Monday, March 26, 2007

300 million GPS phones by 2010

The mobile phone industry is set for a shakedown in 2007. IMS Research predicts that 300 million devices will be GPS-enabled by 2010. As more GPS chipsets become embedded in mobile phones, the growth of applications and services to offer the benefits of location to consumers are rapidly on the increase. 2007 promises to mark the dawn of compelling Location Based Services on mobile phones.
Wow! How does that impact those new European satellite systems, I wonder? Article here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Skyhook Wireless teams with SiRF for location-based services

From Darren Murph at Engadget:
It's quite possible that you're at least somewhat familiar with Skyhook's ability to use WiFi in order to track down various objects, and while you've likely become desensitized to SiRF after seeing it in just about every GPS / NAV device ever produced, the two are teaming up to deliver a GPS / WiFi hybrid module for wireless carriers. Skyhook's WiFi Positioning System (WPS) will be getting a boost after inking a deal to get inside SiRF's Multimode Location Platform, which "promises to boost the availability and adoption of location-based services." The new duo will join ACCESS (among the throngs of others) at 3GSM next week in order to showcase the new technology, which is slated to provide a new level of accuracy by giving handsets the ability to find your way with two tracking protocols. Additionally, the inclusion of WiFi is said to help lock onto an initial signal much quicker than a typical standalone GPS receiver can, and if all goes as planned, we could see the hybrid technology alive and well in SiRF's Star III series of chipsets "later this year."
One of the comments was:
Yet another really clever, geographical system that is USA only. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

VoIP Skype and Hutchison - breaking ranks

Some ramblings and meanderings: Following on from the last post, the bit where Alex wrote " However the aim is to make money – a powerful motivator in times of declining revenue from voice minutes, in the face of competition from the likes of Skype and other VoIP providers" a number of us have been waiting for a telco to break ranks with the others over mobile VOIP. Well, Hutchinson finally did. From the Australian Financial Review (AFRAccess member?) yesterday:
Hutchison Telecoms has revealed plans to launch a mobile internet voice service with Skype in a deal that will undercut mobile service revenues. The carrier's 3 mobile division will be the first to introduce Australian consumers and business users to a mobile -enabled version of Skype's free voice and over internet protocol (VoIP) software
I'm not sure why Mark Jones says that " Skype's mobile service, first launched overseas in November (2006)", as I am aware of it having been successfully deployed in Hong Kong since March 2005, perhaps he means first to go native to 3 mobiles? Was it middleware before - OTA and/or bluetooth?? Ah well, irrelevant. Soooo, anyway, what are the implications for the Australian telco market?
The strategy poses a direct challenge to Australian carriers including Telstra, Optus and even partner Hutchison as mobile phone users will be able to reduce the number of calls made over existing voice networks.
What does this do to FMC or FMT or whatever its called?

On a personal note, I became interested in Hutchison's 3G network in Hong Kong and worldwide while based in Milan in 2001 - a very very impressive company.

If the United Arab Emirates have protected local telcos by blocking Skype traffic, what will Australia do? When European telcos broke ranks and offered bulk SMS for less than 1/2 cent per SMS, the rest came down hard on 'em... back up to 4 cents now? I don't see Hutchison/Skype getting away with this. If you are sharing a 3G network with Telstra, you have to play nicely.

One final note - I like the final part in the AFR article about the long tail business model but that's probably a discussion for my other blog.

Telco blogs are going to be all a-twitter about this announcement. Betcha. And no, it's not directly related to location based services, but the implications are huuuuuuge.

Search on Mobiles

This is a brilliant article by young Alex Zaharov-Reutt:
Despite deals with Google and Yahoo, mobile phone operators want to create their own search engine, ensuring more of the advertising revenue flows to operators rather than the established search engines.

At the upcoming 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, a yearly conference put on by most of the world’s major mobile/cell phone operators, a new initiative is planned – a mobile operator search engine to compete with Google and Yahoo.

Given the mobile phone operators’ propensity to try and fence users into a walled-garden of content, questions are arising as to how good this idea really is, especially in an age where no-one seems to be able to outsearch Google – not even Microsoft after years of trying.

However the aim is to make money – a powerful motivator in times of declining revenue from voice minutes, in the face of competition from the likes of Skype and other VoIP providers.

