The 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games were widely regarded as a boost for Brazil’s telematics sector. But they may be too little, too late. Siegfried Mortkowitz reports.
Since the summer of 2012, MapLink has had an exclusive partnership with the U.S.-based provider of traffic information INRIX. The two companies are currently involved in preparing impact studies of the effects of the two sporting events on traffic in the host cities.
A test-case study, done for the Confederations Cup, a competition seen as a rehearsal for the FIFA World Cup, indicated that traffic congestion would “peak much earlier in the afternoon than typical with the average trip taking drivers 50% longer ahead of weekday matches kicking off at 4 p.m.”
In some cities trips were expected to take twice as long or longer than usual on game days. Weekend traffic was seen as less affected.
Due to traffic disruptions caused by the nationwide protests in reaction to a rise in public transport prices, which took place during the course of the Confederations Cup, it was impossible to confirm the analysis.
However, it can be expected that traffic for the World Cup and the Olympics will be more affected because substantially more people are expected to travel to Brazil for these events.
(For more on telematics opportunities in LATAM, see Telematics opportunities in Brazil and LATAM, part I  and Telematics opportunities in Brazil and LATAM, part II .)
From smart routing to traffic engineering
Frederico Hohagen of MapLink says his company and its U.S. partner are currently trying to convince a number of Brazilian municipalities of the importance of what he calls “traffic engineering” to deal with the inevitable traffic problems the events will provoke. “What Brazilians know about traffic is that there’s lots of traffic in Sao Paolo, for example,” he says. “But they don’t analyze it; they don’t look deeper.”
What MapLink and INRIX are asking is a shift of perception on traffic congestion. “Let’s forget about lanes and how long the bottleneck is and talk about average speed and travel time,” Hohagen explains. “It’s much easier for the population to understand this.”
In this regard, the partners are speaking with mayors and heads of public transportation companies. “We want to show them that it’s possible to forecast traffic, whether for the Olympics or a Madonna concert, and whether it’s for a rainy Friday at 5 p.m. or a sunny Wednesday morning.”
The negotiations have reached the testing stage with three municipalities, but it has been hard work to convince the authorities of the efficacity of the solution, Hohagen says. “This is new for Brazil. They are not used to this kind of traffic analysis. They look at each other and can’t believe it. They just don’t know.”
Earlier this summer, TomTom also beefed up its map offering in anticipation of the upcoming sporting events. Specifically, TomTom deployed its Mobile Mapping (MoMa) technology, which identifies new speed limits, lane changes, new toll roads and updates to road restrictions. TomTom has started deployment in Sao Paulo state and aims to expand to the rest of the country before summer 2014 rolls around. Users can also report road changes to TomTom via its MapShare crowd-sourcing functionality.
Fortunately, he says, more and more Brazilian drivers are using navigation and traffic data services on their iPhones, and this may show businesses and local authorities that it is possible.
Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics says many Brazilians are adding aftermarket mapping solutions “on a do-it-yourself” basis. “They are creating their own navigation system in the car,” he says, noting that most of the devices used are Chinese.
One of the companies contributing to the growing popularity of traffic data services is London-based Navmii, which designs, develops and supplies advanced GPS navigation and location-based systems.
Some 18 months after its launch in Brazil, its Navfree app for iPhone, iPad and Android has more than 600,000 users there, says the company’s founder and CEO Peter Atalla.“We designed it for countries where connectivity is weak, such as emerging markets,” he says.
The map data—which is crowd-sourced and updated every month—is stored on-board the device, which means the user does not need to be connected to navigate, saving connectivity costs. The app, which is free, also crowd-sources traffic data by the second, and then relays it to a central server, where it is stored. “In most Brazilian cities, the traffic information will be real-time,” Atalla says.
However, he expects most visitors to Brazil for the sporting events to resist getting online because of the substantial roaming costs, which suggests that a product such as Navfree could be in great demand. “There was a huge spike in usage during the London Olympics,” he notes.
Navmii is looking to become more involved in the Brazilian telematics market.“To have people on the ground in Brazil, you need to have a local partner,” he says. “This is not an easy process.” But Atalla expects his company to have an on-the-ground presence in Brazil in time for the 2016 Olympics.
(For part one of this series, see Brazil World Cup and Olympics: Opportunities lost & gained, part I .)
Siegfried Mortkowitz is a regular contributor to TU.
For all the latest telematics trends, check out Insurance Telematics USA 2013  on Sept. 4-5 in Chicago, Telematics Brazil & LATAM 2013  on Sept. 11-12 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics Japan/China 2013  on Oct. 8-10 in Tokyo, Telematics Munich 2013  on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013  on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, and Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco.
For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013 , The Automotive HMI Report 2013 , Insurance Telematics Report 2013  and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012 .