Tencent improves its orientation on digital mapping

May 07, 2014 15:26
Tencent's latest app Lu Bao can monitor a car's battery status and emissions. Photo: Tencent

Tencent Holdings (00700.HK) is trying hard to catch up on digital mapping technology, where it is lagging behind other top Chinese internet firms.

Beijing-based NavInfo has revealed that Tencent will invest 1.17 billion yuan (US$188 million) in the mapping service company to become its second largest shareholder.

This is not the first time Tencent has invested in a mapping service company. Last December, Tencent acquired Linktech Navi Technology, also based in Beijing, for 60 million yuan.

Mapping technology is becoming increasingly important as internet firms adopt the online-to-offline (O2O) business model to offer dining options, taxi hailing and other location-based products and services.

In the most updated version of its instant messaging platform Weixin, Tencent has combined its scanning function with street view maps as well as Dianping.com reviews. After users scan a particular street, they can receive data from merchants and Dianping reviews for shopping and dining choices in the area. This function is similar to scanning a QR code and then receiving internet links.

Tencent has also launched an application called Lu Bao {路寶} that can connect to an automobile’s onboard diagnostics system. The new product not only provides the driver with a navigation function, it can also monitor the car's battery status and emissions while relaying traffic situation updates.

Earlier this year, Alibaba fully acquired its long-term mapping partner AutoNavi, NavInfo's chief rival, for US$1.13 billion.

Both Alibaba and Tencent are vying for a bigger slice of the mobile mapping market, but Baidu is still the largest player in the field. The search behemoth controls 54 percent of the market with about 246 million users, according to Yicai.com.

It's not only in China where intense competition in the mapping industry is happening. Google on Wednesday unveiled an updated version of its Google Maps application with enhanced navigation functions. It also has added taxi-hailing app Uber, which provides a convenient way for users to call a cab while using Google Maps at the same time.

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EJ Insight writer