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Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 10

Wow, where did the year go? This has been a huge year for GeoSmart and 10 looks to be equally exciting.  If you want to catch up with us, you have a few hours before we close for summer holidays. We re-open on 11 January.

The big one for the year just gone has to be AA Traffic. This was a long time in the planning and it has been very exciting for us to set up this real time traffic service covering all of New Zealand. Have you tried it yet? Check the Traffic web site before you go on holiday.  You will find that we have extended the free email and txt alerts until the end of January. You may have finished work, but accidents and other incidents don’t go on holiday. On the traffic page you will also find that we have Cook Straight Ferries as well as domestic and international airline departures and arrivals for Auckland and Christchurch airports.

If you set up a free account, you can have Roadwatch automatically open up to the area you live, work or play in so that you can see if there is anything you need to know about. Road works and ramp closures can be really frustrating, so this is a good place to keep an eye out for anything that might get in your way. They are time sensitive, so it is worth looking at before you get in the car, you can also click on Upcoming Events, to see if there is anything happening in the future that might make you want to change your plans.

If you haven’t already, you will see that our AA Maps website is continuously evolving with new features.  One of my favourites is the proximity feature. Pick an address or Point of Interest and you will see that you can now look for something within a 5km radius. For example if you were going to Rotorua for Christmas, you could look for  restaurants or bars within walking distance of your accommodation. You can also plan an entire itinerary, and drag and drop and drop the stops to help you fit more into your time while saving gas and carbon emissions. You can plan your trip, drag the route on the map to change the roads you will drive on and print it all out to take in the car. Of course you can view AA Traffic incidents and web cams on AA Maps as well, which again makes it a great site to check before you hop in your car.

We are thrilled to be able to give people who buy new Navman car navigation devices between December and January a free Lifetime License to AA Traffic. This is the ultimate way to get your traffic alerts. We are currently broadcasting in the greater Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch areas and more will be added in the new year. This totally changes the concept of GPS and car navigation. You can set it so that it only warns you if there is an incident on your route and gives you the option to accept an alternate route avoiding the incident. Who wants to spend their holiday stuck in their cars in a line behind an accident you could have avoided? You might have avoided buying nav because you know your way around, but you would never have known that the road was blocked ahead for the next 4 hours due to a serious accident. You will also love the ability to find your nearest petrol station, ATM, cafe etc, or perhaps a rest area, or a dump site for your campervan. And when the kids ask “Are we nearly there yet?” You can say, “we will be there in 17 minutes”:)

Of course we love our partners TomTom very much too. Their IQ Routes (which of course uses our road data)  has even surprised me on occasion in finding a new way to drive home, that I had never thought of. Other than AA Traffic, they share all the same excellent information that our other car navigation partners do.

We continue to add new data to our car nav solutions including 3D buildings, lane guidance and enhanced Points of Interest data. Car nav is a never ending part of our product development and we stay aware of all the new developments and features that our partners are planning so that we can offer the best possible data for New Zealand going forward. Of course our data collection and driving never end. The RAPIDcV continues to collect lots of valuable data and we have some exciting plans for enhancing this in the new year.

We have joined the adoption of social networking with a Facebook Fan Page where we are engaging with the public with competitions and discussion related to traffic issues. We also have a Twitter page, which we use in a similar way to share information and develop a community of people interested in supporting our efforts to share up to date information.

We have a number of new web mapping clients and several more that will go live early in the new year. For businesses who want quality map data, routing and access to our extensive Points of Interest database, our data is updated 11 times a year making sure that you can rely on our products. We feature some of those sites on our home page.

We launched the new Route2GO web service, which was a long time coming. We have so many companies who have been waiting for this and are very exciting to see new 3rd party solutions being developed that will help businesses with route optimisation as well as calculation of fair pricing for freight and travel costs. Whether it is a large transport company, a taxi service or a furniture shop with a single van, we now have a solution that will make life easy for you. We are working with and seeking new partners who would like to integrate these tools into their solutions for their clients as our model is to work with partners, not to compete with our clients in developing end user products.

There have been exciting developments in Fleet Management and we have had many new companies join us this year for everything from vehicle tracking to Road User Charges, with a number starting to adopt the concept of digital hubometers. RUC is here to stay and with over 80% of Fleet Management companies using our data, it would be fair to say that it is the standard.

We are working on many off shore projects and you will hear our name much more often outside of New Zealand, mostly with partners. A major part of our IP is the knowledge of how to build quality map datasets and then provide web services and API’s around this data.

