It always fascinates me how quickly the technology industry is evolving as the power and momentum shifts away towards broader, deep-rooted horizontal platform companies. When you look at different platforms: mobility OS – Google has an undisputed reach, retail – Amazon is burgeoning with digital commerce, social – Facebook is painting a richer social graph for billions of users, communications – WeChat is growing into an important communication and engagement platform, similarly location
HERE is pioneering the smart location and mapping platform
Last week we had an opportunity to spend some time with the HERE mapping champions and think-tank in London and Berlin understanding HERE’s platform, go-to-market and marketing strategy. Nokia’s mapping unit HERE is transforming into much more than a mapping platform. HERE until now had been in shadows of Nokia Devices & Services division which was acquired this spring by Microsoft. Automotive OEMs and the internal Nokia D&S unit were some of the HERE’s biggest clients. But with the spin-off of D&S, HERE as a company has become more independent and agile to go after newer companies needing a location platform to power their offerings.
The barriers to entry are pretty high to get into mapping business and building maps needs years of experience, iterative work using an expert team of cartographers, geo-scientists and engineers to produce a mapping platform which is not only high quality, fresh but richer and scalable. Hence, there are a very few companies who have decent mapping assets with just couple of companies truly leading this space, namely HERE and Google. Apple with the help of struggling TomTom is trying to build its own-branded mapping solution but again Apple is not in the business of licensing and the mapping effort remains a pure vertical play not directly competing with HERE or Google.
Location cuts across through everything i.e. devices, platforms, software and apps, and is one of the most important ingredient of understanding context in sync with social data, mobile data, user data, sensor data. The HERE platform is evolving into a broader and intelligent location platform to expand HERE opportunities across different verticals beyond automotive and devices OEMs into consumer and enterprise. The recent acquisition of Desti and Medio, adds additional capabilities such as search/discovery and smartanalytics on top of the HERE’s robust core mapping and navigation platform to offer a more robust end-to-end location platform to grow and excel into these newer markets.
HERE has been formed over the years building capabilities with key acquisitions over the years to reach at a stage to become an end-to-end Location Cloud platform. HERE location platform focuses on bringing multiple value propositions targeting different sectors:
Consumer (B2C or B2B2C)
- This includes top companies touching billions of consumers everyday with their products, platforms, software and services which can leverage maps, navigation support and location intelligence to deliver more relevant and personalized everyday life experiences.
- HERE over the last year has added big name customers from Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo, Mozilla, Tizen, Garmin to Samsung and many more to the growing list of licensees
- These six entities alone should extend HERE platform’s reach to more than 600 million monthly active users which is important not only from scale and revenues perspective but also using the probes feedback to continuously update the core mapping platform
- The key advantage of HERE is that it’s a pure platform agnostic location cloud which can power location-centric platforms and solutions helping it to reach out to billions of consumers through its B2B2C offering.
- Furthermore, HERE needs to go after more horizontal players from social, gaming, communications space which have hundreds of millions of active mobile users. They should greatly benefit from an end-to-end location intelligence platform to map and understand their users’ context, behavior patterns better across different locations to either improve or create newer experiences to its users to maintain the stickiness
- However, HERE also needs to market its B2C offering to strengthen its brand in eyes of consumers which should prove important over the time for future consumer facing offerings especially in search and discovery space
- We believe HERE has a potential to become a highly contextual and intelligent search engine for consumers in coming years
- Extending HERE location API to the thousands of developers for integration within millions of mobile apps out there is a huge ‘scale’ opportunity
- Integrating advertising with location platform at more favorable terms for developers could prove important for the broader developer community looking to break Google ecosystem shackles
- HERE over the decades has invested in building premium content by collecting highly detailed attributes and content layers. For instance, truck attributes for truck routing, restrictions, speed limits, which route is allowed to transport e.g. explosives, etc.
- This highly optimized premium enterprise content forms a strong foundation which takes the HERE location platform beyond the standard consumer mapping platform and into an ‘enterprise grade’ platform to fully satisfy many enterprise use-cases and applications
- This capability is something which is very unique to HERE and not even found in its nearest competitors
- The enterprise opportunity therefore includes thousands of enterprises which are in need for location cloud services to manage their assets touching various entities from telecom to transport & logistics to software and services space
- We believe telecom service providers while at sometimes difficult to work with are actually important prospects for HERE platform as operators’ look to dominate the M2M space to power, connect and manage billions of potential devices spread across geographies in addition to millions of existing smart devices subscribers.
