Tyler Suiters:

Hey everybody. With the Consumer Technology Association, I'm Tyler Suiters. We are the owners and producers of CES, the most influential tech event in the world. And we are here to help you get CES ready. The show is January 11th through the 14th, 2021, an all digital show. This is a first for CES. But this will still be a platform to help exhibitors connect with new and existing audiences from all around the world. Yes, CES 2021 will be a new experience, but you'll get a front row seat to discover and see the latest technologies from across the globe. It's a highly personalized experience. You will see a global event from the comfort, from the safety of your office, or your home.

Tyler Suiters:

The key topics, I think you know them well by now. If you go to CES or pay attention to the show, applications of AI, 5G, vehicle tech, smart cities and resilience, digital health, drones, and today a bit of an amalgamation of all those topics that are helping drive the story of tech for good. Now, you know personally, and perhaps from a business sense, too, how tech is helping us all throughout the pandemic, keeping us connected with loved ones, productive at work, learning at school, and entertained, and let's not discount that last one, let alone forget that digital health and being connected with our doctors and healthcare providers is also enabled through technology.

Tyler Suiters:

Today is a conversation with a global company, HERE Technologies. This is a group that is focused on location technology and has clear applications, not just for businesses, not just for consumers, but for the overarching idea of technology for the greater good. So, today, a conversation with HERE Technologies' Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer, about location technologies applications today, and where they're going in the future. That's all in this edition of CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters:

Jorgen Behrens is Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer of HERE Technologies, and he's joining us from across the pond today. Jorgen, great to have you with us. Thank you so much.

Jorgen Behrens:

Thank you, Tyler. Great to be here.

Tyler Suiters:

Let's dive in with a bit about HERE Technologies. Because the need, the tech sector role, the innovation that you're delivering, all of those are quite clear but the organization itself can be a little bit confusing to outsiders. So, could you dive in with an overview of HERE Technologies, the makeup, the goal and some of the big name partners that you have that make you such a global entity?

Jorgen Behrens:

Yeah, sure. We're the world's largest provider of location technology. The company was founded in the '80s. Started out by making, actually printing maps in a kiosk in the airport for people who rented a car and went on to digitize the world's road network. We now cover 200 countries and I think we make ... Our map contains about 55 million kilometers of road. Over time, we built location services and other platform, location platform assets on top of the map.

Jorgen Behrens:

We're independent and for a while part of Nokia, and in about five years ago, the company spun out of Nokia and is currently privately held by a consortium of car manufacturers, but we also have a number of other shareholders, notably Mitsubishi Corporation Entity from Japan.

Tyler Suiters:

Let's talk a bit about the automobile manufacturers that you briefly referenced, Jorgen, and the fact these too are global brands and to hear some of these names associated with your company elevates a status, but I think also raises recognition that location technologies are so critical to the future of the auto sector.

Jorgen Behrens:

They are. Maps and traffic and other location technologies have always been a very important ingredient to the kind of in car experience. Car companies consider their entertainment system and their navigation systems to be core benefits of their products, and even more so in the high end vehicles. About 10 years ago the industry started working on autonomous driving technology which is still largely in the process of being developed. It's about to come to the market, and they have location technology and location data as a very crucial component in them, as well. The automotive industry is highly interested in maps and highly interested in location tech.

Tyler Suiters:

Maybe we should back out a little bit, Jorgen, about location technology itself, and yes the auto industry has remarkable applications, both currently and future for what this can mean, and the self-driving vehicles, brilliant, right? But location technology is something that we as everyday consumers are not just familiar with today, but have been familiar with for quite a number of years, right? I mean, this is a rapidly evolving sector, but it also, it comes in as a touchpoint for many of us at a very basic level.

Jorgen Behrens:

Yeah. It's very true. It's part of the fabric of everything we do and quite a lot of technology problems and quite a lot of business problems have a location component. Maps have been around obviously for a very long time. My country, the Netherlands, was a seafaring nation and have very good maps, and that was one of the ingredients of their economic success. They're still crucial enablers of so many things we do.