In recent times, mobile operators seem to be trying everything and anything to make money, from mobile TV services, music download services and more realistic (cheaper!) roaming plans, as operator 3 mobile has undertaken with its ‘3 like home’ service, guaranteeing the same call rates as home when overseas, and when on a network also owned by 3 mobile.

Operators said to be in on the deal include 3 mobile (Hutchison Whampoa), Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telefonica, Telecom Italia and Cingular, amongst others.

If mobile operators can successfully create their own search engine, and tie it into location based services that ‘know’ where you are based on which mobile phone tower you are currently connected to, the dream of location based search and advertising becomes more real.

However this is already happening with ‘local’ search services from Google and Yahoo, and in countries like Australia where the major telco, Telstra, has their own search engine called ‘Sensis’ that is already heavily engaged in promoting localized search, both on PCs and on mobile phones that Telstra offers.

There is also the question of if the service is needed, if Apple’s plans to offer a real web browser in a phone come to fruition. Why stumble around with an underpowered mobile phone search engine when you can just go to Google direct?

After all, anyone using Microsoft’s Windows Live Search knows that while it has improved, it’s still no match for Google. Will the phone operators succumb to the same fate? Only time will tell, but unless their results can outdo Google, the search for mobile search success will likely continue for some time yet, and will consume untold millions of dollars in an age where what consumers really want is a dropout free mobile voice experience – with voice calling surely still the no.1 killer app for mobile cell phones!

You can comment on the original article here at ITWire, if you like. My take is that someone told Telcos that search was the next big thing and they thought it meant that THEY needed to create a search engine. Hint guys, its not the engine thats the next big thing... One small gripe - with all the services that come with location based services, why is it spam advertising that comes out in the same breath as LBS? There are other ways of making an income from LBS y'know.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Google Earth agrees to blur images

From my favourite Indian e-News, AlooTechie:
Google Earth agrees to blur images of sensitive establishments
When: 2/4/2007 10:24:24 PM
By Rajesh Barnwal

Google Earth has agreed to distort building plans of sensitive Indian establishments by adding structures where none existed or masking certain aspects of a facility. This is to address India’s concerns that images of sensitive military and scientific establishments available on the Web could either allow unauthorised snooping or become a ready reckoner for terrorists.

According to Economic Times, the government list of sensitive sites would be accepted by Google Earth and images of these locations will not be of more than 25-50 metre resolution. This is believed to be better than an outright blackout as blacking out key installations would only attract attention to their locations.

I bet there are some funny user generated images of what a "greyed" out image might look like. Maybe a greyed out target symbol?

Optus Find A Friend

Press Release, from Genasys I think, but here's the OptusZoo Friend FindA link :
Genasys LBS know-how helps Friends to Find Friends in Australia

Last month saw Australian mobile operator Optus launch Friend FindA, the latest in its line of FindA location based services. In this project, Genasys carried out the role of integrator, connecting the application to key operator systems and safeguarding the function of user privacy processes.

Friend FindA allows friends to find each other quickly and easily using their mobile phone*. Privacy is ensured through the requirement for mutual consent and the ability of users to make themselves “invisible” at any time. After a promotional period (ending September 30) during which the service is free, the application will be available on a per request and subscription basis.

The application itself was built using an existing application by Genasys partner Trackwell, who modified and extended it to provide the specific features set forth by Optus.

Friend FindA was integrated with several critical operator systems such as the location server, map provisioning system, SMS channel and the OptusZoo portal.

“We’re pleased with the results of the project and with Optus’ clear commitment to promotion among its subscriber base”, observes Miguel Castro, Genasys Asia and Pacific Sales Manager. “They are using all of their main channels of communication to promote the new service and we expect very positive results from their campaign.”

Having long been active as the middleware and ASP links in the LBS value chain, Genasys has made a commitment to the development and promotion of new location-based services, both with mobile operators and as a developer and ASP for third parties. “This is the first project of many we expect to be delivering in the coming months and into 2007. It is our position that LBS hasn’t nearly reached its potential and we’re focussing our efforts on making it happen.“ Mr. Castro comments.

For more information about the Friend FindA application, go to the OptusZoo portal:

MapQuest Find Me and Blackberry

From some site: (I don't know where they got it from originally)

MapQuest Find Me'’ Now Available for BlackBerry 7520

MapQuest Inc., Research In Motion (RIM) and Sprint today announced new group communication functionality for “MapQuest Find Me.” The GPS-enabled wireless service is now available on the BlackBerry 7520 Wireless Handheld, operating on the Nextel National Network.

