June 20, 2008

A new era dawns for mobile location based services

Posted in Articles tagged , , , , , , at 4:30 pm by siddey

As a follow-up to my post exploring the importance of standard approaches to identifying information relevance and the resulting contribution that will make to fully realising the potential from location based services, I think it’s appropriate to also take a bird’s eye view of where we are at with respect to the underlying consumer-based technology platforms needed to finally break into the mainstream.

For me, the WOW factor associated with geoservices (in delivering significant business and personal gains), will really kick in when you’re able to produce and consume location tagged information on the road, seemlessly.

Current obstacles

The main inhibitors to widespread consumer adoption to-date have been;

i.) H/w platform diversity (way too many mobile devices and OS’s),

ii.) Telco walled-gardens and poor infrastructure (preventing easy and reliable access to device information like Cell-ID, Signal strength and GPS),

iii.) The related lack of end-user (business and consumer) saturation in any one market or network and

iv.) a low adoption rate in terms of standard APIs for exchanging geo-data between web services.

The good news

The good news is that the proverbial ducks now seem to be lining up (we’re seeing positive moves in both the device and API arenas) and I believe it’s now only a matter of 6 to 12-months before things will snowball.

The winners?

We should see more existing online services make their geocoded libraries of information more freely available outside of their domain and we should start to see some dominant mobile device platforms emerge. I hold my hopes up for both Google’s Android (as a common developer platform) and the Apple iPhone (as a common developer platform and h/w device) cracking the market saturation problem one way or another.

The losers?

Nokia has a chance but they’re still way too focused on variety and fashion, not platform standardisation although they’re slowly realising that they need to centralise more multi-device developer support into a single developer environment in order to attract more attention.

It’s just a question of which one will provide the most compelling location based development options first.

Networking considerations

It’s still clearly a three horse race for now and with the slow growth of Wimax wireless networks over the coming months, we should finally see the final piece of the puzzle solved and the death of the Telco walled-gardens. The benefit of alternate wide-spread wireless networks is that consumers can bypass the telcos altogether and go back to relying upon the ISPs they’ve been dealing with for their Internet access for years. With the breakdown of the gardens (the digital-era equivalent to the Berlin Wall), many niche location based services / companies will become popular as they can now be guaranteed of direct consumer access.  Note that current Wifi networks are just not up to scratch for supporting LBS because they lack roaming capabilities, which the Wimax IEEE 802.16e standard comes with out of the box.

Watch what happens to RIM and their Blackberry strategy when the new 3G iPhone with GPS is released! 🙂 I think we may quickly see a fourth late runner come to the party. 🙂 I know there is a GPS enabled Blackberry, however, their platform is not currently as open to the general developer community as will be the Android and iPhone platforms.

So, in all, yes we’re getting there and I’m as excited as hopefully you all are that it’s finally coming together. The more people focus on common platforms and standards, the sooner it will come.

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