We are in the midst of a GIS technology evolution by taking...

We are in the midst of a GIS technology evolution by taking mapping information off the PC and into the field

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You have been instrumental in initiating Location-Based Services (LBS) in Autodesk, what made you turn towards a new technology like LBS?Joe Astroth, Executive Vice-President, Autodesk Location Services Division
Joe Astroth
Executive Vice-President, Autodesk Location Services Division. joe.astroth@autodesk.com

  • You have been instrumental in initiating Location-Based Services (LBS) in Autodesk, what made you turn towards a new technology like LBS?

    Autodesk’s entry into the location services market ties back to our strategy to leverage expertise and experience in existing markets into adjacent, high-growth markets. 
    As a leading provider of GIS solutions for many years we see a natural progression and opportunity to leverage that experience and offer location services solutions to wireless operators and enterprises with large mobile workforces.

  • With the alarming increase in the rate of recession in the IT industry, do you think its right time to concentrate on LBS industry?

    Wireless operators are under immediate pressure to recoup significant technology infrastructure investments and are looking for new ways to generate revenue and increase loyalty among a fickle customer base. Wireless data services are commonly agreed to be the next driver of new revenue for wireless carriers. However, adoption among subscribers will only occur if these services enhance productivity and/or convenience for end-users, transforming novelty into a “must-have”. It is Autodesk Location Services view that location-sensitivity is fundamental to the success of wireless data services adoption and will transform these transactions into a relevant, personalized and actionable experience for the user, thereby encouraging the kind of uptake required to fulfill market potential and bring revenue to carriers. We are thus seizing the window of opportunity to offer the best possible solution on the market.

  • What do you think is the scope of location-based services in Asia vis-à-vis Europe and North America?

    Asia has definitely seen some of the first successes in wireless data services–one example is the widespread appeal of NTTDoCoMo’s i-Mode. We are also seeing carriers/operators gain global reach as the market consolidates and global conglomerates emerge. 
    From a network and handset technology perspective, Asia and Europe are ahead of the United States at this point in time. This is a result of more sophisticated mobile handsets, and a standardized network (GSM) that has enabled availability of more evolved data services. While we certainly anticipate the US market to take off, delays in spectrum availability for 3G, complexities of network upgrades and unavailability of multifunctional handsets make other markets attractive in the near-term.

  • Autodesk LocationLogic has been attracting lot of attention since its release. Tell us something more about this product?

    Leveraging Autodesk’s core technology strength in mapping, visualization and location analysis, our development platform Autodesk LocationLogic has been developed from the ground up to meet the specific requirements of wireless communications. The platform’s communications-centric architecture provides the ability to handle high volumes of transactions per unit of time; support for real-time data communication; and adaptability to a wide assortment of end-user devices, including mobile phones, PDAs, and laptops. 

    Autodesk Location Services’ solution makes it easy for developers to add functionality to existing applications. Through an extensive array of application provider partners, Autodesk Location Services can also provide an end-to-end solution for an operator’ location service needs, giving them an immediate market-ready suite of location enabled applications. This ability to both immediately deploy a suite of new location enabled applications, as well as location enable existing applications, gives operators the power and flexibility to stay ahead of the changing pace of market demand.

    Autodesk’s LocationLogic platform is also independent of location determination technology (LDT). The ability to integrate with multiple LDTs allows global organizations to unify the technologies that may exist throughout existing and growing networks.

  • With more and more LBS providers coming up, how do you propose to not only built subscriber base but also customer loyalty?

    Apart from the obvious competitive advantages we offer from a technology standpoint, we also offer wireless operators a compelling business proposition. We offer several advantages including a seasoned team of professionals and experience in building a worldwide developer network and 24X7 support. Further, location services is only one aspect of our business. By working with Autodesk, wireless operators will benefit from access to our broad base of customers in industries such as architecture, construction, utilities, manufacturing and entertainment as well as access to technologies offered by other divisions such as Discreet’s multimedia products that have application for wireless environments as next generation networks emerge.

  • Tell us something about Fiat Targa Services, which has used Autodesk location service technology as a navigation and geographic visualization tool.

    We are working with TargaSys, a division of Fiat Auto to provide customers with TargaConnect™, an in-car navigation and personalized concierge service now available in the Alfa Romeo 147. The two companies recently demonstrated Autodesk’s Mobile Connect with wireless operator, Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM). Autodesk’s Mobile Connect extends Targa Connect location services to wireless phones and PDAs, enabling a seamless connection to personalized location-sensitive information for mobile individuals at multiple points of access-be it the dashboard in their car or their mobile phone.

  • With more than 20 years of experience in the field of GIS and computer mapping, you must have seen a lot of change, what according to you were the turning points for the GIS industry?

    As I see it, there were three pivotal points in the evolution of the GIS industry. The first came with the automation of mapping as cartographers and other GIS professionals moved from paper-based systems to the PC. The Internet was at the heart of the next major turning point by enabling the widespread distribution of geographic information to large numbers of users and the ability to pull data from multiple sources quickly and efficiently. We are now in the midst of the next technology evolution in GIS, which is taking mapping and design information off the PC and into the field via mobile devices such as PDAs and laptops. 

  • How in your view GIS is instrumental in LBS?

    Geographic information technology is at the core of Location Based Services. Much of the functionality in the Autodesk LocationLogic platform derives from our experience in GIS, so for instance, geocoding, routing, map rendering and geospatial analysis. The difference is the way in which that information is used and the scalability, performance and reliability required to meet the needs of wireless operators. Autodesk’s experience in GIS is without question a significant competitive advantage.

  • What, according to you is the size of the market for LBS in next two – three years and what are the specific industry segments Autodesk Location Services is concentrating on?

    Wireless data services are acknowledged as a key driver of potential new revenue for wireless operators. It is our view that location-based solutions are integral to the success of these new data services, either for stand-alone functions such as navigation or point-of-interest information or as a filter for wireless services such as email or m-commerce transactions. Current forecasts for the Mobile Location Services market predict sizeable revenue opportunity. Industry analyst, IDC for example predicts U.S. revenue of nearly $6 billion by 2005, while research firm, Ovum has sized worldwide market potential at $20B by 2006. 
    We believe that Autodesk has a unique value proposition that will propel the company to a leadership position among location services solution providers. Initially we are targeting wireless carriers/operators. We also see many other opportunities for incorporating wireless and location-based technologies into customer solutions across many of the industries we serve.