GPS Wireless Conference 2006 - Whats in the name?
March I attended the 10th annual GPS Wireless
Conference in San Francisco. More than 200 mobile information
professionals from the largest automobile manufacturers, wireless
carriers, mobile electronics vendors, homeland defense and computer
companies met for this two day conference. The conference covered
topics ranging from mobile markets, wireless location services and
mobile resource management, to the automobile as a mobile information
A good question to pose is whether GPS Wireless is an appropriate
name for the 2007 conference. In the last several years we have seen an
explosion of consumer GPS products: telematics systems, LBS
applications on cell phones, GPS-enabled PDAs, and novel GPS products
such as pet finders have flooded the marketplace, with new products and
applications announced almost daily. Likewise, public awareness of the
potential utility of GPS has increased. The entrance of both Microsoft
and Google into the GPS and mapping market has helped accelerate
consumer understanding and adoption of location technology. This is
also causing a major demand among users of LBS technology to show what
is around me. In a word, GPS is the generally accepted term used by
consumers to describe all location-enabled products and applications.
Whats interesting is that GPS is not even the position-enabling (or
location-enabling) technology inside many of these new location-aware
applications that are getting a lot of traction these days. Moreover,
Google and the other online mapping consumer websites are a disruptive
technology for GPS because they dont require the use of GPS.
Users can self-provision by entering a street intersection.
Alternatively, users may select an application like Google Local or
Microsoft Live Local, which uses Wi-Fi for location sensing to the
nearest access point.
So what would be a good name, one that would encompass all possible
location-enabling technologies? Names like ubiquitous / pervasive /
sentient computing are already common among computer and AI scientists.
Many of you may recall that OGC changed its name from GIS to
Geospatial to reflect its work with location services, sensor
networks and other areas in need of location-enabling technology. Just
as market forces have dictated the broadening of the scope of work of
the OGC (which reinforced the recognition that OGC must exist within
the larger IT and enterprise frameworks, and that there are many
applications other than "just GIS" which create and use content with a
location element), will market forces also require a name change for
Okay, back to whats important in 2006.
Marketplace Optimism and Reality in 2006
Device content infrastructure is starting to have location embedded in
it. Will this be the impetus for the location-awareness revolution?
Regardless, the optimism for LBS is greater than ever. Just look at
TeleNav raising $30 million and Networks In Motion closing $10 million.
Carriers are finally looking beyond E911 compliance and developing
infrastructure to support LBS. Nextel (now Sprint Nextel) led the way
with ViaMoto several years ago and Verizon just introduced VZ
Navigator. Among data users of the Sprint Nextel network, 34% expressed
an interest in advanced GPS applications. So, the good news is that
progress is being made and LBS activity is increasing. Nonetheless, the
revenue for wireless carriers from LBS services will be in the area of
$167 million in 2006, (not billions!). The reality is that LBS partner
programs, business models, sales and marketing strategies are still
Another important reality is that LBS application uses, requirements
and customer expectations are still not understood. Also, a
representative from MapQuest pointed out that consumers dont see
mapping as a lifestyle choice (most adoption stops at ring tones and
games). MapQuest is currently working on transitioning 47 million
captive users from PC to mobile devices, where users dont have to
print directions, but send them to their phones using a link at the top
of the MapQuest.com website page. There is no doubt that such
developments will promote mapping and LBS to the mass market.
The optimism in 2006 for LBS also comes from better map data in terms
of accuracy (both geometric and temporal) and coverage. Tele Atlas gave
an update on their newest Mobile Mapping System (MMS) technology,
acquired from GeoInvent (I consulted for GeoInvent), enabling real-time
database updates from the road. The MMS technology capabilities feature
360 degree visibility for increased quality, detail and greater
accuracy. Tele Atlas takes advantage of this technology, especially in
cases where no sources of data are available to meet their
specifications, which is when they go directly into the field.
The other reality in 2006 is that privacy, indoor coverage and market
awareness are still the pending issues. Many consumers are dissatisfied
with the low position accuracy their GPS devices provide when in cities
(not to mention indoors). A truly useful service should tell them where
they are - whether they're outside or inside a building. The LBS
industry has been pondering the reasons for slow LBS adoption in the
marketplace. How about this reason - LBS fails because it does not work
where people are: indoors and in cities. GPS is great, but not
for many of the end-user/consumer-facing and 'local' applications that
will prove to be the backbone of the LBS market.
Some attendees did inquire about the convergence of GPS + WLAN + other
local positioning technologies for outdoor-indoor seamless positioning
capabilities. The key benefit of using WLAN over GPS, besides better
accuracy in cities and indoors, is that WLAN positioning technologies
avoid the location data control and integration issues with carriers
and mobile handsets, respectively. One presenter, from Rosum
Corporation, was an eye-opener, announcing the availability of a chip
that integrators could incorporate into devices, which highlighted
their advancement towards market readiness. It still may be a while
before we see products with Rosum inside, but it is a something to be
looking into as it may impact innovation and development within the
industry and further the adoption of location-enabling technologies for
outdoor and indoor needs
A-GPS was clearly the dominant positioning technology at this years
conference. Which positioning technologies will dominate in 2007?
A-GPS, WLAN, RFID, TV or others?
Whos your competitor in 2006?
The expert panel pointed out that the biggest competitors remain
Microsoft and Google. Attendees were advised to establish partner
programs, business models, and sales and marketing strategies with the
What would you change for 2007?
During one session attendees were asked, What would be the thing that
you would like to change, so it takes off next year? Replies ranged
from GUIs, to system engineering, to marketing, to interoperability.