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How TomTom opened up for innovation

Rohan Pearce | Jan. 23, 2017
Building open APIs has helped TomTom create a developer ecosystem to extend and integrate its fleet management platform

"Suddenly you're talking about thousands or tens of thousands of developers," he said.

TomTom Telematics' other public APIs are LINK.connect, PRO.connect and OBD.connect.

LINK.connect allows the 'blackbox' tracking system and the in-vehicle communications hub to be connected to third-party devices. For example, it can be used to collate data derived from sensors or other accessories installed in a truck - such tyre pressure monitors or temperature sensors. That data can be used to deliver important information directly to a driver or to a dispatch centre.

"Take, for example, a transportation company delivering medicines that need to remain cooled," De Boer said. "You want to make sure that these medicines have been at the right temperature all through that trip."

Another example De Boer offers is hooking up a barcode scanner for service engineers, which could be the basis of a system that lets the next driver of a particular vehicle know what spare parts need to be replenished before he or she heads into the field.

PRO.connect lets developers access the Android-based TomTom PRo 2xx in-vehicle terminals, allowing them to create bespoke end-user applications that can be integrated with WEBFLEET.

The final API, OBD.connect, facilitates access to a vehicle's standard OBD (on-board diagnostics) port, which can retrieve additional data about a driver's behaviour and potentially provide them with feedback, via the in-car terminal, if they're over-revving their engine or hard-cornering.

The API has been used by insurance companies to record data used for crash analysis. The OBD.connect API means developers can feed OBD data into a mobile application, for example. In Germany, the API has been used to deliver an insurance offering that adjusts a driver's premiums based on their on-road behaviour.

Enticing developers

De Boer said lowering the barrier of entry has been key to building a developer ecosystem around TomTom's APIs. Making API documentation available free of charge and without signing an NDA, for example. Developers can start using the APIs without paying for a WEBFLEET subscription and purchase the hardware at a discount, he added.

"The thing with APIs is: How do you market them to developers? What are the key elements that make an API very attractive?" he said. "What we learned, first of all, is that you need to make sure that if someone develops something with your API, they are confident that what they develop is theirs.

"Sometimes you see with the more closed APIs that when partners develop something, suddenly that IP is owned by the company that created the API. That's not what we wanted to do.

"That's also what we learned from hackathons. In a hackathon, if some startup comes up with a great idea and creates a killer application with our API, then all that IP stays with those developers. They need to be confident that the IP remains with them so they can build a business out of it."


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