Tyler Suiters:

Speaking of the real world applications, I don't think we can talk about the state of technology today at the end of 2020, moving into 2021, without talking about the pandemic and what that has meant, not really at a business level per se, but at a technology level. The fact that tech is keeping us productive at work, educated through school, connected with friends and family, entertained as well. The list goes on, in touch with our doctors. What has it done for location technologies? I mean, how are you adapting to the pandemic at a technology standpoint in terms of where you are moving forward and what this can do?

Jorgen Behrens:

We see a number of interesting developments in our use cases, in our markets. Obviously what's happened is that consumer mobility has decreased. People are moving around less, they're driving less, they're using less public transit, they're traveling less. In part of our market usage of mobility and thereby also location technology has decreased, but we actually see a tremendous increase in its application in the supply chain and also in logistics and especially in the last mile delivery sector. The massive increase in online shopping, food delivery, and other services being delivered to the home has led to a lot of growth in that part of our customer base and a lot of demand for using our location technology to make those operations more efficient and more scalable.

Tyler Suiters:

So, if we could narrow that scope down a little bit, Jorgen, what about HERE Technologies' specific response to the pandemic? Let's go back to say spring of 2020 when our world changed, some would say forever.

Jorgen Behrens:

It probably did, yeah. What happened is that we saw all around us, I'm sure you saw the same thing, but many small businesses had to switch to a model where they had to deliver goods to the home. We realized that we had this technology in-house, we have this ability to help large fleets plan their routes and plan their distribution of jobs across the fleet, and that that could be applied actually to also the needs of small businesses. We created an application called WeGo Deliver, which is a web app that is free to use for small businesses around the world, to which they can upload their jobs from say eCommerce platform or whatever system they use.

Jorgen Behrens:

What they get back is essentially a tour plan. A recommended sequence of delivery and distribution of deliveries across the number of vehicles or bikes or whatever mode of transportation they have. We've seen some really heartwarming use of this. As one example, the Salvation Army in San Francisco used it to deliver 5000 meals over Thanksgiving and again over Christmas. We've seen some tremendous contributions from the community including translations that are being done by some HERE employees. All of this was initiated by our engineering team, really without any guidance. They just kind of figured out a great way to quickly make this technology available to small business owners.

Tyler Suiters:

How do businesses leverage location technology? You made a reference earlier, Jorgen, to business applications. Beyond self-driving vehicles, what are the real areas of evolution that you at HERE Technologies see for location tech in businesses?

Jorgen Behrens:

We look at a number of different mega use cases. One of them, a very significant one also for us today still in our business is the embedded navigation use case, infotainment system in the car. The automotive industry is investing heavily in autonomous driving, but also driving assistance features that make the car more safe, and allow the driver to be slightly less attentive. Beyond the automotive industry, the second biggest sector that we see opportunity in and we get demand from is transportation and logistics, particularly in the management of supply chains and the visibility of where goods are in the supply chain, as well as in let's say fleet management. The operation of large fleets of vehicles. Last mile fleets, but also trucking fleets are massive operations that like all operations, seek to become more and more efficient. Those are really location problems.

Jorgen Behrens:

Another area that we see demand in and growth in is planning of infrastructure. Notably, telecoms infrastructure, so 5G networks need line of sight, meaning that their planning has to take into account where buildings are, where trees are, where location objects are in the street. That data is kind of crucial enabler to planning the networks. We also see use cases in planning road infrastructure or subterranean infrastructure, or other types of infrastructure. Lastly, there is a lot of opportunity for us in public sector and also in public transit, as well as the mobility providers, the companies that are providing ride sharing, ride hailing, and other mobility services.

Tyler Suiters:

I love the line you draw back to the Netherlands as a seafaring country and a dominant world leader in that sector, and you pin it to maps, right? And this may be a ham-handed comparison, but bear with me please. Back then, 17th century, 18th century, you talked about the advantage of having good maps and what that meant to trade on the water. But if you have a map that is drawn for and by say shallow bottom boats, that can present a problem if you were to use these long haul transports with deep drafts, they might not be able to navigate some of those waterways. So, there's a parallel as I see it, to present day in that as much as we all rely on GPS, we're not all driving the same vehicles. We don't all have the same needs.

Tyler Suiters:

And I recently saw news coverage of an issue that you all are dealing with, which is long haul truckers. Big rigs, heavy loads, who are relying on for lack of a better term, every day GPS to get them where they want to go, and not all roads are ready for trucks that big, or loads that heavy. That's an area where HERE Technologies really excels, right? In addressing problems like that.

Jorgen Behrens:

Yes, that's true. A map is a kind of complex thing. It's obviously when you think of it, you think of maybe the road network and street names, and places, address, points of interest. But the reality is that the map as we produce it and also disseminate it, has hundreds of attributes for each section of road. Including the types of lines on it, the number of lanes, the speed limits, the restrictions, the term restrictions, the slope, the elevation. In our case, we have a lot of attribution that's specific to commercial vehicles or trucks, who have to take account of just as you say, things like bridge heights and restrictions in terms of the number of axes or the weight that certain parts of the road network can carry. When you do navigation or route planning for a truck, you need to do that based on truck attribution in the map.

Tyler Suiters:

How do you take these products from vision to reality? Maybe another way to phrase is, Jorgen, is how does HERE Technologies approach the innovation process and creating what is out of what is possible?

Jorgen Behrens:

We always start with the customer's problem. Usually there is a need to create a certain efficiency or to solve a certain business problem or to create a new opportunity to do something differentiating. We try to work with the customer to collect let's say the components from our platform and our location data asset, that they can use to solve their problem. We find that many of these problems are repetitive in the sense of multiple companies have the same types of problems, and the same type of solution can work in different contexts. We try to redefine these solutions from the primitives of our platform.

Jorgen Behrens:

You mentioned earlier the heavy rig trucks. We would think about obviously having the right attributes and the content, we would think about having maybe a traffic product that is specific to that use case. We would have a routing algorithm that particularly looks at truck attribution, but also at the performance of a truck. Maybe this company is trying to solve routing at a fleet level. It doesn't just have one truck, but it has a number of thing, and it needs to decide which truck carries which load and what the most efficient way is to get every package or get every job completed, given the fleet they have. We try to create the services and the building blocks that customers can use to essentially solve their business problems. That's where we start from.

Tyler Suiters:

I want to play off that, Jorgen. I hear again and again that HERE Technologies is solving problems. Brilliant. It's a necessary and innovative approach. So, what are the problems that you see that are solvable in the next 3-5 years, as far as where location technology can evolve and the impact it can make on B2C, B2B, B2G? All facets really of where we're going as a nation, really across the world.

Jorgen Behrens:

Well, I guess most businesses, especially B2B businesses, solve problems.

Tyler Suiters:

Successful ones, yes.

Jorgen Behrens:

Yes. And very often let's say with a financial component, with a business case underpinning it. We see a number of significant challenges. One that I talked about a little bit earlier is autonomous driving. The drive that the car companies have is to make their cars autonomous in a way where the vehicle can drive itself without the driver paying attention, so level three autonomy, which is almost there. The first car with level three autonomy, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been announced for the middle of next year.

Jorgen Behrens:

It'll have level three autonomy features, it'll be able to drive whilst you watch a Netflix movie, or listen to this ... Not just listen to this podcast, but also maybe look at a slide deck at the same time. That's been a huge challenge for the industry to solve. 10 years ago everyone thought this would be possible eight years ago, and five years ago everyone thought it would be possible two years ago, and it's still not quite there yet. Just because of the tremendous complexity of getting such a system built, but also getting it certified, making it safe, and obviously thinking through the regulatory implications and making sure that customers can depend on the system like this, and actually will feel comfortable taking their eyes off the road and their hands off the steering wheel.

Jorgen Behrens:

That's for sure a very significant challenge and it's not over by any stretch of the imagination, because the amount of road in which you can drive autonomously will increase. The speeds at which you can do that will increase, and obviously beyond cars, autonomy has to come to trucks, it has to come to maybe drones and other modes of transportation. I think a second really significant problem that we're solving is how to make last mile delivery more efficient. We're all ordering much more online, we're all ordering in food. Many more businesses are actually delivering, businesses that used to depend on customers coming to them now have to bring goods to their customers.

Jorgen Behrens:

In the pandemic we've seen lots of small businesses do this, so this is a problem that doesn't just exist at the scale of let's say the massive providers like Amazon, but also at the scale of your local restaurant or your local store. Those operations can be made vastly more efficient by ... And also more environmentally friendly by improving let's say the arithmetic of how you actually distribute work across the fleet and how you route the vehicles during the day. But also where you park them and how you take care of the last meter to the door inside the apartment complex, for example. There's a lot to be improved there, as well.

Jorgen Behrens:

I think the third area that may be of high interest is the whole consumer space, where customers are ... Consumers are using maps and location technology more and more in many, many apps, and many more services are being made available on smartphones that have a component of location, that have location, that have maps as a canvas really, and the sophistication of those applications is going to increase massively, as well.

Tyler Suiters:

Yeah. You bring up a good point that I find especially interesting and it's often forgotten, Jorgen. That is the location technology is an aspect of "tech for good" but in the sustainability side, this has a true environmental play to it, right? When we reach a certain-

Jorgen Behrens:

Absolutely.

Tyler Suiters:

... amount of self-driving vehicles on the road, or just the efficiency of delivery through location technology.

Jorgen Behrens:

Absolutely. First of all, I think there's a strong drive in the automotive industry to get down to zero accidents by building more and more systems into the vehicle that protect the driver and protect the car and protect everyone around there. With autonomous driving will come also lower accident rates and lower human cost of what mobility is today. The second important aspect is obviously environmental footprints, so we see a tremendous increase of demand and supply for electrical vehicles. Not just in passenger cars, but also in commercial vehicles, which bring its own location problems, essentially around how to avid range anxiety and make sure that you route optimally, given the requirements to also charge the battery.

Jorgen Behrens:

And then if you ultimately, if you're a big retailer or a big logistics company and you operate a fleet of vehicles and you have to drive fewer miles, then you're also causing less environmental footprint. As a side effect of optimizing the economics, you've also reduced the effects of pollution.

Tyler Suiters:

Right. All of which is remarkably beneficial, exponentially so in fact. So, Jorgen, I asked you about a five year outlook. Let's look at the the shortest term we can, and that is most immediately in front of us, is CES 2021. What can we expect from HERE Technologies at the all digital show?

Jorgen Behrens:

This year's going to be a very interesting experience and I'm sure for you, as well, Tyler. I've been to CES for so many years in a row. My early January trek to Vegas has been there and so it's going to be very, very interesting to do this all in the virtual world. I think for us we're trying to emphasize the themes that matter to our customers and matter to our industry. Autonomy, the need to optimize last mile logistics and other parts of the supply chain, and also the consumer experiences that can be part of location technology.

Tyler Suiters:

Yeah, and to the extent that CES tells a story every year that every company today is or needs to be a technology company. Location technology is clearly a part of that blueprint for any successful company moving forward, right?

Jorgen Behrens:

Yes. I think we've seen CES change, as well. It used to be that the Geneva Motor Show was the biggest automotive event, and now it feels like CES is the biggest automotive event. I think the profile of CES and with it obviously which is a reflection of the profile of the tech industry has really let's say moved in our direction, in the sense with location tech and mobility and in car experiences have become a much bigger part of what CES is about, which is a reflection of obviously what's happening in the technology industry more widely.

Tyler Suiters:

Jorgen Behrens is Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer of HERE Technologies, and Jorgen, you're right, we're going to miss you in Las Vegas in 2021, but have a fantastic CES all digital show this year and let's all plan on getting together again in 2022.

Jorgen Behrens:

Thank you, Tyler. I look forward to that, as well.

Tyler Suiters:

And that is a wrap for this edition of CES Tech Talk. Do yourself a favor, subscribe to this podcast and that way you won't miss any episodes as you're getting ready for CES 2021. Speaking of, the big show is January 11th through the 14th. You can get the latest announcements, news, all the information you need at our website, CES.tech. That is CES.T-E-C-H. You know, CES transcends what we think of as a traditional tech industry. This is a show where companies find a platform to show how they're embracing technology and evolving their businesses. Companies large and small have a platform at CES, and we very much want you to be CES ready.

Tyler Suiters:

Now, none of this podcast would be possible without the stars of our show. Executive producer, Jennifer Drogus, assistant producer, Kristin Nemeroff, and our senior studio engineer, John Lindsay. You all are the best in the business. I'm Tyler Suiters, let's talk tech again soon.

 
 

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