is frequently raised with Trade Me. If you buy product that is new, it should be factory sealed and have a serial number. If it is used or not one of the major brands, ask for a copy of the original bill or receipt.

I’ll leave you with 4 points:

1. Understand what functionality you are looking for before you buy a nav device. Read the details on the packaging or read information on company web sites and review sites. Often retail sales people just read off the box themselves. Ask them if they have personally used the devices or attended Product Knowledge  training by the manufacturer.

2. Real Time Traffic. Have you ever been stuck in traffic? Would you have liked the opportunity to be informed and had options before you started driving, or even during the trip so that you could get where you want to go?

3. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Today’s nav devices have very good help screens and tutorials. It is worth spending a little time to learn about what it can do when you first purchase your device because a lot of the ‘problems’ are really lack of user knowledge rather than a failure of the device. Today’s top brands have very highly sophisticated features that may be missed by the owners.

May 10, 2011 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, car navigation, driving directions, geosmart, gps, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, satnav, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Get Listed on New Zealand Car Navigation Systems

I noticed that over the weekend someone had located our blog by searching on Google with the query “How to get listed on Car navigation systems”. I’m glad you asked and equally glad you found us because the answer if very easy.

GeoSmart provides the mapping information and Points of Interest (places to go) for the major car navigation brands in New Zealand including Navman, TomTom, Garmin Asus, Metroview and more. In addition to this, we also provide data for lots of other services including cartography and web mapping. The most popular web site we provide data for is AA Maps, which has huge traffic both domestic and international due to the affiliation of the NZ Automobile Association with other motoring associations around the world, so many tourist coming to NZ plan their NZ travel on that site. There are many more of course and some of these are showcased on our home page.

We are also finding many new clients in the mobile space, developing applications for iPhone and Android. They also use Points of Interest, so if you list with us you are very likely, if relevant to find your details on those applications as well, again at no charge to you.

So lets keep this simple. All you need to do is go to either the GeoSmart home page and click on the link:

Or go to the AA Maps home page and click on the icon that looks like this:

Simply follow the instructions that follow, which will allow you to quickly and easily add your business to our database for free.

You will have the ability to accurately identify the location of your business and chose from a selection of categories that represent your business, which is frequently multiple categories. For example a restaurant may also be a cafe and a take away. We will then validate your listing to ensure that you are authorised to make the entry on our database. Your data will then quickly be added to our data which is then updated by our clients and partners including the major car nav brands.

You will also be given the option of a free dynamic map with pan and zoom tools that you can post on your website for free. If people want driving directions to your location they can enter their starting address and be guided via AA Maps with full printable turn by turn directions and maps and even be able to check the real time traffic conditions before they go. All we ask in return is that you log onto your page and ensure your data is up to date at least once a year.

What if you are a chain? No problem, as long as you are authorised to represent your business, you can add as many of your business locations as you wish. Hopefully as a chain, we already have your data, but you may have new branches that we haven’t been told about, or some may have moved location, so please check on the AA Maps website to confirm we have all your current info.

Now that you will be listed on car navigation and in other applications, you can let people know in person, on your website, newsletters and other material, how they can find you. We look forward to helping send business your way.

May 1, 2011 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, Business Tools, car navigation, driving directions, Garmin Asus, geosmart, gps, iphone, location based services, map tools, Mapping Applications, maps, Marketing, Mobile maps, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, Sales, satnav, software, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christchurch Traffic Map

Our AA Traffic team has been flat out updating road closures and incidents in our system for the AA Maps and AA Roadwatch websites as well as car navigation (specified models of Navman, TomTom and Garmin Asus) and subscription alerts nationwide, but have also done a lot of work to provide quality information for the Canterbury area. This includes the Earthquake Cordon Zone. Its well worth bookmarking if you are travelling around the area as where possible, we do also include real time traffic flow.

