By on September 30, 2011

Quick, what’s the point of having a navigation system in your car? To get where you want to be going, right? Well, IBM has another idea: maybe instead of taking you where you want to go, navigation systems should be offering to take you where a paying advertiser wants you to go. Say, right past their shop, for example. Popular Science quotes from one of IBM’s patent applications

Conventional route planning systems determine optimal routes based on different preferred conditions, including minimizing travel time or minimizing the distance traveled. By focusing on optimal route determination, the known route planning systems fail to consider non-optimal routes whose presentation to travelers may have value to other parties.

So, it’s not quite to the point of your nav system saying “I can’t let you not pass a Starbucks, Dave,” but in the future your navigation could strongly suggest that, rather than going to the farmer’s market, you stop by the supermarket that happens to pay IBM the most.

PopSci explains

The system would work by collecting fees from retailers, which would then be used to assign a preferential weight for certain way points along a given route. IBM software would figure out a new route that incorporates that way point, and present it to the driver as the “recommended route.” This sub-optimal route couldn’t be too inconvenient — the patent application discusses limiting how far out of the way a recommended route could go — but it might not be the most direct route, nor the fastest. If the driver does actually take the fee-inspired route, then IBM could levy an additional fee for this successful misdirection.

Because sometimes it’s not best to focus on solely serving the end-user. Especially when “third party” firms will pay big money to redirect the hapless end-user to their products. It’s almost as if IBM has learned a thing or two from Automobile magazine

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32 Comments on “IBM Studies Navigation That Takes You Where The Advertisers Want You...”


  • avatar
    Rental Man

    Navigation routes today always try to put you on a toll road even when not needed. Others take you to the worst parts of town. Just add this to our misery…

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    It’s at this point I go back to printed maps. Sadly, there are enough people out there stupid enough to think this idea is cool so the next step will be, if you want to buy a GPS that takes you were you want to go, you will have to pay a premium… That is going to suk!

    • 0 avatar
      Mellow

      Why the whining? You think you ever get a service for free? Who are you kidding – somebody has to pay the freight. Either accept the free service with whatever burden it takes to pay for it, or pay your own cash for the most direct route. That is called liberty. There is no free lunch, there is freedom to pay or freedom to watch commercials, like on cable TV.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        The satellites broadcasting the GPS signals are taxpayer supported and the map data can be obtained from government GIS databases. The core of the navigation industry is supported by taxpayer funds.

      • 0 avatar
        JKC

        +10 for MCS. Neither IBM or the any of the GPS receiver manufacturers built or designed the GPS system. To subject the taxpayers and end users who did pay for it bad navigation data to enrich a corporation is wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        Mellow

        What is taxpayer supported is the facility to derive raw location data – latitude and longitude. Try getting to grandma’s house with that. The maps and Nav and all the rest is provided at great cost by “corporations.” You either pay for all that work and value added one way, pay another way, or do without.

        Or cry about “greedy corporations” and sound like a child who wants his cookie and does not want to pay for it.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        In the US, this kind of nav system cost offsetting is probably a decade late. I mean, a no strings nav can be had for, what, 50 bucks?

        Come to think of it, even in the third world, anyone who can afford a car, can easily afford a non encumbered nav system.

        Which, in my estimation, leaves, tah-dah, rental fleets….

      • 0 avatar
        ixim

        Mellow: Free lunch? I, taxpayer, paid for the GPS satellites and their continued upkeep. When I bought my Nav., I again paid for hardware and software to make use of said birds. I resent having advertising/marketing, for which I never asked, included. It’s IBM and their customers who are grabbing a freebie here. Go rant at them.

    • 0 avatar
      Mellow

      This should be easy to understand. Let’s try an analogy. When you go to the supermarket, you can pay five dollars for ice cream, or pay four dollars and use your affinity card. You trade the data on your purchases for the discount. Even an idiot can grasp the math, no? Do you believe that those Google or Mapquest maps are free? Somebody has to pay. You can choose – ads or cash. Information may WANT to be free, but it never is.

      Ixim, you may never have asked for ads, but denying the provider of a commercial service his fair return is a childish attitude, and besides, it will not work in the long run. Latitude and longitude is all your hardware cost and taxes paid for. Maps and Nav software must be paid for by somebody.

      If you don’t wanna pay, you don’t gotta get.

      • 0 avatar
        ixim

        Mellow, let’s try once more – my Garmin is no over-the-air TV set receiving ad-supported content. It’s a hardware/software package that I paid good money for designed to make useful, to me, data that I’ve already paid for via taxes. If IBM wants to monetize that in any way, let them offer to pay me for it. Since my POI feature has millions of Starbucks, etc., in it, who needs them, anyway?

    • 0 avatar
      Mellow

      Fair enough Ixim, but then don’t complain when you no longer get traffic reports, when new ramps are built or closed or other changes take place and your previously paid for Nav fails to update because you refuse to pay. Then when you are asked whether you want to pay ten bucks for an upgrade or will take it for free, with some “enhancements.” Then you will have to make an adult choice, since right now you seem to be willing to pretend that all these things are free.

      • 0 avatar
        ixim

        My updates cost me $100 a pop. Which I pay every other year. Not so free. And, at that price, there should be no ad of any kind. Of course, I used to think that about cable TV, too.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Just another way to steer the sheeple!

