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Trafficmaster preps mobile phone drive

Info firm launches beta for smartphones

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The biggest mobile data user in the UK is just about to discover phones.

Trafficmaster is expected to announce its smartphone offering in a couple of weeks and is currently recruiting beta testers here.

It’s Windows Mobile only at the moment with BlackBerry and S60 to follow. There are no plans for Android, and iPhone is too locked down by what Apple lets you sell.

With over 80,000 users on dedicated hardware you would have thought that wouldn’t have taken five years for Trafficmaster to make the jump to mobile phones, but it seems that the lack of phones with built-in GPS has held them back.

It’s a shame because the unusual thing about the Trafficmaster software, called SmartNav, is that it uses an often forgotten mobile phone technology: voice. You can faff around with touchscreens and favourites if you want to enter a postcode, but what makes SmartNav that little bit different is that you set the destination by talking to a real person.

When you use the application to make a call to the operator (or Personal Assistant in Trafficmasterspeak) the phone sends your location, derived from the GPS, to the PA. You say where you want to go and the operator gets the system to calculate the route. The call then switches from voice to data and a turn by turn route is downloaded over the air into the phone.

The route includes traffic information and if the traffic changes while you are en route an update is sent. You pay a monthly sub, for the call and for the data. A pay as you go option will follow. There is no extra charge for traffic updates. The beta testers get the application and 90 days of usage free.

Trafficmaster typically supples traffic data to car fleets and other data services, from a network of 7,500 traffic sensors. The service reckons its network covers 8,000 miles including all the UK's motorways and 95 per cent of its trunk roads. Which presumably means it won't be able to warn you that a GPS-spoofed Czech lorry driver is currently blocking the B road to your country cottage. ®

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