Mapping could lead the next exit spree

Growing demand for digital maps and location-based technology is set to lead accelerated interest in mapping specialists, providing some major exits in the segment going forward. Driverless cars, innovative shopping apps and most Uber-like start-ups need to implement digital mapping tools. Since the task of developing one’s own mapping tech is a mammoth one, businesses are set to flock to the market leader – and that is driving value for digital maps. Business transfer agents are already set to play a major role in the purchase of Nokia’s lucrative mapping division.

Mobile software majors such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, and others all share the same vision that maps sit at the core of our digital future. Digital representations of the real world are key to some promising technologies (like driverless cars) and every location-enabled start-up, such as the taxi service Uber, for example.

According to a 2014 survey of 5,000+ consumers across five markets by telecom operator Telefonica, 50% of drivers said connected-car features were critical when buying their next car. Trade sources expect that 75% of all cars shipped globally will be built with web-enabled hardware by 2020. Maps will be key to this growing market.

Google Maps has already become a key selling point for choosing an Android phone over an iPhone. It’s also built into Google Now, Android’s Siri-like artificial-intelligence personal assistant. Then there’s the robotic-car project, the sci-fi specs known as Google Glass, and the opportunities in local advertising – all of which can be enhanced by improving Maps.

More than a third of global mobile subscriptions were web-enabled in 2014 while around 1.2 billion smartphones were shifted by retailers worldwide. Maps have become a standard feature in these handsets and as more consumers come online, there is greater demand for navigational services.

There have been three big shifts in what people were asking online. The first was ‘what’ – Google won that battle. The second question was ‘who’ and Facebook won that. The next big question is ‘where’ and that’s where the current battlelines are being drawn.

While Google is the obvious dominant force in the sector, the Apple version of Apple Maps is certainly not giving up and the company has confirmed the acquisition of precision GPS company Coherent Navigation.

There is also a major bidding war pitting software companies, Internet firms, and automakers against one another to acquire one of the foremost mapping companies in the world.

Once-great cellphone maker Nokia is transforming itself into a networking and communications firm and is considering the sale of its Here mapping and navigation software. Plenty of buyers are interested – recently the New York Times reported that one of the top bids has come from Uber for $3 billion dollars.

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