- We believe even a barter and semi-lucrative relationship with some of the top operators to get a richer feedback on user’s location patterns will contribute well towards improving the quality of mapping platform
- Public sector is another area where HERE can use its wealth of expertise and experience in geo-mapping to consult on infrastructure planning from roads to even smart cities
- Another big trend to note is the retail industry is moving from showrooming to webrooming to appbuying i.e. a significant shift towards m-commerce. This opens up huge opportunity to tap app based companies in logistics, delivery and fulfilment space to provide end-to-end platform from online-to-offline logistics support, to asset tracking to learning location-centric consumer behaviors. This space is going to be huge with likes of Uber, Lyft, Flipkart, Shyp and others growing at tremendous speed and scale
- Software developers developing enterprise apps is another hot field as most of the enterprises are going mobile with their solutions for the workforce, significant opportunity here as well
Automotive (B2B & B2B2C)
- Automotive space has been one of the stronghold for HERE, as HERE is considered to be the gold standard in supplying automotive grade mapping and navigation solutions
- HERE mapping content has got richer and richer from 2D maps to 3D maps and HD maps with added location intelligence in form of POIs, real-time traffic data, multi-modal routing and more
- The end-to-end HERE platform not only deliver highly accurate and quality navigation, commute experiences but also deliver critical components of future smart vehicles such as context-aware guidance to predictive and automated intelligence for a personalized and safer driving
- Apart from the robust underlying location platform, how HERE should continue on tangibles — modern UI, novel human-computer interactions enhancing specific use-cases and experiences for the drivers seamlessly integrating connected services across multiple screens would be a great differentiation
- HERE platform commands a strong share of the auto-dash market but upcoming solutions from Google (androidauto) and Apple CarPlay will try to chip a bit of share away from HERE
- However, we believe HERE is well positioned for the long-term and is years ahead of the competition to maintain its lead to power the next generation experiences in automotive space – from connected cars to highly or fully autonomous cars
- Overall we feel very confident of HERE’s position in automotive space to remain undisputed leader for years to come
Core Maps, Crowdsourcing & Indoor maps
- HERE core maps have been built over the years and being enhanced with team of team of cartographers, geo-scientists and engineers to produce a mapping platform which is not only high quality, fresh but richer and scalable
- HERE maps are enriched with content leveraging its state of the art LIDAR tech equipped hundreds of HERE True cars
- HERE’s maps are also enhanced with the help of crowdsourcing in form of its community mapping program is a great initiative towards building better maps and should be encouraged more though in a controlled manner to maintain the quality of maps
- The 6000+ community experts across 56 countries are contributing to more than 2 million map edits every month in some cases even mapping an entire country (e.g. Belarus)
- We believe crowdsourced mapping will continue to increase in relevance in map creating as HERE deepens the coverage in bigger emerging markets
- Indoor location maps and tracking is another big opportunity for HERE which is a logical next step towards enhancing navigation and orientation experiences by improving accessibility, reducing stress in form of search/discovery, deliver information faster when indoors either in a shopping mall, airports, museums or even industrial/enterprise premises
- HERE is leading this space with more than 10000 indoor venues or building across 76 countries covering more than a billion pop which is a great position to be in
- Increasing indoor maps coverage should help HERE bundle upper layers of its platform i.e. search, discovery and analytics to catalyze indoor location based services market which is another huge opportunity
Some of the HERE customers – industry leading brands
HERE is positioned right on the inflection point to be catapult to the next level of growth with its industry leading smart location platform. We believe HERE has a highly aligned strategy, offering and a unique position from business model perspective to go for the kill and tap into tremendous opportunities out there. We believe momentum is with HERE as competition is fading away and the next biggest competitors having completely different business models proving advantageous for HERE.
However, prioritizing key prospects and partnerships will be key moving forward to leverage scale, be operationally leaner and improve the bottom line along with the top line. Time to get moving into top gear, tremendous growth beckons.