Capturing Speed and Location Yields New Applications

By Joe Francica

TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. (TCS) has received a U.S. patent for geographic monitoring that provides information on when a mobile phone or device user enters or exits an area, as well as the speed of that user. This type of "geofencing" can be used to provide an alert to a third party indicating that a user has entered or exited a specific zone. The technology would be useful in location-based advertising, security and a variety of other fields.

The patented technology is part of TCS's XYPoint Location Platform, a Secure User Plan Location (zip file) (SUPL) compliant solution used by carriers and operators for navigation, 411, and fleet tracking applications. TCS built the technology around assisted-GPS (A-GPS) to help determine a more precise location for carriers using TCS's location platform. The captured data, it turns out, includes values from which a velocity vector can be calculated. Once analyzed, the vector offers both a user's precise location and the speed at which he crossed into or out of a geographic area.

According to Drew Morin, TCS's chief technology officer, the patented technology is already built into TCS's existing products. The next generation of applications that will take full advantage of it has not even hit the streets yet. TCS is already prepared as these applications mature and the carriers identify how to monetize the services.

"When we look at the wireless carriers, especially in North America, they are fairly experienced with location from Federal Communication Commission's E911 mandates, and because North America has a substantial base in CDMA [technology from Qualcomm] there is lots of location technology already in place," said Morin. "But the challenge is in developing the business case. Multimedia and text messaging are exploding, but now that these are playing through, we are seeing the next phase which is the location enablement. [Location] is an absolutely unique characteristic of the mobile user. The operator has the ability to use location to provide many useful services. What are the obvious applications? Put location on a map. Points of interest applications, for example, and then, of course, we are seeing growth in navigation. If I can get the velocity vector as well as location, I know whether to send you driving or walking directions. On the cusp is how location is being used in social and advertising applications from the standpoint of couponing in a way that is more valuable to the consumer. Because the application knows whether the user is going highway speed or walking, better targeted ads could be sent."

We've seen this type of application come and go with the hype that surrounded some of the early ventures in location-based advertising. What's new this time around? Morin said, "Everyday, more manufacturers are announcing SUPL-based handsets...everybody is getting into the party. In 2008 the devices will be there. And 2008 will see a broader deployment of these types of technologies."

TCS is betting that creative minds will take this technology and build applications that we have not even thought of, as yet. Morin sees additional applications in asset management, security, government and intelligence. Although accuracy is still limited to within 5-10 meters for most A-GPS applications, it may be possible to do better in the future.

Published Friday, February 15th, 2008

Written by Joe Francica

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