Highlights from Geneva’s International Motor Show, AT&T gets into location-based apps, CloudMade launches community-powered maps

Highlights from Geneva’s International Motor Show, AT&T gets into location-based apps, CloudMade launches community-powered maps

Green technologies, alternative energy sources, and hybrid sports cars have been the stars so far. Ferrari unveiled a 599 GTB Fiorano, decked out with a hybrid battery pack, twin electric motors, and a regenerative braking system. “It is not every day you see a green Ferrari,” Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of Fiat and Ferrari, joked while introducing the car.

Likewise, Porsche, seeking to be “a genuine pioneer” in the hybrid sports car space, unveiled the Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid, which boasts a 500 horsepower, 3.4-liter V8 engine, can go from zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds, and maxes out at 198 miles per hour—all while achieving 78 miles per gallon.

Not to be outdone, Lotus gave show attendees a sneak preview of its Proton concept, a plug-in series hybrid drivetrain whose main feature is a three-cylinder range extender engine that transfers electric power to the car’s wheels and recharges its battery when necessary.

On the in-car infotainment front, small car manufacturers Mini and Smart both exhibited new head-unit interfaces that feature iPhone-connected services like streaming Web radio, travel recommendations, traffic data, weather, turn-by-turn directions, and other apps. The idea is to integrate the connectivity of a smartphone into the car’s infotainment capabilities.

Vehicle Tracking Surges

DigiCore's Vehicle Tracking Survey 2010 found a significant uptake of vehicle tracking, with 55 percent of companies now using the technology within their fleet operations. This represents a sharp increase from previous research conducted in 2008, which showed a market penetration of roughly a quarter.

The Survey reports that improving productivity is the main reason for the increased uptake and that fleet operators are achieving a wider range of benefits from using the technology, such as reduced costs (reported by 77 percent of users), increased productivity (64 percent), added security (52 percent), and enhanced fleet and employee performance (51 percent).

Sixnet Wireless Gateways

Sixnet released a new suite of M2M wireless gateways and routers for retail and financial applications. The rise of 3G and now 4G networks have led customers in the retail and financial sectors to adopt cellular technology for better connectivity and lower costs.

Sixnet’s new applications offer primary and backup connectivity and allow customers to monitor, secure, and maintain remote devices—such as kiosks, ATM machines, lottery machines, or POS terminals—without on-site technical staff.

Smartphones in Cars

More than half of all workers who own a smartphone admit to using the device while driving, a new CareerBuilder survey found. More than 5,200 workers took part in the survey, which was conducted in November 2009. The study comes at a time when the in-car infotainment and mobile phone industries are eager to make cars more connected while safety organizations are eager to stop them.

For TU’s analysis of smartphones and in-car infotainment, see The Smartphone: Friend or Foe of In-car Infotainment? (read here)

The study found that sales workers use their smartphones in their cars the most (66 percent of the time), followed by professional and business service workers (59 percent) and health care workers (50 percent). Some acknowledged that work pressure impels them to use their phones, often at the risk of safety.


AT&T released a new USB device, the USBConnect Velocity, which makes laptops location-aware. The USB device marks AT&T’s first foray into location-based applications. The USBConnect Velocity allows users to access location-enabled sites like Yahoo! Maps and Bing for points of interest, local weather, and directions, and then save that information in its portable storage unit. The device is available at AT&T retail stores and online for $29.99.

CloudMade Navigation

CloudMade, a Silicon Valley-based platform and tools company, announced the release of Navi Studio, a suite of products designed to help developers create turn-by-turn navigation applications with detailed community-generated maps. Navi Studio provides the core mapping services and software components that developers, mobile operators, and handset manufacturers need when they build turn-by-turn navigation into their applications and handsets.

The suite’s showcase feature is the Mapzen map editor, which leverages OpenStreetMap, a user-editable, living map crowdsourced by a community of 230,000 mappers around the world and updated in real time. Thus, maps don’t get outdated and inaccuracies—caused by accidents, roadwork, weather, etc.—are addressed.

“Navi Studio gives developers the freedom to innovate with turn-by-turn navigation in any type of app, not just car navigation,” says Juha Christensen, chairman and CEO of CloudMade. “By using community-powered maps, developers and their customers now have the opportunity to join a global movement to map the world and enjoy more accurate navigation experiences.”

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

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