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OpenStreetMap gets a fillip

Ajit Deshpande - - 0 Comments

Last week, mobile GPS-based mapping player Telenav announced that it had purchased OpenStreetMap (OSM) based mapping app developer Skobbler for approximately $24 million. Based in Germany, Skobbler is the top-rated OSM-based navigation app at this time. This move by Telenav unites Skobbler’s strong team with OSM founder Steve Coast who joined Telenav from Microsoft in 2013.  OSM itself is a 10 year old project that currently more than 1.5 million individuals contribute towards, to continually build and enhance an editable global map. Recently, it has been adopted by apps such as Foursquare.

As of today, mapping data comes from four key sources: Google, TomTom, Navteq (part of Nokia), and OSM. Navigation apps use this data across three broad categories – web and mobile mapping which sees players such as Google Maps, Waze, Telenav (Scout mobile app which uses Navteq) and Apple Maps (based on TomTom); automotive mapping which is dominated by Navteq, Garmin (based on Navteq) and TomTom; and the consumer GPS device segment where Garmin dominates. Of the mapping data providers, clearly, the only one with any chance at competing with Google is OSM and its crowd-sourced, open-source approach. Now, with Steve Coast and the Skobbler team on board, Telenav becomes the first major GPS mapping player to formally ‘get behind the crowd’. This should likely cause some introspection at Google, and even more so at Apple and Nokia.

While Skobbler clearly wasn’t a big exit, it does further prove the validity of a crowd-sourcing focused business model, following in the footsteps of Waze. As for Telenav, in theory it now has the resources to build an OSM-based competitor to Waze. Could the Telenav leverage these resources to obtain a billion dollar outcome for itself? Now that depends on execution (and potential acquirer Apple as well).

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