The Promise Of Mobile GPS And Location - InformationWeek

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IoT
IoT
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Commentary
11/21/2007
05:53 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
Commentary
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The Promise Of Mobile GPS And Location

If 2007 was the year of smartphones, then 2008 promises to be the year of mobile location. Consumers and business users want GPS and other location services on their smartphones. But what does 2008 really hold in store?

If 2007 was the year of smartphones, then 2008 promises to be the year of mobile location. Consumers and business users want GPS and other location services on their smartphones. But what does 2008 really hold in store?In order to get a better handle on this question I sat down with Darren Koenig, Director of Wireless, Internet, and Telecom, for Tele Atlas.

Over The Air (OTA): Hello Darren, welcome to Take 5 on Over The Air. We've heard a lot about GPS and location in recent weeks. What is Tele Atlas? And what makes its GPS services so unique?

Darren Koenig (DK): Tele Atlas is the world leader in key segments of the navigation market, including portable navigation, wireless/LBS, emergency services, and fleet-based services. Our digital map database enables consumers to find destinations, guides travelers with landmarks, and provides accurate data. We're also technology leaders: we hold more than 33 map-related patents, and we've constantly adding innovative new features to our database, such as 3D landmarks and city maps, that differentiate our partners' solutions.

The Tele Atlas advantage is about helping consumers find more of the people, places, and products they want, wherever they are. Our partners, including the world' leading developers of navigation solutions, trust Tele Atlas to deliver the freshest, richest, most accurate digital map and dynamic data. Our comprehensive map database spans more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, including more than 26 million kilometers of roadway, 825+ million addresses, and more than 28 million points of interest (POIs) worldwide.

OTA: 2007 was the year of the iPhone. Will 2008 be the year of GPS? Or is the mobile market still not ready for GPS?

DK: We believe the market is definitely ready for GPS... and there are certainly going to be a lot more GPS systems sold this year than iPhones!

The installed base of devices is significant and growing. We're at a point now where we have terrific growth from a percentage standpoint, but we're also working from a significant base number -- millions of people pay for GPS services today and there are tens of millions of GPS-enabled handsets out there right now.

And it's hard to turn on the television, read a newspaper or magazine or surf the Web without seeing an ad for GPS devices or GPS-enabled vehicles. So awareness is building, which will drive demand.

In fact, Tele Atlas recently conducting a survey of "tech savvy" consumers and we found that 84% of the people we asked said they wanted GPS on their handsets -- this was the second-most popular function or device enhancement behind only a camera. It was well ahead of other things like MP3 playing or TV viewing capabilities.

And most significantly, our survey found that handset users were willing to pay for GPS functionality. Which is a positive sign for device manufacturers and application developers.

OTA: The new BlackBerry smartphones include GPS and location. Is BlackBerry innovating the market for converged GPS services?

BlackBerry has always taken a very intelligent approach to marketing. Having locked up a significant portion of the smartphone market, they're always watching for emerging trends and new services they can embrace and add to their platform -- that's why so many new BlackBerries now offer the new BlackBerry Maps application. It's a simple download that's free to the consumer and the user is off and running in no time. One of the great things about the BlackBerry Maps application is that is integrated with other BlackBerry functionality like the address book.

OTA: Where does Tele Atlas fit into the GPS market with the arrival of new giants like Google and Nokia?

DK: Google and Nokia both use Tele Atlas products and both are placing a big emphasis on location services. More and more handset manufacturers and content companies are realizing that location information is key…it provides the fundamental context for delivering valuable mobile services.

OTA: What kinds of new, unique applications is GPS enabling on mobile devices that we didn't see on the desktop?

DK: There are all kinds of solutions that are perfect for mobile that would never have been compelling on a desktop. Take available parking spots, for example… wouldn't it be great to know where the closest open spot is? It's not so helpful when I'm sitting at my desk, but it's incredibly valuable when I'm getting close to my destination.

There are lots of other applications out there where knowing your location provides the context for new types of information. Three of the coolest new applications I can think of come from the finalists of the "maps in Apps" contest Tele Atlas held recently as part of its "LBS Innovators Series."

The first is Slifter, which allows shoppers to search local store inventory for products from their handsets. Users can search for more than 85 million products available from 30,000 retail locations, view product information, images and store locations and maps. They can also share their finds with friends or save them to a mobile shopping list.

Hollywood USA is a tour guide features movie locations across the country with added GPS deployment on the uLocate -- WHERE platform. Each site includes location photo and address, scene and plot description, stars, director and DVD cover image.

