Home Articles Joe Astroth on why LBS needs to be a part of IT

Joe Astroth on why LBS needs to be a part of IT

Dr Joe Astroth

Dr Joe Astroth
Executive vice president,
Location services division, autodesk
Email: [email protected] A renowned industry expert, Dr Astroth has worked in the GIS and computer mapping industry for more than 20 years and is responsible for the mobile and wireless solutions strategy at Autodesk. He has served as a member of the Autodesk executive management team since 1995. Astroth came to Autodesk from Convergent Group, where he was vice president of product management and engineering for the GDS Software Division. During his tenure, he helped the company to become a key worldwide provider of GIS software. Prior to joining Convergent Group, he was a Senior Principal Consultant at McDonnell-Douglas System Integration Company and EDS, Inc. Formerly the Executive Vice President of Autodesk’s GIS Solutions division, Dr Astroth is now the heading the extensive location-based software experience to the Autodesk Location Services division.

How do you feel about the scope of Location Based Services (LBS) in times to come? Please elaborate this in view of LBS being talked quite high as “Killer” application since past two years.

At the outset I do not agree with you that LBS is “Killer” application. And in fact this is the biggest mistake geographic community have done to project ‘GIS’ or for that matter ‘LBS’ as killer application. Had GIS been not projected as separate field and instead would have been projected as adding spatial and location sensitivity to various applications of IT, geography would been playing much greater role and it should have been ahead of what it is today.

I believe that LBS means adding location sensitivity to existing data services like messaging through wireless network, ATM services, driving directions, customer relations management, traffic information, and logistic management.

Now coming back to your question about the scope of LBS, I believe that it has tremendous scope, provided we emphasize on making it a part of IT Services. It should not be seen in isolation. Its demand is going to increase and you will find wonderful services with location sensitivity attached in times to come. Location sensitivity has great opportunities to develop services like friend finder, colleague finder, driving directions and navigation, consumer stores, SMS, ATM Services, mobile asset management and the like. We are not far when we will use our cell phones with voice facility and you dial a number and you will get voice enabled driving directions about your nearest ATM center, Restaurant and stores, or whatever place you want to reach. SMS will also be voice enabled and you can send back SMS through voice. When your friend calls, you may be in a position to know which part of geography he is calling from and based on that you may like to fix up a meeting with him on a common convenient place. You are on company assignment in the field and you find you need assistance from your colleagues, you may just be in a position to know where is nearest colleague and you can approach him for help.

“LBS has tremendous scope, provided we emphasize on making it a part of IT Services.”

What do you think about the level of accuracy of location services being offered by LBS?

I would divide the accuracy in three phases. First phase of accuracy that is currently available is about 100 mtrs. In the second and third phase accuracy level may increase and go up to 50 mtrs and 25 mtrs respectively.

Why did North America not catch up with with Location Based Services?

Yeah, it’s correct that North America did not pick up with location services initially but now it has a big market for location services. In America, we did not have the network which support SMS whereas European and Asian networks did support SMS and this is main cause of location services not picking up in America. But as I said earlier, now American carriers have not only improved their network and introduced interoperability but also they have the advantage of learning from the experience of Europe and Asia to implement location services better. Additionally new devices are being introduced which supports keyboard and it makes use of SMS easier.

How do you think Location Based Services are going to affect privacy policy?

Yeah, I agree that location services may be used as a tool for tracking your movement and it may cause violation of peoples’ privacy. But we have learned a lot from the experience of web and email. We have customized the service to give liberty to the user weather to on or turn off the location services. Furthermore, carriers shall and will ensure that when the location sensitivity of the device is on, user shall receive only information that he desires to.

In your opinion, what are strengths and weaknesses of North America, Europe and Asia with regard to LBS ?

As of today Europe and Asia (specially Europe) are much advanced to adopt location services. They have a very good infrastructure in existence. With regard to USA it has good opportunity to learn from Europe and Asia, hence it is well equipped to make more commercially viable services. Furthermore, competitive nature of American market will drive the wireless industry to introduce more innovation in devices to provide more easy and effective location services. The biggest weakness of America is heterogeneous wireless network.

Interviewed by Maneesh Prasad and Sanjay Kumar