We ran the Location Innovation Awards and in May we sent the lucky winner to the USA to attend the Where 2.0 Conference. We are going to run the 2010 Location Innovation Awards and have already had some exciting offers of sponsorship in prizes and technical support. We are changing the timing  this year to make it easy for our university partners to fit the Awards into their calendar, as we were very excited about the work that many students, especially at Massey University prepared. New Zealand has a huge amount of untapped talent and we look forward to helping the legends of the future make themselves known. Location Based Services are going to hit their straps in the next couple of years and you will see the GeoSmart name a lot in this context.

If you haven’t seen them, we now have regular e-newsletters. We used to print them, but print means cutting down trees and isn’t as multidimensional. You can find them here and also subscribe if you would like them in your inbox.

If you are still with me, thanks for reading this blog. There was much more activity that I could tell you about, but it’s time to take a deep breath and recharge, ready for the most exciting year yet in 10. I hope that you will be a part of that with us as I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and warm happy holidays. Thanks to everyone at GeoSmart and our many partners for helping to make this year the success it has been. We look forward to catching up with you soon.

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AA Traffic is here

For the last year we have been flat out developing our Real Time Traffic solution, aka AA Traffic. This has been a huge undertaking with so many elements involved. As you may know, GeoSmart is a wholly owned subsidiary of the New Zealand Automobile Association. NZAA is the first and only motoring association in the world so far to own a mapping company and thereby have access to its own mapping data and the ability to create solutions.

One of the biggest issues today is traffic and as a motoring association, an incorporated society owned by its members who are motorists, a key concern for it is to keep motorists moving. This presents a problem in a country where there appear to be more cars than people. In Auckland particularly, traffic issues are compounded by the many people who feel that the public transport system doesn’t meet their needs. That’s without taking into consideration the current bus strikes in Auckland which have seen some schools missing 15% of the students today. In August Michael Barnett, Chairman of the Auckland Business Forum quoted comments in the NZ Herald of 10 years ago that then the time-cost to business for Auckland was around $1 billion!

AA Traffic by GeoSmart was not designed to solve problems, rather to inform road users and give them information that will help them decide on their driving route, or perhaps to reconsider whether they want to be on the road at all. The system is to complex to explain, but fundamentally this is how it works.

Data Input

We have established relationships with emergency services, New Zealand Transport Agency, several councils and other organisations who continually feed us with information about accidents, incidents, road works, events and anything  else that could interfere with normal throughput of NZ’s roads. This information is managed by call centre staff who work shifts covering 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The system is designed to collate all of this information, eliminate false positives, verify the source and quality of the data and much more. We even invite AA Members to tell us about incidents they find, by dialling *223 on their mobiles.

Data Output

The information is then disseminated to be transmitted across many channels. The first ones are AA Maps, which is our flagship mapping site, supporting routing, searching for Points of Interest and much more. What better way to plan your trip or holiday, than to be able view the route, including any traffic issues that might affect you before you drive, then print the route with turn by turn directions, to take for your navigator in the car.

We have totally revamped AA’s Roadwatch website. You can now preset the region that has the greatest relevance to you and by setting up a free AA Maps account, have Roadwatch automatically open to the page in your web browser. This automatically refreshes every 5 minutes to give you the latest information.

We now have additional subscription  services that you can find at the new AA Traffic website. These are Alerts that you can receive by email or direct to your mobile phone. Services available are the Route Alert, Area Alert and Weekend Getaway. If you are an AA Member, you can try the email Alert services for free until the end of the year and if you use a Telecom mobile, you can access the Alert service for free on your mobile until the end of the year.

Of course we are very serious about safety and as we can’t tell whether you are in your car, or driving when you receive our alerts, we place a condition on users of our services, that they do not view them whilst driving.

In addition to these services, we are now sending AA Traffic information directly to compatible car navigation devices. This has significant benefits because if the device knows where you are going and the route you are taking, it is able to alert you about an incident (even if it occurred after you started driving) and offer you an alternative route. The first devices on the market come from Navman. There are a number of other brands of car navigation offering this service on the way. If you are on the road a lot, even if you know how to get to your destination, you can’t know about what’s happening or going to happen on your route. This should be of significant benefit to all regular road users, whether emergency services, trades people, sales people and merchandisers, taxis and many more.

Now of course we want people to know about it and will be running a number of marketing activities to share the word. You can expect to see advertising material about AA Traffic in a range of media and of course we invite you to try it out for yourself.

If you are on Twitter, you can now follows us here, and we al;so have a Facebook Fan Page where we update information and also run competitions and invite people to share their stories or information. If you are on Facebook, why don’t you join in and keep in the know?

October 12, 2009 Posted by | AA Maps, car navigation, competitions, driving, driving directions, facebook, geosmart, gps, location based services, map tools, maps, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment