Google Maps aren’t just for finding directions for consumers. The company is courting small businesses to grab a greater market share and provide differentiation from its competitors. In a slow news month, it appears Google, the 800-pound gorilla in the location industry, has a strong start in business markets.
Google’s recent decision to roll out Maps Engine Pro, its software that allows small business to use the company’s location tools to create maps from location databases, is a solid step in the business-to-business market. However, the company also said there will be a mobile application for Maps Engine Pro, called Google Maps Engine, which will allow small businesses and users to edit and create maps while mobile.
Companies can use the app to optimize personnel and assets, build mapping apps, and create internal and external maps that use data layers to make business decisions. Depending on licensing, Maps Engine Pro costs $5 per user, per month — or $50 per user, per year.
One reason to roll out the enterprise product: Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps, said that there are 1 billion monthly active Google Maps users, making the business product familiar to companies who want to plot location data.
Magnetic Indoor Positioning?
Although much-hyped in the last two years, most indoor positioning has been powered by both GPS and Wi-Fi positioning in most tests and rollouts worldwide. However, a startup called IndoorAtlas, which recently opened an office in Sunnyvale, California, and partnered with Finnish grocery chain Fonella, according to published reports, is using magnetic technology via compass chips in smartphones.
Rather than using Wi-Fi signals to triangulate a device’s location, IndoorAtlas tracks differences in the Earth’s magnetic field to pinpoint location within a building. The magnetic field is all around most objects and animals. On the company website, this tidbit is found: “Many animals utilize local variations in the Earth’s magnetic field to find their way around. These magnetic variations commonly exist inside buildings as well. Many sources can contribute to these variations including Earth’s magnetic field, and the structures of the building. Modern smartphones can sense and record these magnetic variations to map indoor locations.”
IndoorAtlas’ technology doesn’t require additional infrastructure like wireless access points, so the technology can be used by retailers. Other markets include search and rescue, museum tours, and a navigation aid for disabled people.
Location Companies Going After Higher End Markets As Commoditization Settles In
As location technology, specifically GPS, becomes more of a commodity as many industry observers say, companies are looking at higher-margin market segments. For instance, Garmin, which has seen the portable navigation device market decrease, has been focusing on more expensive and specialized products.
While still a big business for Garmin, PNDs’ market share has been eroded by tablets, smartphones — and even expensive installed telematics systems, which have grown with the connected vehicle’s rise.
Garmin has offered several different types of high-end watches for swimmers, pilots, runners, golfers and others in the outdoor market. The newest entry is a $450 watch called Tactix, which any Navy SEAL could love. It features an altimeter, barometer, and jumpmaster software for airborne operations, and it’s even waterproof to a 50-meter depth.
LBS Insider to Cover CES in January
LBS Insider will be on site in Las Vegas to cover the huge Consumer Electronics Show. At CES, the connected vehicle market continues to be showcased. In published reports, Scott Keogh, Audi USA president, said that the company will make announcements about Audi Connect at the show.
T-Mobile US provides 3G connectivity to Audi’s Connect service in the United States through an embedded SIM in the car’s dash. T-Mobile’s plan, which includes Wi-Fi for as many as eight devices, is offered to new and existing owners of cars equipped with Audi Connect. It costs $450 for data services for 30 months — or users pay $30 per month if they select the month-to-month option. Some of the features includes access weather, real-time news and fuel prices. Both Google Earth and Google Voice are offered.
At CES, the LBS market has been de-emphasized by wireless carriers in the past three years. Instead, most location-related panels have been dedicated to connected vehicles.