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Mobile LBS: The Power of Where

Mobile LBS: The Power of Where

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Published by Prashant

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Published by: Prashant on Feb 14, 2009
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05/10/2014

 
Location-based services could well emerge as the killerapplication that adds a new dimension to cell phones.We take a closer look at this phenomenon and itspotential.
Mobile LBS
W
e live in the ageo cell phones.Not a day goesby when wedon’t read astory discussing the impact o mobilephones and associated technologieson society, business and individualbehaviour. In spite o this media hype,
The Power Of ‘Where’
the mobile has not quite arrived asan inocom device yet. Statistics alsoconrm this: 80 per cent o picturestaken by mobile phone cameras nevermove outside the device, and a mere 5per cent o users with Internet-capablemobile devices choose to activateInternet connectivity. Outsideo voice and SMS, there is hardly 
Prashant Singh
The author is a software professional based out ofNoida. He is also the founder of Delhi chapter of /Mobile Monday/. The views presented here are hisown. He can be reached at pacificleo@gmail.com
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any service that has captured theimagination o the masses.Tis can be attributed to many actors—the high prices o handsets,restrictive policies o telecomoperators, poor user experienceo mobile applications, a lack o awareness, etc. I seriously believethat none o these reasons play apivotal role in determining the ateo something as powerul as mobiletelephony. Ater all, the PC in thelate 70s and the Internet in the late90s aced similar obstacles, andovercame them. Te real reason o thisstagnation is something else.I think the real reason is thelack o innovative applications—applications that have ‘mobile’ intheir DNA. Most o the time, weuse a mobile device as a stopgaparrangement to ensure continuousconnectivity on the move. MobileInternet is still in search o its killerapplication—something that is notdesigned in the ‘PC hangover’ mode.Tat’s where mobile location-based(Mobile LBS) services come intothe picture—these services use themobile phone’s capacity to track yourgeographical location to developapplications. Veterans o the mobileindustry believe that Mobile LBS isthe ‘killer application’ o the mobileInternet.
What makes a killer app
Troughout the history o technology, every new technology hasneeded a killer application in order toget mainstream acceptance. A killerapplication is nothing but a term usedor an application that successully exploits the advantage oered by thenew technology. For the steam engine,it was the railroad; or electricity it was the light bulb; or the PC, it wasspreadsheet; and or the Internet, it was e-mail. For the rst generationo mobile phones, voice connectivity (and to some extent SMS), was thekiller app. All these killer apps hadthree eatures in common:1) A more ecient mass marketsolution o an existing problem2) An enthusiastic early adoptercommunity 3) A massive strategic investmentrom incumbent playersLet’s evaluate Mobile LBS on thesethree parameters to see i it qualies asa killer app.
 An efcient mass marketsolution to an existingproblem
Te problem that Mobile LBS istrying to solve is not new. Logisticsand feet management companieslike DHL and Hertz have beenstruggling with this problem ora long time. Most o the availablesolutions were built around a specialGlobal Positioning System (GPS)-based device to track the location.Te biggest problem with thesesolutions was a massive uprontinvestment required to deploy them.Tat’s why the use o GPS-basedenterprise solutions was limited tolarge enterprises.I cost was one prohibitive actor,the need to carry a separate special-purpose device was another actorthat prevented LBS rom becoming amainstream consumer phenomenon.In western countries, GPS navigationdevices are now ubiquitous in cars,but their usage is limited to navigatingthrough trac. Call it a lack o visionor an inherent limitation o thetechnology, but these devices remain just gadgets that assist in navigation—nothing more, nothing less. With cell phones, this problem isbeing solved in a very innovative andcost-eective manner. Tere are two ways to capture location inormationusing cell phones. Te rst is to use theintegrated GPS capability o the device.However, a more popular approachis tower ID triangulation, in whichthe location o users is determined by identiying the cell tower nearest tothem and mapping the user’s locationto the cell tower’s location.Tere are three distinct advantageso using cell phones or LBS. Firsto, the user doesn’t need to carry aseparate device. Ten, a Mobile LBScan leverage the communicationcapability o a cell phone or a variety o interesting applications. For instance,one can have ambulance servicesthat can determine your location themoment you call rom the scene o an accident. You can add locationinormation to pictures taken romyour mobile phone camera, and youcan also nd out the exact locationo your riends and can plan animpromptu party with those nearyou, etc.
Mobile LBS has been more than ablip—every handset manufacturerand every telecom operatorrealises its potential.
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