Kakao joins navigation app market with Navi

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Kakao joins navigation app market with Navi

Kakao, operator of the nation’s leading mobile messenger app KakaoTalk, has launched Kakao Navi, nearly nine months after it absorbed popular navigation service provider Kimgisa.

With Kakao in the navigation market, the competition that had been led by SK Telecom’s T-map and Naver is expected to get tougher.

Kakao said on Wednesday that its best feature is a system that allows users to share information. The company said Kimgisa’s traffic information collection system gathers real-time details, including ongoing events and traffic conditions. Users can share their current location, destination and expected arrival time to people registered as KakaoTalk friends. Through KakaoTalk, friends can receive texted directions to a destination without downloading the navigation app.

“Other navigators operate based on information collected through satellite, but Kakao Navi provides the nation’s only web-based navigation,” a Kakao spokesman said.

Kakao said the app also features emoticon characters used on KakaoTalk. On the navigation app, the familiar characters are displayed when a person has arrived at a destination or when they are en route. The service also has 18 voices used by Kimgisa, including the voices of popular animated children’s character Pororo and celebrities from TV programs.

“We also tried to add more accuracy,” a Kakao spokesman said, adding that details on about 1,400 roads, including narrow alley areas, have been updated to provide more precise arrival times. The company said an average 1.5 million people can access the traffic information per day.

Prior to the app’s launch, Kakao said it increased its total server capacity and upgraded its systems. In order to do that, 210,000 drivers of Kakao Taxi provided traffic condition information for 24 hours. Using that information, Kakao said it can offer faster service than others, as it can send back the collected details to users every minute through its communications networks.

“Simply said, Kimgisa got stronger after it met Kakao,” said Park Jong-hwan, manager of the Kakao Navi Team. “Just like we used information collected from Kakao Taxi, we will try to utilize information collected from other services.”

BY KWON SANG-SOO, PARK SU-RYON [kwon.sangsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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