TomTom is going developer-friendly with new — and free — location APIs

Presented by TomTom

“Our developer community really pushes what’s possible with our APIs,” says Gregory de Jans, TomTom’s head of developer relations. “Often they surprise us with use cases we never imagined.”

The first TomTom use case was the standalone navigation devices the company launched more than 20 years ago. But with navigation now integrated into mobile devices, the company has evolved and grown into a global tech enterprise. The location-tech specialist designs and develops innovative navigation products, software and services, including APIs used by tech and automotive giants like Uber, Microsoft, Nissan, Volkswagen, and many more.

The company’s latest development is the release of their public developer portal, offering self-service API aimed at individual developers and smaller startups. The TomTom Mobile Software Developer Kit (SDK) offers free maps and traffic flow tiles, as well as APIs for mapping and routing, geocoding, travel times, real-time traffic data, and geofencing.

Maps APIs are already required in many existing use cases like IoT, fleet and logistics, and on-demand. But many new use cases like smart cities, geospatial data analytics, and augmented reality are also empowered by Maps APIs.

“The power of our APIs is endless,” de Jans says. “Everyone who needs location in one way or another and wants to create the next big location based application can use them.”

The move from Google

Google was the mobility API elephant in the room until last year. The change? The company significantly increased their prices. The impact of that increase was huge, especially on smaller companies and growing startups, which were being asked to pay significantly more than they were paying before.

As a result, many companies began looking for an alternative to Google Maps APIs. “A lot of developers are coming our way because of our more startup- and user-friendly pricing model,” de Jans adds.

With TomTom being a mapmaker first and foremost, they have been able to focus on offering innovative features within their APIs. This includes the ability to calculate electric vehicle ranges and locate recharging stations on the way, factor in height and weight restrictions or hazardous materials when calculating fleet routs, and analyze in-depth traffic information, such as how long congestion lasts and what other areas it impacts.

Last but not least, there’s the privacy aspect. “TomTom is a big data company, but we have always been very strict about our privacy policy,” says de Jans. “We are also a pure mapping company so we have no ulterior motives with our users’ data. Its sole purpose is to help enhance all of our products and services for all of our end users.”

Letting developers start small

“It’s important to allow developers to evaluate products for free, even letting them use them commercially for free in the beginning to help them get started,” de Jans says.

This sort of trial allows startups and smaller companies to build their applications and launch them without getting in over their heads. When the companies start growing and gaining a bigger user base, they can easily level up online. If they’re growing quite big, an account team can help them create a custom proposal that fits their needs.

The company also announced at TechCrunch last year that they’re offering a mobile SDK, which comes with free map and traffic visualizations. The reason? On mobile devices, people are seeing maps more and more as a commodity service.

“The value now is in performing high-quality searches and geocodes and predicting traffic-aware travel times,” he explains. “That’s the kind of services that people are willing to pay for.”

Developer use cases in action

The number of use cases is proliferating, as developers invent innovative new ways of leveraging location technology. This includes:

  • Ride-hailing and ride-sharing. It’s not just big companies like Uber and Lyft, but local initiatives and startups who are tapping into the added advantages of knowing traffic conditions, road conditions, weather, and more.
  • Electric cars. More people are buying electric vehicles and developers are paying attention to those drivers and their unique trip planning needs that gas engine drivers don’t encounter. There is a lot of range anxiety over how much juice trips require. TomTom’s connected services take consumption, hills and even curvature of roads into account to calculate which charging stations can be reached before running out of power. It also shares with the driver what’s around that location as well.
  • Fleet and logistics. Companies can track their vehicles, calculate the fastest way to deliver a truck full of packages, figure out the most optimal routes to avoid traffic-jams (while factoring in height, weight, and hazardous materials restrictions) so they can ensure deliveries are made on time without hassle.
  • Connected cars. As the number of connected or smart cars grow, the requirement for in-car navigation, and third-party and companion applications grow. This is especially important for leasing and rental services and car dealerships who need to protect their investments, as well as for insurance companies to check against claims.
  • Financial services. Location data can be used to predict housing prices around a specific neighborhood, with APIs providing information about school locations, tourist attractions, public transit stops, or where the most congested areas are in a given city.
  • Analytics and big data. Location services offer data scientists a new dimension for their data, allowing researchers to improve data models and visualize analyses.

The rise of innovation

“Every mobile device has some kind of a GPS sensor. And with more mobile devices being sold, often people own more than one device. So more and more location information is becoming available. With online and offline worlds converging, location context has become critical. All great — but it’s up to the application providers to do something smart with it,” de Jans adds.

The better that fleets of vehicles and ride-sharing services can avoid or manage traffic, the more time — and money — they save. Insurance companies can also monitor their drivers’ behavior to check against whether users have a right to make a claim. The savings impact is significant in terms of cost, time, stress and congestion.

“In the end what I think really matters is that we’re helping application developers provide a better user experience for their customers,” de Jans says. “It can make or break an application when you launch it into the market.”

To learn more about TomTom Maps APIs, go to:

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