    Every internet search site has already gone down this path. Look where the Amazon and Ebay results end up . . . always near the top of Search Results Page 1, coincidence???

    • 0 avatar
      tallnikita

      not really, your search engine is likely giving you the sites based on your recent use, recent searches.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        Yeah, most people have little sense of how search engines really work, and mistakenly think the first listings are always the best or most reliable ones.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        I’m under no illusion about how search engines work. But I find it more than coincidental that when I search for something (even something that I have never searched for before), in the top ten (non-sponsored) results are Amazon and Ebay listings for that item.

        This was not the case when I used to use Yahoo back in the late 1990s (before the web became so highly commercial).

        One of my wife’s friends can’t even find her way to our house (2 miles away from Microsoft headquarters in a neighborhood that has existed since the 1970s) because her GPS unit sends her endlessly around a very large city block (and yes, she will actually go round and round several times until she finally gives up and calls, about an hour after my wife and I start looking at each other wondering what happened to her).

        I’m with Larry the Luddite above that prefers an actual hard-copy map. I actually enjoy the mental challenge of figuring out where something is on my own. And when in doubt, I just call. I would rather talk to a real person than listen to a synthesized voice coming out of a box. The really sad thing is that many young retail sales people have no clue how to tell you where their place of business is located!

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        i drove down to como, italy, last weekend for a haircut… using the voice feature on the gps system… given the high volume of pedetrian, bike, mofa, and crazy italian drivers, i sure was glad i didn’t have to divert my attention to fuss around with a map or look to a display!

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        I would actually personally prefer it if 99% of the population gets herded along crowded commercial corridors.

        Back in the day before Nav, many California backroads were basically virgin, unspoilt racetracks for the taking. Ripe for anything from balls out hooning, to top speed testing. Since there were pretty much no cash cows ever traversing them, it simply wasn’t worth vile to set up donut shops out there.

        Then, as Nav started appearing, I could literally follow it making it’s way downmarket. First running into Luxury cars, then limited edition Minivans, and now pretty much every make and model car out there. And with the prey came of course the predators.

        Thank goodness for a state too bankrupt to pave its dirt roads. And the Raptor….

  • avatar
    ixim

    Ah, yes, another innovation in the application of scarce research resources! That’ll show the Chinese! Let’s see, do those corporate payments to IBM for inclusion in the Nav. programs count as advertising, product R&D….or, what?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Does it trouble anyone that IBM, one of the big pretenders of the ‘Smarter Planet’ movement, wants us to waste our time and gas to drive their revenue stream?

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      Not that much. I’m way more troubled by a company that prides itself on “not doing evil” while hoovering up every bit of your personal data at every opportunity, though.

  • avatar
    alluster

    that’s my employer guys! reserving comment hehehe.

  • avatar
    sfbiker

    The next step after this is to create a sponsored model, that the company gives you for free, but you’ll have to contend with sponsored routes, pop-ups, audio commercials that get played through your stereo over top of your music, etc. You go to a Starbuck’s once, the nav system knows you’ve parked next to a Starbuck’s for 10 minutes, and then every time the car approaches any Starbuck’s, a voice comes through your speakers saying: “THERE’S A STARBUCK’S UP AHEAD! WHY NOT STOP IN FOR OUR NEW PUMPKIN VANILLA MACCHIATTO WHIP FRAPPE? YOU’LL LOVE OUR NEW PUMPKIN VANILLA MACCHIATTO WHIP FRAPPE!” And you’ll have to touch a button that brings you back to the music you were playing through your iPod. The same thing will happen when you drive past a McDonald’s, a Wendy’s, an Exxon station.

    I’m getting really tired of having to mentally block out commercials. It’s enough to make me want to become a luddite.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Whatever happened to having the billboard change to a relevant advertisement, like most web sites have managed to do? This was all the rage back in the late 90s as we were supposed to graduate from e-commerce to u(as in ubiquitous)-commerce.

  • avatar
    Mike the Dog

    I’ve always relied on my map-reading skills over nav programs, even when using mapping software on computers and smartphones. This isn’t likely to change anytime soon, from the looks of things. My question is, who’s going to pay for all the extra gas used during unnecessary side trips to the advertisers’ locations? The advertisers? Somehow I doubt it.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    the weighting system to establish priority of getting your business mentioned sounds like a modern-day “protection racket”…

  • avatar
    slow-rion

    I’ve been wondering about this concept for some time. It is a matter of when, not if, this type of feature is incorporated into nav. I wonder if towns bid for routing now. Particularly small towns on the way to tourist destinations. Think about the boon to one towns businesses for a route to say, cape cod, in the summer. Manufacturer nav systems will be the first to adopt this, they will get the nav for free from google or whomever cutting there costs on a pricey option.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Wonder how much IBM could charge for having the black box GPS’ cops love affixing unannounced to innocent Americans’ cars, route Ponch and Jon past the nearest Donut shop while in hot pursuit? Nothin’s so bad it ain’t good for something….

  • avatar
    stuki

    “Because sometimes it’s not best to focus on solely serving the end-user”

    And from that insight, sprang an entire branch of pseudo economic quackery, centered around howling about externalities…


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