EP2 – The Collision of Geospatial Technology and Autonomous Vehicles

In this Episode

In this episode of On Point with Korem, I sat down with Charity Rumery, the General Manager of HERE Technologies North America. Charity comes from the automotive side of HERE where she discussed what we can expect for autonomous vehicles and advanced driver assistance systems. In addition, we talked about the rise of data marketplaces and where HERE sees growth in reaching new consumer of geospatial data and technology.

Episode Transcript

Joe Francica: Well Charity thanks so much this is a real pleasure to talk to you, a real pleasure because as we are a strategic partner of HERE and we’ll just have a casual conversation. I knew you came from the automotive side of HERE, now on the kind of the more the geospatial side, so maybe just a little bit about your background, what your experiences were there, because that’s also a key part of this location business and it’s getting more and more attention because of autonomous vehicles, etc.

Charity Rumery: It is Joe and thanks for asking. So I joined HERE and I led the automotive sales team for several years. I’m really excited about the impact of location and automotive specifically. I hope we get a chance to talk more about that today, but clearly location is having a big impact in terms of advanced driver assisted systems or “ADAS” capabilities. Those that are in automotive think about it in five levels and where we are in the industry right now is level two plus, but we see some exciting things on the horizon, which I’ll save a few details, but we’re moving forward to L3 type of capabilities, which we’ll talk about in a bit and that’s big in terms of automotive. We’re also starting to see the cross-section of things like 5G, and mech compute at the edge intersecting with automotive so these industries are all coming together Joe.

JF: Yeah,  and that’s a great place also just to pick up, because the market is looking forward to having autonomous vehicles, cabs that are autonomous, and a few of the wonderful industry leaders have made comments about their own technology and it all comes down to: you need very high quality, high precision street center line data and that’s really where HERE’s specialty is.

CR: It is and for automotive it’s hard to temper my excitement, because whenever you’re at the cusp of something new in your industry, it really is just an exciting time and as I alluded to a moment ago, for the last, I’m going to say 18 to 24 months, we’ve talked extensively about ADAS capabilities that are maybe L2 plus. We see very large OEMs coming out with hands-free driving mechanisms, but as you think about that high definition, high quality mapping you just referenced, to really get to that next level of autonomous driving, that’s new. We’re starting to think about L3 capabilities, and when I say L3, that’s the SAE automotive L3, plus driving capabilities. We just very recently announced that HERE’s HD, or high-definition live mapping, will be an integral part of the new drive pilot from Mercedes-Benz, and this is going to be coming out this year on the S-Class, very excited about it. It will be the first L3 plus capability out in market.

JF: So, we’ll all get a great discount on that car when it comes out, I’m sure right?

CR: Of course, yes!

JF: That brings up the other interesting point, in terms of developing HERE’s business, is all the attribution that’s got to be put on the network, the street center line network and for whether it’s autonomous or ADAS, we’re familiar with HERE driving streets and collecting data. That’s a big data problem, and I’m curious as to how you’re approaching putting all that attribution on the street network.

CR: Wow it’s interesting. There’s a lot that goes into that and I’m not sure if you’re familiar with how HERE architects are data sets, but we use something called the HERE platform, where we really can make all different data sets content and services available to our customers, and a big part of that is aggregating thousands of data sets into one place and making sure that we anonymize that data, that we cleanse it, and we keep data privacy really front and center. For HERE, that’s one of the reasons I’m really excited to work for HERE and I’m really proud of HERE as a company that we can actually ingest dozens of thousands of data sources daily, anonymize that data, and make it fresh and available for our end users through a delivery mechanism that allows them almost to serve themselves in terms of both the APIs that they might be consuming, as well as content or data sets.

JF: HERE was just listed as the top location platform by Omdia and it adds a lot of interesting context in that report, we’ve read it extensively, and sometimes HERE doesn’t get enough credit for being that location platform. How are you differentiating yourselves with some of the other mapping platforms that we see? Maybe some are more popular, some are certainly out there, but how would you differentiate yourself?

CR: Well first of all thanks for mentioning that report. Omdia has ranked us number one since 2018 and we’re really proud of it, and I’m proud of it, so I’m glad that you asked me about it. As we think of where we are in the industry location is front and center for almost every industry now Joe. Location impacts every industry and so HERE’s really differentiating themselves across the gamut. One of the areas is our marketplace, and lots of people have marketplaces, but on the HERE platform, we have more than 100 public and private marketplaces sharing data sets across all sorts of different industries, and it’s not just automotive centric. It’s things like transportation and logistics, public, sector financial services, and some of these data sets are really differentiating, and cutting edge. The Omdia report called that out. I think we’re working with companies like the Munich-based air quality management specialist Hawadawa, so that you can get that kind of information on the HERE marketplace. And I recently posted on LinkedIn about this project in Australia where one of our partners is taking a map and overlaying sound quality on top of it, so that before you would buy a house, or before you would pick a place to work, or send your kids to school, you would know what the sound quality and the noise decibel level is. I think those things just change the power of location, and, of course, we still play in our traditional space. I mentioned 8S already, because I just genuinely get very excited about those kinds of capabilities and the advancements that we see in automotive, but we can’t forget about what we’re doing in EVs, with electric vehicles and in new spaces that are opening up in the past few years. I get particularly excited about this feature that we announced earlier this year called mapping as a service. It taps into the power of the platform and lets you bring your own data, combine it with data or services from HERE or from our marketplace, and create something entirely new, and I think that’s how we differentiate ourselves. This isn’t about us HERE, it’s about the power of your business and what you’re trying to accomplish, and we do it with data and privacy in mind, which I’m also really proud of.

