November 27, 2005

Globalsat SDIO GPS Receiver

Posted in Gadgets and toys at 11:44 am by siddey

Taiwan’s Globalsat has released the SD-502 GPS receiver. Designed to fit into your PDA’s SDIO slot, SD GPS receivers have been available for a couple of years, however, this new release is more efficient, compact and rugged than its predecessors.

If you are interested in extending your PDA’s capabilities to the world of LBS, consider one of these devices instead of the more common Bluetooth variety. This integrated option effectively means one less thing to carry around in your pocket (or to lose under the seat of your car). The device comes with 512MB of on-board storage so that you are not deprived of memory capacity (another improvement over earlier GPS-only SD products).

At less than AU$250, this is a good option for extending the life of your existing PDA. Just add map software to get up and running with in-car satellite navigation at less than the price of buying a new PDA based navigation device.

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World of mash-ups

Posted in Articles at 9:49 am by siddey

The number of Google maps mash-ups online increases at a rapid rate. To keep an eye on this promising LBS genre, I recommend bookmarking Google Maps Mania.

http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/

November 15, 2005

Google schmoogle – Australian telco targets world domination

Posted in Articles at 10:53 pm by siddey

Australia’s largest telecommunications firm, Telstra, has today released its vision for moving beyond mediocrity into a new era of profitability. This vision is one in which it is claimed that Telstra has more to offer in the Online search space than the likes of Google.

Delving deep into the myriad of powerpoint presentations and transcripts, there are few highlights, especially for the 10,000 workers to lose their jobs over the next three years. I’m impressed that a company which will lose 10,000 employees and still stay functioning, actually knows they have 10,000 employees to sacrifice. Clearly their HR department gave up counting years ago and opted to install turnstiles at the door. Mind you, “10,000″ is an impressive sounding number. Much more so than “1″ or “42″. All I hope is that included in that number there are those responsible for Telstra’s arguably self-destructive focus on extracting ridiculous returns from business customers and for forsaking the Australian public.

In my opinion, innovation is a lost art in their world. Like the large Australian banks who in the 1980’s gleefully slashed branch numbers and hiked fees to grossly enlarge their bottom line, only to reverse the trend in recent years, hoping their customers would forget, Telstra is now also implying a focus on customer service.

Any glimmer of hope that Telstra would open its Sensis division’s location services technology platform (WhereiS) to the general development community were crushed today, as the company sent a clear message that it will stop at nothing less than solo, World Domination.

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I admit that the idea of World domination is appealing to me and Telstra’s new CEO, Sol Trujillo seems to think so too. I personally would have put my money on opening up LBS technology to the general community a la Google or Yahoo! style as the way to achieve this but who am I to tell the company who has lost 25% of their market value in three months what to do. Google’s massive profits and record share price are surely beginner’s luck!

Telstra’s vision for its Sensis division seems remarkably boring, unimaginative and lacking any of the public appeal (or detail) of LBS initiatives in the United States. I spotted what looked like a re-badged Tom-tom navigator unit on some powerpoint slides but that’s hardly the same as showing off a shiny Mio a701 running some form of open architecture LBS platform, is it?

If Sol thinks Google is “Google schmoogle?, he’d better start delivering the goods…..FAST!

If you’re going to go it alone with LBS, Sol, you had better give us subsidised GPS-enabled mobile handsets, free LBS software and cheap capped data rates. Then maybe, only maybe, will you be able to lure customers to your proprietary world. With that I would be happy to watch a few ads, just as I am with Google or Yahoo!

If not, I’ll race you for the throne myself! *sound of wild maniacal laugh*

November 7, 2005

Australia lags rest of world in location services

Posted in Articles at 9:44 pm by siddey

Today I emailed Australia’s major telecommunications operators in an attempt to find out if anyone is even remotely close to investing in some serious LBS infrastructure. Not only do we have ZERO GPS enabled handsets on the market here, the best we have to offer LBS-wise is whereis.com.au. Now I don’t know about you but I think an electronic street directory is helpful, however, it’s not quite what I would call innovative or sticky. It’s also never a good sign when the best you can drum up as promotional material is a website providing locations to Australian public toilets and one other local government website. Next time the toilet in my home is broken, I’ll know where to go. Wouldn’t it make sense to have this available on handsets? Their technical API sections are also closed to the general developer world. Perhaps someone at Sensis (Telstra division) should re-consider this strategy in-light of the current results.