“MapQuest Find Me” lets users automatically find their location, access maps and directions and locate nearby points of interest including airports, hotels, restaurants, banks and ATMs. “MapQuest Find Me” now allows users to share their location with colleagues, friends and family members as well as view the location of other users who have opted to join their private networks. Users also can now set up alerts to be notified when network members arrive or depart from a designated area.

“Location-based solutions are an important arena for MapQuest, and we are thrilled to introduce this exciting new group communication functionality to ‘MapQuest Find Me,’” said Austin Klahn, chief technology officer for MapQuest, Inc. “This development, along with the availability of ‘MapQuest Find Me’ on the Blackberry 7520, will help us further meet our goal to deliver innovative, more intelligent mapping solutions to our users, wherever they may be.”

Sprint customers using the Blackberry 7520 from Nextel can take advantage of the walkie-talkie technology along with support for wireless email, phone, organizer, Internet browser and corporate data applications. “MapQuest Find Me” complements these applications with intelligent, location-aware maps and directions.

“‘MapQuest Find Me’ is a good example of how the wireless data industry is evolving to support a wide array of applications beyond email and adding incremental layers of productivity and flexibility for users and companies,” said Mark Guibert, vice president, corporate marketing at Research In Motion. “The BlackBerry 7520 on the Nextel National Network, with its integrated GPS capabilities, large color screen, easy navigation and optimized performance, is ideal for the ‘MapQuest Find Me’ application.”

“As more and more people understand how location-based services can enhance their quality of life, we will continue to see the demand for unique variations of this technology,” said Mary Foltz, director of product management and development for Sprint. “We have a long-standing relationship with MapQuest and RIM and are pleased to extend this technology to our customers. The new ‘MapQuest Find Me’ service is another example of Sprint’s leadership in the GPS space, and we will continue to include it in our portfolio of wireless data solutions.”

The new functionality of “MapQuest Find Me” includes:

** Location-Based Group Communication: Create private networks where other “MapQuest Find Me” users, such as colleagues, friends and family members, can opt-in to exchange and share their current locations. Users can find their network members on a buddy list-type feature and view their locations on a map, right on their wireless device or online at a private web site.

** Alerts & Notifications: Set up alerts to be notified via SMS or email when users (who opt-in to share their location) arrive or depart from a designated area.

In addition to these new features, “MapQuest Find Me” continues to offer:

** Automatic Location Reporting: Leverage GPS technology to easily identify your current location without manually entering an address, ZIP code or other information.

** Points of Interest Locator: Find hotels, conference centres, banks, restaurants, theaters and other points of interest based on their proximity to your current location or any U.S. address.

** Interactive Maps and Driving Directions: Get interactive maps and text-based turn-by-turn directions to any destination in the United States.

** Convenient Address Book: Store addresses or points of interest to save time when you need directions again. Update your Address Book on the Web and automatically refresh information on your wireless device.

** Peace of Mind: Send your location as a text message to trusted colleagues, friends and family members or allow them to view your location on a private web site.

“MapQuest Find Me” is a part of the offerings provided and marketed through the AOL Mobile Group. “MapQuest Find Me” was developed in partnership between MapQuest and uLocate.

Humanware - LBS and GPS for the blind

Humanware offer services for the visually impaired:

Tools that empower our customers to compete effectively in a sighted world.

HumanWare is about empowering people. About innovative solutions. Putting the power in the hands of our customers.

HumanWare products are designed to last, to grow (and in many cases, to go) with the user. Giving them the independence to compete effectively with peers, to feel connected – to be a vital part of the global information age in which we live.

For some reason, I really like their website and its layout. I suspect that might be because what works for those who don't see too good, is also a sight for sore eyes for the rest of us...

PS I saw an article months ago about folksonomy (tagging) in Second Life to enable the blind to get around, virtually. I need that info (and Google has let me down) so if you see it, please let me know?

List of GPS products and services

GPS Receiver Manufacturers, System Integrators, Equipment Suppliers, and Service Providers
This listing is provided by the Canadian Space Geodesy Forum and the University of New Brunswick. by way of Richard B. Langley of Uni of Brunswick.