JF: Do you think there’s the recognition by businesses, not just the traditional ones, traditional users of geospatial technology like governments and transportation agencies, but more of the commercial industries, the retailers, the banks, the insurance companies. It’s still somewhat difficult. We see it at Korem, that’s somewhat difficult to educate these new users of data. How are you finding that process?

CR: I’m finding it evolving very quickly, and I think the pandemic brought it front and center with supply chain issues, that really every single business is touched by the power of location and the power of ETAs. When you think of when are things arriving, what’s the estimated time of arrival? I think it’s increased dramatically in that we maybe used to think of GIS in terms of auto or the public sector government, but now it’s hard for me to think of any application that I use that I don’t want to know or understand the estimated time of delivery or the location of that facility. I think it’s just become commonplace. I think the differentiation starts to come in when you start to do new and unique capabilities, like mapping as a service, so that you take your data with somebody else’s data or services and you create something entirely new. I think that’s where the power starts to come in and as we move to a world that is blanketed with infrastructure, a 5G type of world, the possibilities are endless in terms of what you can do as a business. Even in agriculture, in utilities, oil, gas, mining, there are so many areas that you can touch with this capability.

JF: You mentioned e-commerce and ETA and everybody is now much more aware of the fact that they want their packages delivered. Do you think that that put an additional strain or perhaps it’s just growth possibilities for HERE in working with logistics companies in particular?

CR: I think it’s interesting. It opened a new world for us. We’ve always been a player in that space, but I think it opened an entirely new segment of opportunity for us to make an impact on the industry. We are looking very closely at things like ETA, asset tracking, how if your asset is arriving on time and to the location it’s supposed to be at, and we have some exciting things on the horizon things I can’t necessarily speak about, but I actually think that we can clearly impact that industry and help transform it. There are some really neat things we’re going to do in the next couple of years in that space.

JF: One of the things that’s happened over the last couple years is this development of data marketplaces. I just find it interesting that Amazon is standing up one, you’ve got Snowflake, and I wonder if those are confusing to the market, because when somebody logs on to those marketplaces and say: “well, I want this geodata stuff” and yet they may not necessarily immediately think of the HERE marketplace. Where do you think those new marketplaces need to go? What do you think they need to do to educate the users as to what their what they’ve got on in their markets and what people are generally looking for when they go to those new places?

CR: I think that’s a great point and marketplaces can be intimidating and confusing. In fact, it took me a while to wrap my head around how do you leverage a marketplace. It really took me thinking through real examples and I’ll share an example with you just to bring it to life. I think the differentiation comes in when you can take data from somebody else, that’s the marketplace component, but you have to be able to act on it. We have a data set in our marketplace from Neurodynamics, it’s sharing the coefficient of the friction between the tire and the road surface, so it’s an automotive data set. Audi is leveraging that to create an entirely new service in the vehicle and to provide a hazard warning if you’re starting to sense road slippage, they’re able to alert the vehicles ahead through the heads-up display or through the Audi Cockpit to let those drivers know that there’s something else that could potentially impact them. To me, that brings the power of a marketplace to life and what differentiates HERE is that capability to act on it, with that workspace environment that allows you to create a new service, but also these are blue chip companies, these are companies like Audi, like Neurodynamics, Accuweather. The quality of folks that we’re working with are really differentiated and then the underpinning of HERE content and services, anonymized traffic for example, you just can do a lot with that. I myself get confused on marketplaces Joe, so I can’t comment on anyone else’s, but what I can say is it’s the real use of that in life and in business that makes it real for me, and I think HERE’s done a good job of providing real solutions that allow you to use the marketplace.

JF: So one of the things that interests me lately is I’ve heard it said that every company, in particular tech companies, must become a data company. Now HERE is a real data company. Can HERE help these companies become less afraid of the data that they’re gathering and what does that mean for a real data company like HERE?

