Navmii chief marketing officer Zoe Laycock tells Globetrender about the future of navigation, how it will make sure you always find a space in a multi-storey car park and why the company sees itself as the ‘Rebel Alliance to Google’s Evil Empire’.
Designed for drivers, the free Navmii mobile app has more than 24 million users, and is available in 187 countries. It describes itself as putting “smart navigation, traffic, real-time reporting and driver scores at your fingertips”, with downloadable maps available for use offline.
Laycock says: “When we launched in 2007, we were the first free navigation app on smartphones other than Google Maps, which was a very dumbed down version compared with what you have now. Peter Atalla, our CEO, saw an opportunity to bring a free navigation app to smartphones. He was quite visionary in seeing the merging of the physical and online world.
“Peter also had a core belief that mapping and map data should be free for all. In the US, adding a satnav on to your car rental is usually US$15 a day so it can really rack up. Having a presence on a map is important too – people, businesses and communities are anonymous if they are not represented on a map. We believe mapping is important for social and economic development. That is our foundation.
“However, we do need to eat so our business model is ‘freemium’ in that there are some paid-for extras on the app such as celebrity voices for satnav, which cost about £2.99. That said, most of our income comes from our business services – we provide navigation, mapping and map data to other mobile app publishers, automotive companies and even Ocado [for grocery deliveries]. We are with Pioneer hardware for in-car systems, and are also working directly with car manufacturers to produce ‘in-dash solutions’ [built-in satnavs].
“For consumers, the app includes driver performance metrics to promote safe driving. We have 25 key measurements to score whether you are speeding, using a phone while driving, how you are handling the vehicle and harsh braking.” Now there is no excuse for being pulled over…
Laycock continues: “Over the years, the mobility market has been transformed by navigation and location data, particularly with the Internet of Things, wearables and autonomous cars. But that is the space we are in now – and we are a net provider of navigation mapping and location that helps other businesses to connect to their customers in the real world.
“Two of our biggest growth markets are India and Brazil, as well as various African countries including Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa.
“We don’t have the resources of Google, meaning we can’t hire vehicles with cameras on the roof, for example, so we build maps and local information through crowdsourcing. ‘Trace data’ [generated by unique user journeys] is one of the ways we do this, but we also encourage people to contribute through the Open Street Map initiative.
“London is a good example of a place where our maps are very accurate in terms of roads, but traffic management, speeds and one-way systems change. So on top of the professional data, we actually give our users the tools to report on these things in real-time. This means the more people use Navmii, the more it builds out the detail of the map. Of our competitors, the only one that has this community element is Waze.” Born in Israel, they are now owned by Google and operate out of San Francisco.Despite Navmii’s success, Laycock says: “We wouldn’t want to be bought by Google because we see ourselves as the Rebel Alliance to Google being the Evil Empire. I am a big fan of Google – they are very good at incubating but they are not very good at building out in a user-centric way. They also have very strict criteria about monetisation so you see a lot of products come and go from Google.
“We think there is room for a good navigation options that are independent and that is our space. In some ways Google is unpopular because it’s tracking your whereabouts, your email, your social media, everything you do. We do not collect data that is identifiable – we do learn from the movements and patterns of people en masse, but it’s not part of some bigger grand plan to track you across your digital life.
“Navmii users have to login unless they want to access some of the more personalised aspects of the app, and also to use the app across multiple devices so you can access your driver history and score. You also need to login to access the social features – like Waze it can be nice to be driving along and see other Navmii users. In the US it is not illegal to use your phone when driving so you can send messages to other drivers.”
What are your ambitions for the future? Laycock says: “Now we realise that mapping and navigation are the foundation for the mobile experience, our growth strategy is to become the biggest provider of maps and map data globally. This will be through Navmii for Web desktop solution, which will help with trip planning.“In the medium to long-term we are looking at other modes of transportation – we are not going to take on Google Maps or Citymapper or public transport – but what we will be doing is looking at real-time parking before the end of the year, and both urban and off-road cycling in 2017.
“At the moment on Navmii you can find parking spaces and garages but what you can’t do yet is pinpoint and navigate to an NCP parking lot that has spaces – this ‘last mile’ navigation with real-time information on parking availability is the future. We will work directly with NCP, for example, to provide that data so you know how many spaces there are free on each floor.”
“We take the hassle out of navigation. We aim to do the same with cycling – being lost is one of the biggest fear factors that prevents people from getting on a bike. So we will show cycle lanes, pick up and drop off points, and maintenance shops. We will also show that, for example, you can’t cycle on 80 per cent of routes through Hyde Park.
“We will also be working with governments to use their mobility data. This is what Government 3.0 is going to look like – the ability to have mass data from all apps, to be able to know what pedestrians are doing in real-time and the movement of vehicles, to be able to tailor policies, emergency services, traffic lights and so on.”
Navmii has also partnered with What3Words for precise pinpoint navigation to places without a conventional address – whether that is on safari in Africa or the streets of Tokyo. For more on What3Words, you can read our article on why What3Words means you will never be lost again.
By Jenny Southan
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