KnowledgeWhere PhoneTag Elite incorporates location-based mapping and messaging technology to create a hi-tech game of hide and seek. Players can play with anyone across the United States by participating in existing games, creating private games with friends, or participating in cash tournaments. Objective of game play is to capture your target while evading capture.

At a conceptual level, we think the future of LBS is all about extending the definition of an "address" beyond a house or an apartment -- "where I live" -- to include any temporary physical location -- "where I am right now."

In addition to the applications I just described, others will capitalize on this by enabling the on-demand delivery of goods and services -- a pizza to a couple sitting on a blanket in a park, or a replacement windshield to a car in a specific parking space in a giant mall parking lot, for example.

OTA: As more smartphones become GPS-enabled, privacy is becoming a bigger issue. How do you address these growing concerns?

DK: Tele Atlas is a more of a facilitator than a direct player in the privacy issues created by location-based services. We help the device manufacturer determine where the user is, but we don't actually touch any of the user data or identifying information. We provide context for that information.

But our observation is that the entire industry has been extraordinarily careful about user privacy -- erring on the side of protection in most, if not all cases, and devoting considerable resources to ensure user anonymity.

As in any other "connected" context, users should be made aware how and when their information is being used, and given the option to opt out at any time. Of course, when a user downloads a free LBS application that makes money for its developer through advertising, that's a popular enough business model by now that you have to believe most users understand they are giving up some privacy for the value they receive from the use of that application.

OTA: Does GPS pose new security challenges for the enterprise?

DK: On the contrary, GPS can solve a lot of security challenges for the enterprise.

One of the biggest business benefits of GPS is that it allows for the easy tracking of valuable assets. Assets can be goods en route, the vehicles themselves, and even your mobile workforce. So not only can you ensure you'll never lose a shipment or a vehicle, you can also ensure that you have the right worker in the right place at the right time.

The applications are numerous -- 'geo-fencing' to ensure that shipments stay on course and alert headquarters when they go astray, and GPS-enabled phones that allow field workers to call for help and always be found by emergency responders (to name only two) -- all of which enhance security for the enterprise.

OTA: Let's dive into one vertical market for GPS, fleet management. Will GPS-enabled, consumer-grade smartphones, like the BlackBerry, revolutionize this market?

Absolutely -- we see it happening already. These smaller, more portable devices make a range of new applications possible and can extend this functionality to more and new classes of users.

The high level goal of any resource management solution is getting the right goods and services to the right place at the right time with quality and efficiency. The basic applications of digital mapping and GPS technology to address these challenges include:

* Tracking * Geofencing * Dispatching * Scheduling * Route Optimization

Tracking Location awareness using GPS with digital maps is an effective approach to tracking resources that are critical to field service. Whether you are monitoring vehicles, mobile workers or inventory, knowing where your resources are at any given time is key to optimizing asset utilization. GPS receivers are generally imbedded in either black boxes under the vehicle dashboard, in mobile data terminals with 2-way communications capabilities affixed to the dashboard or within cell phones.

Geofencing With tracking comes the ability to set travel boundaries such that when a mobile asset ventures outside of a predetermined zone an alert can be automatically sent. This can prevent unauthorized use of company vehicles for non-business purposes and to make sure a field service technician is where they are supposed to be. In addition, geofencing can be used to proactively alert customers when a worker is arriving. For instance, a geofence can be set for a 5-mile radius around a customer premise. When the field worker crosses the geofence a phone call, email or text message can be automatically generated to notify the customer of the arrival of the worker.

Dispatching Responsiveness to critical customer service needs is important to mobile resource management, especially in environments where every minute a serviceable asset is malfunctioning leads to cost increases or lost revenue. GPS and digital map data can facilitate the dispatch of a field service worker. Remember, it is not necessarily to closest worker in terms of point-to-point distance, but one-ways, turn restrictions, traffic and other factors must be accounted for in dispatching solutions.

Scheduling Calculating optimal schedules is a very complex task for which there is no perfect solution. Complex mathematical algorithms are used to factor in many constraints, including technician skills, geographic proximity of jobs, traffic, shifts, etc. An efficient schedule system can help maintain high service level agreements. Route Optimization With pressure to improve workforce productivity by adding more stops per day, it is important to avoid excessive driving due to sub-optimal routing. If done correctly, windshield time can be minimized through a logical sequence of stops which avoid crisscrossing town all day. The most efficient series of service calls in a multi-stop environment is a processing intensive exercise making full use of geographic information databases.

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