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LBS is not a killer application; it is the “killer enabler” of existing and new wireless services

Location-based services industry is expected to grow at a faster pace every-where in the world. However, there are still big gaps between the U.S. and other international wireless markets. Joe Astroth
Joe Astroth
Vice President and General Manager
Autodesk Location Services

[email protected]

How do you view the global market for LBS industry today?
Location-based services industry is expected to grow at a faster pace every-where in the world. However, there are still big gaps between the U.S. and other international wireless markets. Still certain countries or regions have some advantage over the U.S. due to their devel-oping technological infrastructure, which has resulted in a more cohesive underlying network. But at the same time, some are at a distinct disadvantage. Europe, for example, is behind the U.S. in infrastruc-ture development because its carriers do not have to comply with government-mandated technologies such as Enhanced 911 (E-911) that allows emergency serv-ices to identify the physical location and the phone number of a caller. In addition to location-enabled text messaging and Mobile Resource Messaging (MRM) applications, new international location services include a shift from GPS-based navigation built into automobiles to per-sonal navigation built into handsets. All of these services have been dependent on wireless carriers providing GPS-enhanced headsets and networks, which is finally happening.

From the global point of view, the LBS industry is still in its initial stage of devel-opment. Its market can be perceived in an early market stage. LBS industry has an emerging market similar to what GIS industry faced 20 years ago.

What are the key areas where LBS industry should focus?
Given the declining profitability in their core voice business, wireless network operators (WNOs) have searched for a “killer application” to drive enhanced services revenues. In the past, many ven-dors and industry analysts have promoted location-based services (LBS) as the con-tender, but this positioning has detracted from the true power of location. Today, a consensus is forming around a different view: LBS is not a killer application; it is the “killer enabler” of existing and new wireless services. This consensus repre-sents a sea change in the industry that will plot LBS on a more successful course.

Now, with network infrastructure and next-generation handsets featuring larger colour displays, built-in cameras, increa-sed memory, removable storage, and robust operating systems in place, and business and consumer demand for enhanced services on the rise, LBS is finally emerging from being over-hyped to presenting compelling reasons for adoption. In this light, a strong value proposition can be constructed around LBS that addresses the WNOs’ twin business challenges of increasing average revenue per user (ARPU) and reducing customer churn. WNOs can achieve these objectives by enhancing existing services with location, and introducing new location-based services.

Which is the largest market for the LBS industry in the world?
No one has a crystal ball for the LBS industry. We think that locations-based services specifically targeted at small- to medium-sized businesses will be a huge market opportunity in the near future. These businesses see the value of know-ing where their people are, communicat-ing instantly with them, and responding more effectively to their customers – but they don’t want to spend the capital required for in massive back-end integra-tion projects. With location-enabled MRM or field force automation, busi-nesses can locate, communicate, and man-age their mobile workforces in real time, reducing service response times and improving customer satisfaction. Many WNOs have begun to recognize MRM as a key differentiating service they can offer to small- and medium-sized compa-nies in a wide range of industries. MRM gives these business customers the same advantages as larger enterprises, but with-out requiring a capital investment in new IT infrastructure. MRM integrates seam-lessly with existing networks and equip-ment, enabling these businesses to com-municate with mobile workers through SMS on their handsets, and to produce reports on worker status for distribution to other business units.

What is your view on the issue of maintenance of security of information?
Autodesk has a strong commitment to privacy. Our location-based services allow the user to opt in or out of tracking-related capabilities. No personal informa-tion can be exchanged through location-enabled applications without the user’s permission. The user is always in control of whether or not his or her location can be disclosed to another user.

What is the role of GPS in the perspective of its integration with the location based system?
GPS integration in CDMA network and handset technologies will be major driver in the adoption of certain location-based services due to the increased level of accu-racy it provides. It enables accuracy of 10 meters or less versus 100+ meters with cell tower triangulation. This is criti-cal for personal navigation services such as family minder and mobile resource management applications. CDMA tech-nology has a significant presence in Asia.

What is your view about China as a market in the perspective of the LBS industry? How do you feel the Indian market will respond to the LBS industry?
Yes, there are more than 300 million wireless subscribers in China. Currently the wireless network operators are mainly focused on voice services, but I think we can expect this to change rapidly over the next two years. The challenges to deploying LBS in India are the wireless infrastructure and lack of data. Both the digital base maps and navigation database need to be built. I think we will see significant strides in the industry over the next 18-24 months. Autodesk has significant investments in both of these markets. Our divisions in both the countries are interested in the opportuni-ties available.