3 min

Why Robust Offline Capabilities Remain Vital to Modern Navigation Solutions

Connected navigation already delivers huge gains for drivers but offline capabilities remain as crucial as ever to the platform’s future – here’s why.


25 Apr, 2023

In the world of modern navigation, connectivity is seen as a panacea. Big picture and a connected vehicle can receive the latest map and POI data sets over the air, ensuring the driver always has access to the most up-to-date information. Zoom in on individual journeys and a connected vehicle can optimize routes on the fly, highlighting traffic hotspots and re-rerouting drivers if required.

Such functionality is massively beneficial, cutting journey times, reducing driver frustration, and saving money on fuel as well as reducing CO2 emissions. On the face of it then, the need for a navigation system to have robust offline capabilities can be seen as ‘old tech’, even ‘Jurassic’, in a world now touted as ‘always online’.

Limited coverage

Stepping away from such hyperbole though reveals two significant challenges that, if ignored, risk leaving drivers stranded. First, an internet connection is required to access connected features with vehicles typically needing a 4G LTE or 5G connection to go online.

However, while 5G continues to be rolled out across the globe, there are still countries without access – or with only limited access – to 4G. In countries that do have access to a mobile broadband network, there are serious coverage gaps in rural areas. For example, in the Americas, 22% of rural populations have no mobile signal with an additional 4% only able to access a 2G network.

Secondly, of the 1.5 billion vehicles worldwide (including one billion passenger cars), only 15% are actually connected. While it is predicted there will be over 400 million connected cars by 2025, that still leaves potentially over one billion vehicles without any internet connection.

Solutions (with caveats)

Combined, this lack of coverage and connected vehicles means offline navigation remains vital – but which nav platforms are best suited to drivers without a connected car or coverage in their area? The current ‘darling’ of the navigation scene are the sat nav apps offered by Silicon Valley.

Fully connected and often online-only, these apps, are often acclaimed for their real-time capabilities, but the apps’ offline feature sets can struggle to deliver as they do not feature full onboard functionality. Also, while maps can be downloaded beforehand for use offline – in some cases, at a cost – this still requires a reliable internet connection and enough storage to download and store the relevant map data in the first instance, and doesn’t allow for use of some online-only features such as real-time traffic and parking.

Always-on, everywhere

The alternative is hybrid-connected navigation that offers a more comprehensive, reliable, and flexible solution. As an embedded solution, all relevant map data sets are either already stored locally on the car head unit or relevant sections are cached to the navigation client to save storage space. Drivers can access a fully featured and reliable nav solution at all times. Importantly, the best embedded solutions offer a dedicated fall-back option that is ready to step in and take over automatically if network coverage fails – or is not accessible via their vehicle.

Crucially, drivers do not need to worry about storage issues, unexpected data charges and unpredictable download speeds. Instead, the best in breed solutions provide all relevant map and POI data sets from the day the vehicle is purchased, usually with a free update within 3 months of purchase. These solutions can also be updated physically at dealerships, if required, to ensure drivers in areas with no connectivity still benefit from the latest map data.

Back to the future

Most importantly, an embedded system is always present in the vehicle, its functionality only a fingertip away. There are no wires, suction cups, or ‘erratic’ Bluetooth connections to fret over; embedded solutions simply work.

This means drivers can rely on a system that performs effortlessly day in, day out – no matter the connection or location. And it’s why NNG will continue to provide comprehensive offline capabilities in all our offerings. No matter how ‘connected’ the world becomes, we believe drivers must never be left at the side of the road because their ‘connected’ nav solution let them down when they needed it most.

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