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 powerul as mobiletelephony. Ater 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 usedor an application that successully exploits the advantage oered 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 ecient mass marketsolution o an existing problem2) An enthusiastic early adoptercommunity 3) A massive strategic investmentrom incumbent playersLet’s evaluate Mobile LBS on thesethree parameters to see i it qualies asa killer app.
An efcient 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 uprontinvestment 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 trac. 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-eective manner. Tere are two ways to capture location inormationusing 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 identiying 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 locationinormation 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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