Trying on Google’s Goggles, BMW drives MILE Traffic and Travel services in Europe, and more…

Trying on Google’s Goggles, BMW drives MILE Traffic and Travel services in Europe, and more…

Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google, says that the current form of Google Goggles, which introduces the idea of image-based search instead of word-based search, is only the beginning: “Today you have to frame a picture and snap a photo to get results, but in the future you will simply be able to point to it. [It will be] as simple and easy as pointing your finger at an object, and we'll be able to treat it like a mouse pointer for the real world."

Google also released a new location-based service named What’s Nearby, which allows users in unfamiliar places to access a map of their location and find out the 10 closest points of interest, from restaurants to shops to museums and parks. When combined with Google Goggles and Google Maps Navigation, the application provides drivers with a comprehensive set of location-based services that ensure they are well informed and well oriented.

In yet more Google news, the software corporation hinted that it would release a new smartphone in early 2010 with software made entirely by Google. This year saw the launch of the Google Android operating system, but currently Google licenses that system to other smartphone companies (like Blackberry and Verizon) rather than harnessing it to a platform of its own that can compete with the iPhone. The Google smartphone will be called the Nexus One.

Google rival Microsoft announced that Navteq will deliver 3D map data and other mapping visuals to Bing Maps. The data will enable a feature called Streetside, which provides continuous street-level views of many parts of the country. Erik Jorgensen, corporate vice president of MSN at Microsoft, says the new Streetside feature aspires to bring “the mapping experience alive” for users. Other features of the new Bing Maps, still in Beta, include enhanced aerial views and 3D modeling, which enables users to rotate images 360 degrees in one spot.

Also responding to Google, and the encroaching threat of free Google Maps Navigation, TomTom slashed the price of its iPhone GPS app in half, from $99 to $49. The only feature that the cheaper TomTom GPS app lacks is maps of Canada. Otherwise, it’s the same as the older version. The application is available in Apple’s App Store for American customers only.

QNX Software Systems has developed the QNX CAR application platform, which allows developers to target the car with cloud-based applications. The idea of the platform is to deliver an iPhone-caliber user experience to drivers. QNX CAR comes with an infotainment reference implementation that makes it easier for developers to integrate their apps with Adobe, Apple, Google, Gracenote, Microsoft, and Pandora. Already developers are using the platform for 2011 vehicles.

Tele Atlas announced that it will provide digital maps and location content for GPS Tuner Atlas, an off-road navigation software from GPS Tuner. The software provides digital maps and navigation to outdoor enthusiasts of every ilk—off-road drivers, bird watchers, runners, cyclists, and golfers. Tele Atlas will enhance the product with its high-resolution satellite imagery in Europe and the United States. GPS Tuner Atlas will available on mobile devices in 2010.

Hertz announced that it will partner with Greenopia to add a new eco-friendly guide to its NeverLost navigation system. Starting in 2010, renters from Hertz will have access to a list of green businesses in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. “With the addition of Greenopia to NeverLost Online Trip Planning, Hertz is making it easier for renters to harness the latest technology to make eco-friendly decisions while traveling in unfamiliar locations,” says Mark P. Frissora, chairman and chief executive officer of the Hertz Corporation.

Finally, BMW has enlisted the services of MILE Traffic and Travel to provide real-time traffic information throughout Europe for its drivers. MILE is a consortium of ITIS, Mediamobile, and Infoblue, which are leading providers of traffic information in the UK, France, and Italy respectively. Their collective deal with BMW marks the first time that a car manufacture will provide a pan-European telematics service to its drivers.

Chief executives from ITIS, Mediamobile, and Infoblue all expressed excitement about the BMW endorsement, and said they looked forward to bringing “next generation traffic information” to Germany. “We are particularly delighted to be building a new service in Germany and to be able to enter this important market through innovation and the use of latest technologies,” says Stuart Marks, chief executive of ITIS. “BMW have exceptionally high standards and we were selected based on our ability to meet these.”

BMW’s new service through MILE will most closely resemble Ford’s SYNC service in the U.S., which provides Ford drivers with GPS, emergency service, voice-activated search, and real-time traffic. BMW partners with ATX Group in the U.S. to provide a similar suite of services (roadside assistance, automatic collision notification, and real-time traffic), but until now a similar service had been lacking from their European fleet. The new MILE service will concentrate on Germany but cover all of Europe with up-to-the-minute traffic updates and video streaming.

Andrew Tolve

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