In July 2021, Omdia, a market research and consultancy company, published a report titled, “Location Platform Index” in which they assessed and ranked the vendors of location and mapping platforms and services. Of the seven vendors evaluated, HERE Technologies was ranked first, followed by Google. Other vendors included TomTom, Mapbox, Apple, Microsoft and Esri. Ranking was based on the “completeness” of their solutions and their “reach” in the market. In this article, Korem offers its opinion on the report based on its experience working with clients as well as many of the vendors mentioned in the article.
Full disclosure: Korem is a value-added reseller of products from HERE and Google.
Core Differentiation Among Vendors
The Omdia criteria of “reach” and “completeness” is based on the number of countries, users/customers and partnerships versus core data owned, including attribution (e.g., POI, traffic, indoor, and aerial data), crowdsourcing capabilities and privacy, respectively. These criteria are notably and entirely related to the production of a data product and not a software product. This distinction is critical since other data providers ranked in the survey, such as Mapbox and Esri, are primarily software companies and offer data as an adjunct to their primary software business.
Another key differentiator repeatedly cited by Omdia for the reach of each vendor is the relationship with automotive industry OEMs. The criteria for completeness included traffic, mobility solutions and each vendor’s ability to fulfill Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These differentiators significantly reflect the investments made by HERE, TomTom and Google to supply the transportation industry with very specific products. Omdia puts special emphasis on the HERE’s investors in the automotive sector including Daimler, Bosch, Mitsubishi, and NTT, as well as Google’s partnering relationships with Ford, GM, and Volvo. It describes Mapbox’s partnership with BMW for its navigation SDK and the ability of BMW’s engineers to “steer” upcoming features.
Growing the Base of Users and Partners
Recent market research reports on the location technology market, such as The Forrester Wave by Forrester, placed significant emphasis on product functionality and less weight on the impact of the partner ecosystem or the size of individual product sales. The Omdia report takes the approach that a wide-reaching partner and developer network is a key differentiator. Given Google’s popularity among developers, Omdia described Google’s platform as “more customizable and feature-rich for developers, and has released a drip-feed of enhancements including cloud-based map styling and customization.” That combination provides notable market reach. Google’s user base was noted to be over one billion. The report also mentioned Mapbox’s 170,000 active developers and HERE’s three million developers, which includes their partnership with Amazon Web Services that vastly increased their reach.
Extending the Reach with Marketplaces
The rise of data marketplaces has not eluded the location data and technology sector. HERE’s Marketplace is intended to provide data products in several verticals and Omdia believes this is a competitive differentiator. Both AWS and Snowflake marketplaces have recently added location-based data and Esri maintains the ArcGIS Marketplace. The objective of data marketplaces is to provide an easier way to access data products. An alternative to a marketplace is to expose data through APIs. HERE, TomTom, Google, Mapbox and Esri have offered this option to developers that prefer a business model with the flexibility of a transaction-based pricing structure.
Map-making Platforms and “Bring-Your-Own” Data
As more location services are brought into a cloud architecture, one specific option open to those looking to utilize data that the organization has captured themselves is mapping as a service (MaaS). The model follows a platform as a service (PaaS) structure so that organizations can “bring their own” data to the platform and utilize the mapping services offered by the vendor. HERE and Google offer such platforms. Esri is transitioning some of its mapping applications to this model because its user base includes many traditional users that have been data collectors and already have large geospatial data lakes.
Embedded Mapping Applications
One underrepresented criteria of the Omdia report are business applications that can seamlessly embed a mapping application. The report cites Microsoft’s Azure Maps that can be embedded by Microsoft’s rich library of applications. Missing from the report but similar to Azure Maps is Oracle’s Locator capabilities and AWS Location Services, which embeds HERE data. In terms of reach, these three companies have an enormous footprint in organizations that now have more direct access to location data and represent a pool of users and developers far exceeding other companies mentioned in the report.
Addressing Vertical Markets and 3D
The Omdia report has put substantial emphasis on addressing the automotive market for location data products. However, it also cites the need to improve data products specific to certain verticals such as finance, retail, telecommunications, and media. It also mentions the need for 3D data that would support urban planning, logistics, gaming, and manufacturing. HERE Premier 3D Cities, Google, Apple and Mapbox are cited as having improved data products. Notably, Mapbox’s investment in satellite data to improve both the level of detail in its maps as well as improved lane guidance for driver navigation was given as an example.
The Omdia report provides useful guidance regarding the mapping platforms of the major location technology vendors. The report does not make a distinction between mapping software and location data platforms. As noted above, both Mapbox and Esri are primarily software companies. While HERE, Google and TomTom are regarded as primarily data collectors, each offers a software solution to augment their data product portfolios. Indeed, HERE and TomTom have adopted flexible data acquisition models (e.g., APIs). Google, Apple and Microsoft, and even AWS represent hybrid vendors offering both software and data, though they would not be considered “core” geospatial companies. These companies have room to expand their product base and wallet share within the geospatial sector.
Omdia often commends vendors in the study for their relationships with and products for the automotive industry. While the study does not intrinsically weight the vendors just on that criterion, the discussion within the report certainly puts much emphasis on partnerships and data enhancements that are specifically dedicated to improving route navigation, ADAS, and features for electric vehicles (EVs). Certainly, as these markets evolve, HERE, the leader in this report, is well positioned, and their portfolio of data products will expand to meet a market need.
Reach was another criteria that, intuitively, you would expect the larger vendors such as Google and Apple to have the edge on. Certainly, HERE and TomTom have a greater reach in the automotive sector and they rank first and third in the final outcome.
Missing from the report are other data product providers such as Precisely and Foursquare. Precisely offers an extensive portfolio of data while Foursquare focuses on location-based mobility data. These data vendors sell extensively in markets very similar to other vendors in the Omdia report so it is somewhat surprising to omit them. Precisely’s extensive footprint in location intelligence allows them to serve their customers from the Precisely Data Experience. Foursquare’s acquisition of Unfolded not only positions them as a potential mapping platform provider but is an addition to both their Visits and Places data.
In general, the Omdia report is quite informative and can guide buyers, with the appropriate caveats mentioned above.
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