CR: It’s interesting that you say that. I haven’t thought about that in a while but you’re right. I remember when people were saying data was the next natural resource just a couple years ago and it’s true. I think the thing about data is it’s how you serve it up and HERE in particular has been innovating the last few years to help our customers take slices of the data, very niche level of data, so that you can get exactly what you need. We continue to progress in that area and then how we serve it up in terms of: can you subscribe to that data? Should you have that content on prem or in your own site? Should you just be using it as you need it as an API call? I think that’s the power for organizations to really get the data they need in the way that they need it, so that they don’t have to worry about being a data company, rather they can use the set of data they need to power their business. It may not be in traditional data in the way that we think of it anymore, it might come as a software or a service even though the underpinning is the content that you need.

JF: That’s a really excellent point. I think the reference to the data as a natural resource was “data was the new oil”, I think right? I always thought it was the new bacon, because it’s sizzling and good and all of that!

CR: Nothing will replace bacon Joe, nothing!

JF: That’s right, that’s right. The natural resource isn’t very tasty. To that point, I do think people or companies have a big data problem. I think we in the geospatial industry always thought that we were always dealing in big data, but now that it’s a buzzword everybody thinks that big data is just I’m collecting more volumes, but it is an issue I think for companies like HERE to present their data, as you just said, as an API, so that it’s consumable in a way that they want to consume it. I go to companies who are using Tableau as a business intelligence tool and that’s got to put some pressure on companies like HERE because there’s a lot of new users out there and they want to consume it differently than what we as GIS geeks want to consume it. I’m curious whether you have a perspective on these new users who are using geodata.

CR: Yeah, it’s interesting and you mentioned Tableau, great company great set of tools. I almost think of them as complementary, players like that I think of it as complementary. I think the niche for HERE, that’s kind of our sweet spot, is where we can serve up data and services. I think the services piece is becoming more and more important. API calls and software, quite frankly, and how we get it to the user in a way that they need it, but that’s our sweet spot, right? We’re focused on what the world around us looks like, how many attributes does that comprise, taking a 2D world making it 3D like we’re moving there. These complementary players, we very often plug very nicely into what they’re trying to do, whether it be analytics or whether it’s just software that they want to use, they have to supplement it with the different types of software that we have it HERE. I think that’s the key thing for me. I don’t see them as being able to operate independently and I don’t see us as being able to do that either. I clearly see it as an ecosystem and I will say probably a few years ago, I was selling solutions and I was just thinking of that solution from the A to the Z and how we fit into an organization. I don’t think like that anymore. I think in a pure ecosystem model, because as we move to an environment where the world is 3D, we can represent the geospatial component of that in a 3D way. I think about how all these different packages technologies complement one another. That’s why I do very often think about the intersection of telco coming into automotive or into public sector, and how you start to now leverage the edge and edge compute capability and what can you do with 5G. I think none of us can do that alone. In fact, every time I think of it, there’s three or four players in the mix and then you called out a Tableau or a business intelligence, maybe there’s four or five when you get to the complete final end state of any business solution moving forward.

JF: You made a comment there was kind of going to be one of my last questions to you which was what’s the opportunity for growth? You mentioned 5G and certainly there are just a cadre of new types of users out there, so what’s the next horizon for HERE? We, as a strategic partner, certainly want to play in that game and I’d just be curious just to get your final comment on where’s the additional growth opportunity and what’s next?

CR: Of course. I can’t ignore automotive as we move toward an autonomous world. You are going to see HERE continue to grow and expand in automotive as we mentioned with L2, L3 plus and, of course, we are ultimately, as a world, going to get to L4 and L5 technology, full autonomous capability. We’re not just going to do it with vehicles, right? Vehicles is one way, but you’re going to see drones come on the scene, you’re going to see air taxis come on the scene, we’re going to start to think about farming in a way that’s more hands-free. We’ve talked about the internet of things, which is a big part of my background. How does that come together and leverage location everywhere? When I think about our growth, auto is a big underpinning, but I think about the incremental piece of touching every other industry and it starts with that ETA dialogue we had. Everybody wants real-time information about what’s happening with their personal or business life right now and there’s a location component to all of it. Public sector, telco, retail, health care, I mean insert industry here and we’re going to see HERE growing in those spaces and, in fact, we have grown significant double-digit growth outside of automotive and that’s been really exciting, for me personally and for the company as well. By the way, I will just say, Korem in particular has been a wonderful partner of ours to grow and we’re doing some really innovative things together and I think the two of us together are just grazing the surface. We’re in a 2D world and we’re about to go 3D with one another and that’s kind of my final comment I will say. I think they’re a wonderful partner we could do a lot more together.

JF: Well great thanks for saying that and again, I really appreciate your time, Charity. It’s been a great discussion. I think it’ll be really informative to those who listen into the podcast, thanks again.

CR: Hey thanks for having me Joe it’s been fun!

JF: Thanks again for joining us on another On Point with Korem and don’t forget to subscribe where this podcast is posted, whether that’s Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify or YouTube, and if you like today’s podcast, please leave a comment in the comment box. Join us again for another episode of On Point with Korem, where we’ll get on point.