Saturday, March 24, 2012
Indoor location was discussed by Foursquare, Micello, aisle411, TCS, Skyhook, Glympse, and others at the GPS Wireless conference in San Francisco.
Nokia talked about their precise indoor location technology based on Bluetooth, which IndoorLBS reported on last year (read here.) Nokia is now in trials in stores where Beacons throughout a store that leverage Bluetooth 4 can send signals to mobile devices with Bluetooth 4 and identify a user's location to within 10 centimeters. Devices that have Bluetooth 4 include the iPhone (see here). With that level of precision, a vendor could present the mobile user with a promotion on a specific product when it is right in front of the user, and the offer could be targeted to shoppers based on past purchases or other factors. When the customer reached the checkout stand, the discount could be applied automatically, said Marc Kleinmaier.
TCS, the maker of Verizon Wireless's VZ Navigator, said indoor location would be most useful as part of a larger search and navigation system, helping users find their way to an address and then through a store to find a product.
FourSquare thinks indoor location would benefit its user experience. For example, the checking-in process would be simplified and more accurate with indoor location pinpointing the user to the actual venue he/she is located in, instead of listing a bunch of venues and have the user scroll through them to find it. However, the technology needs to go mainstream and be broadly available on all platforms first, said Holger Luedorf. Read more about checkin accuracy here.
Skyhook said indoor turn-by-turn navigation won't be the first killer app of indoor navigation. "Generally, the way you navigate isn't by looking at your screen and walking around," said Nick Brachet.
Micello said indoor location data could help retailers offer shoppers promotions, products and information at the right time and place. The technology is still too fragmented to be easily used across all venues, though it can be implemented consistently across one company, said Ankit Agarwal. In addition, Micello said they build all the maps and own the map data because the map becomes a way to influence that decision.
Aisle411 said the company is in discussions with large and small retailers that want to deploy indoor navigation networks using technologies such as Bluetooth beacons, said George Arabian. aisle411 already offers an indoor navigation app for iPhone and Android that helps users locate items on the shelves of some stores. aisle411 also offers an SDK for developers, see more here.
Glympse said it envisions consumers using indoor location to find each other in malls or convention centers. "In 18 months, I think that's going to be pretty commonplace," said Bryan Trussel.
CSR said the three main business cases for indoor location will be promotion, recreation or gaming, and emergency response, or a "personal OnStar" system on phones instead of cars, said Kanwar Chadha.
Indoor location capabilities are expected to be implemented at the chip level, as IndoorLBS wrote in its article, 2012 Will be the Year of the Chips for Indoor Location, here.
Check out the Indoor LBS report with over 100 pages covering 120+ companies working with indoor maps and indoor location, here.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
In Japan, mobile carriers, now equipped with the technology to accurately track children inside and out, offer parents the ability to “geofence” their children’s surroundings. “You can have a child monitoring service,” says Norman Shaw of Polaris Wireless. “You build a geofence around your home or your child’s school or a mall, and if they go outside the environment by more than 50 metres then you, as a parent, receive an SMS.”
Slealthier parents need not even bother the carrier. The Mobistealth website continues: “With Mobistealth Spy Software, you can track their movements in real time, secretly activate the phone to listen in on the surroundings, and monitor all communications including texts, pictures, videos, browsing history, and even recordings of calls. With pricing starting around $.50 a day, Mobistealth is one of the wisest investments any parent can make for the protection and safety of their children.”
Leaving aside what many might consider the irrelevant privacy wishes of the child, when does this type of surveillance spill into ethically murkier territory? When it is in the hands of a jealous spouse, a paranoid employer, an obsessive admirer?
Of course, one can extrapolate out arguments against almost any type of technology on the grounds of its more irresponsible applications – like blaming a crime involving a beer bottle being smashed on a person’s head on the Egyptians for inventing glass. But Tristian Lacroix, boss of location based services consultancy, IndoorLBS, says far from being a small concern on the periphery of the scene, security and tracking are a driving force behind the proliferation of these indoor services.
Nevertheless, he believes the privacy argument has already been won. “It is a non issue,” says Lacroix. “Facebook and Google are already aggregators of information. This is the environment we live in.”
This Facebookification of people’s lives, he believes, has already won the argument against privacy campaigners for ever closer methods of reaching a person whether they are inside a building or out.
For digital natives, not having a Facebook account risks making them or their business an irrelevance, says Lacroix. The implicit understanding is that this creates a social contract which ties the user into this new paradigm. Users do not just understand their relative loss of privacy, they encourage it for the new applications it brings.
This is not an ethical standpoint, rather it is a fact; a technological fait accompli. And it is one of the pillars upon which indoor location based services are set to be propped in the coming 12 months.
Usually, it will be voluntary. The same geofencing scenario described by Shaw, is already being used as a dating service, with the likes of Skout or Grindr alerting users when people are in their area. Both of these services, for straight and gay communities respectively, boast many millions of subscribers. Shaw believes these kinds of services, pioneered by developers in South Korea, will become ever more present in the West in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Lacroix talks about the democritisation of location accuracy, as the chipmakers invest in making hardware which will affordably facilitate indoor LBSs. “This will be the year of the chipmakers,” he says. “We can already make an application accurate enough to tell you what product you are standing in front of in a shop. But this does not necessarily come cheaply.
“The volume chipmakers will change this.” It will, moreover, be the driving force which pushes indoor LBS up that most exciting left hand edge of the bell curve. This will inevitably create the much promised proximity-based retail applications inside shopping centres and airports. Google, says Shaw, has already teamed up with Starbucks to make shoppers’ lunchtime coffee a little more affordable.
But for Lacroix, it will be the platforms upon which these services will be built which will be the most interesting battle.
Google is already the biggest player in the indoor mapping world. But Lacroix says there is hostility to the search goliath’s reluctance to share any of its data. He envisions a situation where application makers can build as many cool gadgets as they like, but as the gatekeeper to the mapping service, Google will simply hoover up all of the advertising revenue, which will be all the more valuable because it will be so well targeted.
Start-ups like Micello and Point Inside, both of which are busily mapping malls and airports, are prepared to make revenue sharing deals with the venues and vendors. A recovering economy, thinks Lacroix, will persuade venture capitalists to make the investments which will ignite the creativity.
An interesting avenue, he thinks, will be growing sophistication in the kind of personal assistant pioneered by Apple through its talking Siri app. In this scenario, your assistant might know you drink double espressos every day at 8.30, realise you are close to a different vendor with a tempting 20% off offer, check you have time in your diary, then suggest you turn right to head there.
Perhaps it might even recognize you are being covertly followed, and suggest you put your phone in the bin.
See the IndoorLBS Report for over 120 companies involved in the indoor location services business here.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
The prevalence of location-based services has been rising over the past few years, but they have yet to venture into the place where people spend 80% of their lives: inside buildings. Startups and large corporations alike are racing to build the infrastructure to make indoor LBS possible. Players in indoor mapping and indoor positioning technologies including Point Inside, Micello, Google, Qubulus, BuildingLayer discussed the future of indoor navigation.
EchoEcho unveiled a new version at SXSW that finds your friends indoors, where GPS doesn't work. Imagine being at the Austin Convention Center with 10,000 people. You know your friends are in the building somewhere but you can't find them. EchoEcho plots your friends on an indoor floor plan map, in real time, so you can find them with pinpoint accuracy, within 2 meters. A Stanford startup, WifiSlam provides the indoor location maps to EchoEcho. Both companies have been building this functionality in stealth mode. This weekend at SXSW in Austin people will be able to use it for the first time.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Indoor location services are poised to be the next hot mobile service with its ability to enable smarter mobile offers and more accurate local searches and offers too many advantages for mobile technology companies to pass up.
Apple wants to deploy a service that can help engage with customers inside retail venues by offering offers based on user's behavior and preferences, i.e., search history, indoor location, product price, and NFC. Apple's recent patent filings and patents acquired from Xerox dating back to 1998 indicate Apple's interest in location based services for serving relevant ads/offers to users. Apple also wants iPhone users to be able to receive other relevant content such as restaurant menu when user approaches the restaurant.
Amazon wants to predict what customers might want to buy by tracking user's location, including inside stores or malls. Amazon's latest patent indicates Amazon is interested in user's movement patterns to be able to engage with customers on their next shopping trip by serving relevant offers. The patent says, “by analyzing the recent movements of a mobile device user among stores in a shopping mall, it may be determined that a particular store is a predicted next destination for the mobile device user.”
For more, see the market report on the Indoor Location Services industry. Click here.