Next generation navigation systems: The challenges

Next generation navigation systems: The challenges


Hinesh jethwani
Hinesh jethwani
copy editor, cxo today, india
[email protected]
Politicians at the decision-making helm of this country have failed to gauge the exact magnitude of impact that GPS Navigation can cause. Until now costs have been the strongest limiters in embracing the technology

Apeculiar problem that I faced during my undergraduate days when I designed my first enterprise logistics solution (an overzealous engineering college project), was the lack of accurate information about my country’s civil infrastructure topology- more simply called ‘maps’ in regular tourist lingo. Even with numerous Google searches and repeated requests to civic information departments, these tackily designed ‘maps’ had me all confused; I couldn’t even recognize the names of streets that I thought I knew like the back of my hand. The reason? In India streets are very dynamic — in both nomenclature and size. So the simply and aptly named Ballard Road can turn into ‘Shoorjee Vallabhdas Marg’ in a jiffy.

Maybe the situation has changed since then. But do you think that the Indian driver is ready to navigate his way through this concrete jungle without help forever? Technology, as always, presents a way out, but not without a million complications. With a total of 62,846 cars added to Indian streets in a single month (August) this year, GPS would definitely be a multi-million dollar spinner for solution providers.

Designing an accurate, consistent, scalable Geographical Information System (GIS) is an extremely formidable task for a country like India. It’s not like we don’t have enough talent for it; No sir, we got plenty. But every time a revolutionary project of this magnitude emerges, tonnes of bureaucratic red tape strangle the very life out of it in no time. So I’m pretty positive that somewhere beneath a huge pile of dusty folders, there exists a file that reads: GPS Navigation. And it’s not going to see fresh air soon, unless of course the new government decides to actually ‘do’ something about it.

Challenge or not, politicians at the decision-making helm of this country have failed to gauge the exact magnitude of impact that GPS Navigation can cause – both on the economy and the brand image of our nation. Until now, costs have been the strongest limiters in embracing the technology. But consider this: If the owner of a guthka (An Indian slang for extremely popular tobacco packets) company can afford to travel in a luxury Maybach, pray tell me Mr. Politician, what makes you think we can’t afford a GPS navigator in our modest four-wheelers?

And its benefits to the Indian enterprise are simply too great to be ignored. Consider the Rs 225 crore Safexpress Pvt Ltd. a third-party logistics provider that has become the first company in the Indian logistics industry to use GPS. BEST, in Mumbai, is another transport services provider waiting to hop on the GPS bandwagon. Even Bharti has launched its very own GSM-GPS based Fleet Tracking Solution.

The US$50 billion logistics market in India is bogged down by the usual constraints of a developing economy, namely inadequate infrastructure, complex tax structure and government apathy. Echoing the concern is Victor Vasanth, Manager, Product Development, MOL Logistics. “We hear the GPS buzzword for tracking vehicles and consignments, but ironically, roads in India are still not mapped for the purpose, barring those in major urban areas,” he says.

Internationally GPS-based automobile navigation devices are used by transport services, trucking companies, as well as individuals, especially in inter-state traveling and adventure sports. But then again, they don’t suffer from the nomenclature phobia that we do.

GPS navigation is here to stay. It has the power to transform our everyday lives. If India wants to become a tourist hotspot, GPS Navigators in every vehicle — be it taxicabs or private four wheelers — is an absolute must. The difference that accurate geographical information flashed on LCD screens can make to our country’s brand image is lying largely underestimated and suppressed. It’s about time somebody woke up and realized the true magnitude of GPS in India.