In a small, hyper-competitive market such as Australia, I would have thought the Telcos would be onto LBS pronto in an attempt to attract new customers to their networks and to also create new opportunities for generating advertising revenue. The reality is, however, that consumers are still paying exorbitant uncapped data charges even for the new 3G networks, with the exception of Hutchison’s 3 network. ‘3’ has a number of capped services which is promising but still no sign of LBS.

Data charges on mobiles are evil, make no mistake about it! In my humble opinion, it is obvious that most of the major operators are not prepared to risk erosion of their business segment for the benefit of the lowest common denominator (the average consumer). For those consumers always eager to live on the bleeding edge, they’re quite happy to hit them with high data charges and yet at the same time expect them to spend more time using their mobiles. What does that say about their perception of our intelligence?

I am hoping that voices such as mine will eventually be heard and that we will soon see innovation return to Australia’s telecommunications market. 3G is great stuff but not accompanied by exorbitant pricing and no innovation. If you take a look across all of the current 3G networks, there is next to nothing to differentiate their offering, except perhaps for some of 3’s interactive consumer oriented services such as chat (and no, I don’t work for ‘3’). Right now everyone still seems to be saying to me, “pay us lots of money so you can download media content, slower and of lower quality than what you can at home.”

I am not wishing to solely pick on Telstra, however as an example, given their current woes, one would hope to see a little creativity come from their general direction. If we examine their move into i-mode, we could infer that it is an attempt to create their own mini-web (a walled garden) based on the NTT Docomo model in Japan. Arguably it worked for Japan because the market for mobiles was far more advanced than the availability of Internet connectivity at the time (early 90’s). Hence their communications market evolved into a mobile handset oriented one instead of experiencing the early web boom that the rest of the world did. NTT Docomo effectively built their own closed-web in which participants had to pay to enter. If only we had a market of 47+ million subscribers, perhaps that would get us some attention too!

Will Telstra succeed? Not without innovation. Give us leading handsets, Felica and most importantly, give us Location Based Services! Sol, you may still stand a chance of tempting me to the dark side but you’ll have to be quick about it.

So now I will wait and see if there is any response to my query. I will keep you posted. If anyone has any inside information to share, please do! 🙂

*end rant*

 

November 6, 2005

Impulse blogging – the Rabble speak out

Posted in Articles at 12:11 am by siddey

Personally, I think Rabble is about to strike gold. Their investors seem to think so too – at least US$5.5m worth of gold to be exact. They will no doubt soon face stiff competition from those with much bigger budgets and more powerful mass media allies, however, Rabble seems to have realised early on in the piece, the power of allowing people to instantaneously share personal experiences with the world. It is blogging in its basic form, with the key difference being immediacy and location awareness.

When you’re out and about, suddenly wanting to capture that once in a lifetime event, or perhaps share a “here and now” feeling with someone half way around the planet, Rabble’s custom mobile application allows you to do so. The software ties a mobile phone camera and other input devices together, along with your stated location (entered as country / postcode / region etc.) in order to facilitate recording moments in time and publishing it all to blog space for other mobile and non-mobile users to access.

Imagine standing in the middle of your own town and being able to read, view and experience the thoughts and actual moments of many people before you. Surely, as with blogs today, there will be much noise to filter out but just knowing that you’re able to link information with the actual location it was created, is a powerful human experience. Imagine in decades or even centuries to come the treasures of information that could be linked back to an exact time and place.

I’m sure I don’t need to point out that this is currently only available in limited areas in the United States (isn’t everything?). I am confident, however, that once it catches on there, we’ll wonder how we ever lived without the immediacy of location-enabled, mobile blogging.

November 5, 2005

GPS 1 Unsuspecting car thief 0

Posted in Articles at 10:31 am by siddey

Perth, Western Australia

The Australian newspaper reports that an unsuspecting car thief in Perth, choosing the wrong car, i.e. one fitted with GPS enabled vehicle tracking, was tracked and arrested at his home within minutes. His bad luck was the good fortune of the owner and the techno-saavy WA Police Force.

It is always good to see my hometown in the media, especially when it relates to the use of GPS and location based services. Western Australia is a beautiful, relaxed place. In such an environment, those poor car thieves don’t stand a chance against that nasty vehicle tracking technology.

Before sometime tells me, yes I am aware that vehicle tracking has been in existence for many years. I just wanted to be one of the few people including non-US LBS related articles online. 😉

I can see the early retirement of many common car thieves is not far off. Go Perth!

Look at all the pretty colours – LBS visualisation

Posted in Articles at 3:30 am by siddey

As reported by CNN, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have set up electronic notice boards across the campus showing the level of activity at the University’s numerous wireless hotspots. Intended to show how busy each location is, it can also be used to locate students, if they choose to opt-in to the service. What I particularly like is the way they have implemented the visual aspect of the service. Seeing the number of people in any particular location, represented in real-time by a 3D intensity graph (more people, brighter colours), adds a new dimension. Alternatively, maybe it’s just me and my attraction to pretty swirling colours.

Hard at work

Hard at work

Other Unis are delivering innovative LBS applications as well.

I need to lay off the medicine one thinks.

Yahoo! maps capitalises on slow start

Posted in Articles at 2:46 am by siddey

Although all the new Online LBS applications currently make it look as though the world is comprised purely of the United States and lots of water, I’m impressed with the potential of the newly released Yahoo! maps. Along similar lines to Google maps, Yahoo! maps demonstrates how Yahoo! has capitalised on being a late entrant by delivering some very nice enhancements to Google’s equivalent offering.

http://maps.yahoo.com/beta/

Have a good look around at some of the examples/demonstrations and you’ll clearly see both the consumer and business benefits of these services. To throw in yet more jargon terms, Online applications such as these are called Mash-ups. Mash-ups result from one or more online web service (e.g. Yahoo! maps) being used as the foundation for building another service on top that integrates additional information or functionality.

Software developers can leverage the features of these web services with relative ease. Mash-ups are not a new concept by any means, however, when did that ever stop the marketers? What is new is the relatively recent introduction of publicly extensible, location enabled web services.

Stripping back the jargon and hype, it’s a great way for Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft to lock people into using their web services. The benefit to them, as always, comes back to the advertising potential. Built into their publicly accessible application programming interfaces (APIs) is, or will be, mandatory advertising and branding. This is continuing the evolution advertising delivery models over the web as we currently know it. Companies will now follow us, wherever we are and for whatever it is we are seeking on whichever “connected” device we use.

This model is already resulting in consumers gaining access to lots of new innovative, information rich, location aware services and as a “bonus” we receive tailored advertising to help pay for it all. Such is the way of the capitalist world. Someone has to pay for all this cool new technology!

LBS Mash-ups are another evolving stream of online-only software. Online-only software has been in existence since the early Dot-com period. Instead of applications solely residing on your desktop computer, PDA or mobile phone, applications are accessed on the web using only a browser. This evolution has been popularised in the media under the labels “software as a service” and “web 2.0”. In the delirious Dot-coms days, the provision of Online-only software in a commercial sense was coined, “Application Service Provision” (ASP). Some people may rightly argue that they are slightly different concepts. They’re welcome to. For me, it’s still tomatoes.

Now we’ll just wait for SPAM 2.0 to eventuate. I can picture it now….

Boy sees girl…

Girl sees boy…

Boy’s PDA detects presence of girl…

Girl’s mobile phone looks up profile of boy on the Internet and sends a *kiss*…

Boy receive’s an instant message from Yahoo! maps…

“BUY VIAGRA NOW!…..just take your next left, head 100 metres down the road and drop in to BARNEY’S PHARMACY”.

Geek-centric LBS blogs

Posted in Articles at 2:00 am by siddey

Emerging technologies are always fueled by the initial enthusiasm of uber-geeks. These people are into technology well before the light-bulb goes off for the rest of the world. Evidence of this can be seen in the current level of activity on LBS related geek blogs. Employees from Google, MS and Yahoo! all have blogs that pay a lot of attention to LBS.

In particular, I would recommend you visit Scobleizer as a starting point. Although sometimes reminiscent of Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and his now famous, “frothing-at-the-mouth, dancing monkey boy” enthusiasm, it’s well worth a read. If his photo is anything to go by, he may in fact be Steve’s love child, so we’ll put his outbursts down to genetics and move on.

The visitor comments often provide a balanced commentary on the current state of play and the economic or socio-economic issues relating to LBS. Just try not to bring up your lunch every time you see the word, “Disruption!” in an article.

*hwarf*