October was a month of shows, rumors and announcements. Testing of competing indoor location positioning technologies is being planned by the FCC; prospects for some companies will ride on the public results. Apple may be turning to TomTom to save it from its mapping inaccuracy issues, dubbed Mapplegate. This month’s CTIA show was flat; attendees were wondering if it was the last chapter of the fall show. Interesting industry tidbits were heard at the MforMobile Location Business Summit. New Google Ad Word rates may be created that are also based on the distance between the handset and advertiser’s location. History can be harsh, remembering an unfortunate calculation by a location industry giant. Marketers continue to be frustrated by the mobile industry’s continued difficulty to completely measure ad results.
The FCC sees indoor location as a critical safety concern for E911 emergency response. The commission has tasked an advisory committee to evaluate indoor location positioning technologies. TechnoCom has been chosen to conduct the independent testing as a neutral third party. The test bed is in about 20 structures of various types, in locations that range from highly dense urban to sparse landscape. The following companies are submitting technology for the testing: Qualcomm (AGPS/AFLT/Cell ID), NextNav (GPS-like terrestrial beacons), Boeing (LEO satellites using the Iridium constellation), and Polaris (RF fingerprinting). Additional companies submitted technology, but later withdrew. Test results should be made public in March of 2013. A public workshop on this testing is being held at the FCC on October 24 and can be watched online at www.fcc.gov/live.
Indoor Mapping. At the Location Business Summit, it was clear that the retail and hospitality industries is anxious to start exploring indoor marketing based on real-time location. They seem to expect it will start out working flawlessly. It won’t. In addition to the indoor positioning being early stage, mapping quality is uneven. The gold bar of quality assurance for outdoor mapping is aerial fly-overs and street driving. In some situations crowd sourcing works. For indoor maps, it’s the Wild West. Currently there are no standards for vetting indoor mapping. Maps are being created of greatly varying quality, sometimes by way of rough diagrams found on the Internet that are then shoe-horned into the outlines of buildings.
TomTom to the Rescue? Shares in TomTom, maker of personal navigation devices (PNDs) and mapping, jumped to a three-week high on speculation that it may be taken private by its founders with the help of Apple. In turn, Apple could buy TomTom’s maps database to correct its mapping problems. TomTom’s founders own 47 percent of the company, but may be held back by the uptick in share value.
Paying for Location. Reportedly, Google has location-based AdWords in beta. Advertising rates go up the closer the targeted user is to the venue being promoted. A restaurant ad is more relevant, and more likely to draw a person who is one mile away than 20 miles. Some travelers will park near a string of hotels and use a site like hotels.com to find the most competitively priced room for that evening. An ad for a hotel on the other side of town is of lesser value and would be cheaper.
Comments Heard at the Location Business Summit by MforMobile this Month:
“We need to build ambient intelligence into devices. Nobody needs more information, more apps, ads, logins or devices. It isn’t sustainable.”
“Location data on the consumer side is often junky because phones are trying to conserve battery, and won’t invoke GPS.”
“You can get better locations from the carrier network, but it is too expensive a proposition for advertisers.”
“We find that hyper-local ad targeting leaves us with too few people to address.”
Can I Turn Back the Clock? In an interview for Forbes in 2003, Min Kao, CEO of Garmin, puts a stake in the ground. He says he does not seek to compete in navigation with the mobile phone, the likes of Nokia and Motorola, as that is the kind of commodity business Garmin would like to avoid. The PND vendors continue to be squeezed between the OEM embedded equipment and the smartphone. It is hard to be optimistic about the PND market, commented John Canali of Strategy Analytics at the Location Business Summit. Heavy discounting has led to plummeting revenues. “The PND companies are hardware focused in a market whose foundation is software. It will be very difficult to transform PND companies,” says Canali. “They will struggle.” In 2009, Google announced that all Android phones built on OS 1.6 or higher would have free turn-by-turn directions. Nokia followed shortly after. So it began.
A Little Slow. CTIA drew more than 5,000 people to attend MobileCon, its fall show with a new brand name. You may remember it as CTIA Enterprise and Applications. This was a significant decline from last year when 10,000 to 15,000 conference-goers attended. Activity was slow and the exhibit floor was smaller. Conference sessions were held on the exhibit floor.
Still Can’t Close the Loop. The industry continues to be unable to provide advertisers with metrics of how many pizzas a mobile ad sold. Papa John’s Pizza will know if someone has clicked to call or clicked to map, but Papa John’s won’t know if those actions resulted in a purchase. Without this fundamental metric, advertisers complain that it is hard to build a business case for mobile advertising. The click rates that they can track aren’t always representative because of user errors that include fat fingers, fraudulent clicks and pocket dialing.