Whilst we have been told by many people that they have been very impressed with our data quality, we would like to point out:

1.       All Road condition reports for Christchurch is provided to the AA by a number of 3rd parties .

2.       As all of these Agencies in the Christchurch area are inundated with Earthquake recovery, the information we are receiving may not be current.

3.       We are unable to guarantee accurate driving directions for the Christchurch Area as conditions are changing rapidly.

4.       Our advice to all motorists is not to drive in the earthquake affected areas unless absolutely necessary.

5.       Expect significant delays and ensure all precautions are taken to avoid accidents.

March 3, 2011 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, car navigation, driving directions, Garmin Asus, gps, location based services, map tools, maps, Mobile maps, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, satnav, tomtom, Traffic, Web Map | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Air New Zealand Freeway Picks GeoSmart Maps

Air New Zealand are running a very cool promotion to promote their new Air New Zealand Rental Cars service. They have set up 2 rental cars, one called Jeffree in the North Island and one called Freeona on The Mainland. Members of the public can register here to go in the draw to win a week’s free rental car, together with a Telecom Garmin Asus Android Mobile which of course uses GeoSmart Car Navigation Maps and AA Traffic by GeoSmart.

As part of the promotion, the vehicle is tracked and the location in shown on a GeoSmart Map on the website, together with photos and blog comments from the lucky people while on their journey.

This promotion will go for sometime, so do register and join the fun. GeoSmart is delighted to partner with Air New Zealand and some other great brands in this fun campaign.

February 18, 2011 Posted by | AA Traffic, car navigation, competition, competitions, driving, driving directions, geosmart, gps, location based services, map tools, Mapping Applications, maps, Marketing, Mobile maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, social networking, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GeoSmart adds Live Traffic Flow Data to AA Maps and Roadwatch online and TomTom Go Live

Over the last 8 months we have been building an environment that allows us to capture live traffic flow data from thousands of vehicles that are tracked using Fleet Management systems from our number of our business partners as part of our AA Traffic solution.  Over the last 4 years we have been refining web sites such as AA Maps and AA Roadwatch adding all sorts of web map features such as road conditions, accidents, road construction and maintenance, live airport timetables, live Cook Straight Ferry information and more.

This is a continuous work in progress, but today we have turned on our most exciting feature to date, which is live real time traffic flow and congestion data covering all major roads and arterials throughout New Zealand. You can view this exciting feature on both AA Maps and AA Roadwatch, simply by clicking on the Traffic drop down menu on the top right of the page and selecting Traffic Flow. You can then either zoom in on the map to the area of your choice or click on the traffic light icon to zoom in to the city of your choice.

The data you will be viewing will be up to date to within 5 minutes. This is going to become a very useful tool for motorists whether they are going on a trip, or simply heading out for business meetings, or off to a concert or sporting match. We have also made some other changes to this service, allowing you to selectively view incidents by a wider range of categories, which are:

  • Reopened Roads. In the past it was easy to see when a road was closed, but not as intuitive when the road reopened. This is now a new category highly visible with its green icon.
  • Critical Incidents
  • Moderate Incidents has now separated
  • Minor Incidents which were often road shoulder maintenance or situations that frequently didn’t seriously impact traffic flow

We have also added more webcams. There is a lot more happening in January February that I can’t tell you about yet, so keep an eye on our blog to find out more.

The other very cool thing that has happened is that due to the high quality of our AA Traffic by GeoSmart data TomTom has launched their Go Live 1000 and Go Live 1050 in New Zealand, the first country outside of Western Europe. This means that people who purchase these devices, which have a Vodafone SIM Card in them can get not only real time incident data, but also real time flow data on them. This is an amazing feature which will advise you of the expected time delay on your journey caused by traffic congestion and if appropriate offer you an alternate route. For those people who say they don’t need car nav because they know their way, they don’t know what the traffic is like ahead of them.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, Auckland, car navigation, driving, driving directions, geosmart, map tools, Mapping Applications, maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, satnav, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment