News from CTIA

By Joe Francica

The question is not if but when, will LBS become a reality." This same statement was made coincidentally enough, by both Tele Atlas's Kiyoshi Hamai, Vice President and General Manager of LBS and by Kees Van Loo, ESRI's manager of Telecom and LBS in separate interviews I had with them on March 18, 2002.

Not surprisingly, these are not the only companies asking this question.However, that has not deterred any of the GIS companies now voyaging into this market from making the investment.In fact, Autodesk Location Services admitted that is exactly what they are doing in hopes of someday reaping the benefits of what was once known as a the "killer app."

The CTIA show represents an interesting dilemma.Location is important but how much value does it bring to the average person using wireless handsets.Do "family finder" applications represent a gold mine or merely pennies that GIS firms will probably not see anyway? In fact, more than likely, many current GIS companies will not participate in consumer applications but rather remain focused on niche applications in the B2B space.Mr.Van Loo stated that "you will see ESRI providing core technologies in every market except consumer." Perhaps a wise approach given the over hype of the last year and the as yet defined applications in the consumer space.(See Jim Vandermeer's article in Directions' January 16 issue)".

There was one application in the consumer spaced that I found compelling and which many of you have already seen.Wherify's Personal Locater, a device aimed a child safety as well as victims of Alzheimer's disease.The device, to be worn on the wrist, offers parents the ability to locate their child anytime or for their child to issue a security alert.A web-based map solution can send a signal to the personal device and return a location.Wherify hopes to find a more robust solution that provides better accuracy between the integration of a map base and aerial imagery.Its current application is based on MapInfo's MapXtreme and GlobeXplorer.

But, clearly, the opportunity for GIS companies appears to be in leveraging existing technology to their best advantage instead of chasing the consumer market.Eli Rosner, Chief Technology Officer of Autodesk Location Services see the benefits in offering Autodesk's years of expertise in GIS to LBS application developers."We want to leverage the Autodesk developer's network...We've built a framework that makes it very easy for application developers, which is one of our target customers, to develop applications very rapidly." Autodesk's core technology, LocationConnect has been used to deliver such applications as BusinessConnect, DirectionsConnect, FriendConnect, MapConnect, and EntertainmentConnect.

But who is driving the application development? The wireless carriers (Sprint, Cingular, AT&T)? Location capture companies (SignalSoft, Intrado)? GIS software developers (ESRI, Intergraph, MapInfo)? Mr.Rosner says the carriers are coming to Autodesk looking for technology.Paul Mundinger, Global Account Manager for SignalSoft says, "The carriers want to get more out of their investment and their looking at multiple ways to do that and I think that's why we're in a very good position to help educate them.There are potentially multiple different ways to generate revenue; advertising or usage-based revenue, because they are over the hump of platform investment; they've got the building block of the application and incrementally to add certain services."

LBS is in the very early stages of market development.Truly, no one has a handle on which applications will add significant revenue.Yet, as we may see at the GITA show, the utility and telecommunications industry is and has already seen, for several years, the benefits from field force automation and the deployment of location services in the form of GPS/GIS integration.

Published Tuesday, March 26th, 2002

Written by Joe Francica

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