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TomTom maps identity management savings

Mark Chillingworth Profile picture for user Mark Chillingworth April 5, 2023
The consumer arm of TomTom needed to simplify its identity management estate


TomTom is a byword for car navigation devices, but as the automotive industry caught up with the Dutch device maker, inevitably, TomTom digitized its business model. You can still buy a TomTom device, but an increasing number of customers are using TomTom apps on phones. 

Delivering digital services to devices, mobile phones and tablets requires not only strong identity management, but identity management that can cope with the vast array of devices and browser types that travellers may be using. 

This led to a strategic change in identity management strategy for TomTom; its initial strategy was a single identity management tool set to serve both its automotive business (the division that programs the in-car navigation applications) and its consumer division (navigation apps for mobiles). Hans van Leijen, Director of Applications at TomTom explains the new route he has taken with identity management. 

TomTom was founded back in 1991 and pioneered navigation software in the mid-90s before launching its device in 2004, and by 2006 via an acquisition, TomTom not only told drivers where to go but where the traffic jams were too. By 2017 TomTom, again by acquisition, entered the autonomous driving sector, which could well revolutionize transport. 

Today TomTom has three business lines, automotive, providing navigation applications that are embedded into vehicles from the likes of the VW family and its brands Audi, Skoda and VW, BMW, Citroen, Fiat, Mazda and Nissan, to name a few. The consumer business provides navigation apps for Apple and Google Android operating systems. While the enterprise business serves other business customers, large and small. Director of Applications, van Leijen, says: 

Since 2008, we were already selling services as well as maps, so that business model was already there as the device market declined. 

As is the way with navigation, sometimes it is important to look at the map and change the journey. TomTom had implemented a customer identity and access management (CIAM) tool set across all of its technologies and services. However, as van Leijen discovered, this didn’t suit the needs of the consumer division. He says: 

We were not happy. It was expensive, and we had to build separate instances for each business unit, and this was impacting the stability and our ability to deliver operational health. So we decided we wanted to re-implement identity management for the consumer division and to focus on simplicity and to be more stable.

That simplification was about more than the technology requirements; simplification would also bring about a business benefit for van Leijen and team. He adds: 

Most identity management products are licensed per user, and if you are an online business, that becomes prohibitive. So our business case for the reimplementation was to make the infrastructure vastly smaller and use a product that is licensed on size of infrastructure.

An expensive identity management product can create complex infrastructure. The consumer business has lower margins, so it needs to be less costly to operate.

Those costs were exacerbated by the diverse environment that the consumer applications have to operate within. Users are accessing TomTom applications through a variety of operating systems and devices, which the identity management application has to support; van Leijen says: 

In consumer, we are dealing with all types of browsers and web standards, and these change all the time, so you need a platform that has all the bells and whistles.

This contrasts with the automotive sector where other than an OEM label that is right for the brand of vehicle; the technology is essentially the same, he explains: 

On the automotive side, it is less about complexity. The software on the car changes less, but the challenge is volume as the cars collect the traffic data at the same time, eight in the morning.

The consumer side of TomTom was therefore contending with web browser and operating system diversity, whilst the automotive business contended with data demands - two very different identity management challenges, van Leijen adds: 

In automotive, we have to build customized services with long timelines and high service levels.

Choosing and following a route

Having realized that the consumer business needed to chart its own route, van Leijen went out to the identity management market. He explains: 

We did a broad market scan, and WSO2 came out high on the list for functionality; we also revalidated the choice a couple of times during the implementation. We also looked at Microsoft and some software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. 

The big guys were too complex to implement, while the SaaS offerings were not rich enough to support all the various login flows. WSO2 is a challenger and open source and therefore more affordable.

The core licensing model instead of per-user licensing made a case for WSO2 at TomTom and its digital consumer business. In terms of implementing WSO2, van Leijen says: 

WSO2 was in a sweet spot of not being too bulky to implement but rich enough for all our use cases that we have to support.

Initially, TomTom worked with fellow Dutch firm Yenlo for the implementation, and van Leijen says demand for Yenlo and the global technology skills shortages meant the programme took longer to reach its destination than he would have liked. The TomTom team also had to develop a way to change user profile associations in the database if a user wants to change their profile association to a different email address; a common user expectation. This was not supported in the WSO2 technology. 

Since completing the implementation, van Leijen says TomTom has reduced its licence costs and has a more stable identity management environment, achieving the business aims he was driving towards. 

My take

Digital businesses often operate at lower profit margin points yet require more complex technology estates; these two challenges are central to the role of business technology leadership today, digitising the operations whilst always keeping an eye on the bottom line of the business. TomTom and van Leijen are an example of how a sector, particularly a technology-oriented sector, quickly changes from devices and services to largely services and needs to monitor and adapt its enterprise technology estate to keep pace with the new digital demands of the business. 

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