AMSTERDAM, June 30 (Reuters) - Digital map maker Tele Atlas announced on Monday a deal to supply Google Inc GOOG.O for five years that will also allow it to tap the expertise of Google's users by having them point out errors in its maps.
The 2.9 billion-euro ($4.6 billion) acquisition of Tele Atlas by Dutch navigation device maker TomTom TOM2.AS already gives it data on road conditions gathered by TomTom and feedback from its millions of users to improve maps.
“We have access to the TomTom community, which is the biggest navigation community, and now we have access to the Google community, which is the biggest Internet-based community,” Tele Atlas founder Alain De Taeye told Reuters.
Tele Atlas’s new chief executive, Bill Henry, said a user of Google Maps or Google Earth could correct map errors or omissions, such as missing street names, and this data would be supplied to Tele Atlas as an additional data source.
For Google, the deal means a guaranteed source of maps for its desktop and mobile map applications as Navteq Corp NVT.N, the only other digital map supplier with a global reach, is being bought by cell phone maker Nokia NOK1V.HE.
Tele Atlas has stressed the importance of data contributed by users manually or automatically -- it effectively turns the owner of a navigation device into a surveyor.
Owners of TomTom devices already submit about 10,000 corrections to maps every day. Many drivers also allow the company to gather anonymous data from their devices on how fast it is possible to drive on a given road at different times of day -- information that can be used to improve routing.
TomTom has amassed 1 trillion data points, equivalent to driving every road in Europe and the United States a thousand times.
Henry would not comment on financial terms but said Google would become a “much more important customer” and that the deal would create more opportunities for Tele Atlas online.
“One of the key growth areas for Tele Atlas ... is the Internet,” Henry said.
The map company generated just 8 percent of revenue from its fast-growing wireless and Internet business in 2007.
Tele Atlas said it would not have access to Google’s database of mobile phone network cell IDs, which Google uses in its maps application for mobile phones to estimate a user’s current location.
De Taeye said he expected real-time, turn-by-turn navigation applications to be available for Apple Inc's AAPL.O iPhone despite reports that Apple's rules for developing iPhone software appeared not to allow it.
“We are making sure that navigation is an application that is allowed,” De Taeye said. “If there is any restriction on the platform, that indeed has to do with the restrictions that we have in our contracts. Navigation is allowed, provided that the right fees are paid.”
Royalties for real-time navigation are higher than for maps that are just used to display a static location. ($1=.6353 Euro) (Editing by Braden Reddall)
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