The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is getting bigger every year — so much that it’s almost a mini CES that is hard to navigate and find companies…much less big location-based services news. While there were no big jaw-dropping mergers and acquisitions, big product roll-outs and partnerships, this conference will continue to be the main showcase for location companies wishing to establish a presence in Europe.
BARCELONA — It was tough to find out what might be the big deal for the location industry here at the Mobile World Congress, among 67,000 attendees and more than 1,500 exhibitors. Two areas continued to stand out, as they had at the January Consumer Electronics Show: the rise of the connected vehicle and machine-to-machine connections.
An MWC keynote was given by Ford Motor Co.’s chairman Bill Ford (right), who gave long-term strategies for the company, which includes big connected car components. Ford’s Sync, which is already on 4 million cars in the United States since it was launched in 2007, now is available in Europe. The company hopes to have 13 million cars equipped with the connected service by 2015 — 3.5 million of those in Europe.
One of the more significant deals at MWC was Sprint Nextel’s announcement that it will be the strategic wireless partner for Chrysler Group’s Uconnect voice-activated vehicle communications system.
In keeping with the connected theme, GSMA’s Connected House featured such companies as AT&T and Airbiquity that showcased the transfer of connected lifestyle from car to house. Airbiquity demonstrated its products for cloud-based services, mobile phones and application integration into vehicles. The company launched its Application Developer Program at MWC.
TCS Offers Family Locator to Auto Makers for Connected Car Initiatives
TeleCommunication Systems announced at the MWC that it’s incorporating the TCS Family Locator into connected vehicles and is offering it on the iPhone and Android platforms. TCS Family Locator allows users to locate family members’ vehicles through aerial photos or maps to monitor when they arrive or leave specific areas.
TCS was a pioneer in enhanced 911 roll outs, which was the basis of today’s location-based services, said Jay Whitehurst, TCS senior vice president, commercial software group.
The cloud-based Family Locator product is being offered to vehicle manufacturers, telematics service providers, and wireless carriers for connected car initiatives, the company said.
Currently, Family Locator supports BlackBerry and other phones.
For the enterprise market, TCS said its Workforce Locator mobile resource management product now has extended coverage to data cards and any device with a SIM card, which includes mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and tablets.
Also at MWC, TomTom said it partnered with HTC to provide the maps, points of interest, and turn-by-turn directions for a line of HTC smartphones in India. TomTom views India as a growing market, citing a study that forecasts more than 5.2 million smartphones will ship to the country this year.
The HTC deal is TomTom’s first major partnership in India, said Nuno Campos, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing for its licensing division. Campos said that Jocelyn Vigreux, formerly president of TomTom USA, has been consolidating all business units in India to steward the company’s HTC partnership there.
TomTom also announced a partnership with NDrive to deliver maps and other content to its location-based applications. The three-year deal is big for TomTom as NDrive has millions of users worldwide, Campos said.
When asked how TomTom is competing against the Googles of the world, Campos said that the market is big enough to run a profitable mapping business. His only crack at Google was that “they are finding that making maps isn’t easy.”
TomTom, through its joint venture partner AutoNavi Holdings Limited, also announced a seven-year agreement with Qoros Auto, an international automotive corporation. TomTom and AutoNavi will deliver HD Traffic, marking the first real-time traffic customer for the newly expanded joint venture. In 2013 the first cars — aimed at young metropolitan users — will hit the streets in China equipped with HD Traffic, providing drivers with the most accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date traffic information available.
In other Mobile World Congress news:
- Urban Airship said its new Unique Opt-In Report allows users to gain insight in to the numbers of distinct users opting in or out of push notifications. This enables companies to hone mobile messaging strategy based on users’ behavior.
- Locaaid rolled out its Global Cell-ID at MWC. This new feature, accessible via Locaid’s Location-as-a-Service (LaaS) platform, allows enterprise mobile developers to acquire carrier-certified, permission-based location on their devices in more than 165 countries around the globe.
- American Roamer changed its name to Mosaik Solutions at MWC. Through its partnership with Europa, the company’s Global Coverage Analyzer and CellMaps are marketed in Europe. Mosaik Solutions’ customers include AT&T International, OnStar, and Comcast.
- ALK Technologies Inc., which previously charged for its navigation applications, now said its CoPilot GPS is a free app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. The company contends that CoPilot is a lot more than Google’s free map service and allows users to search millions of pre-installed points of interest for nearby restaurants, hotels, and gas stations. The company had a booth at MWC and exhibited at Showstoppers, as did Poynt.
Indoor positioning continued to be a big topic to enable LBS markets at the Mobile World Congress. Richard Najarian, Broadcom senior director, business development, said that market is shaping up. The company also showed off its Bluetooth Low Energy modules that enable indoor location positioning.
Some other MWC observations:
- Qualcomm had an off-site reception for its indoor positioning partners that included Cisco and others.
- The Android room at MWC was huge…with such companies as Glympse participating.
- Telmap, now owned by Intel, which has recently said it will invest millions into connected vehicle initiatives, has a strong presence in Europe with many LBS applications.
The company says it’s the No. 1 local content aggregator in Europe, according to Motti Kushner, Telmap’s chief marketing officer.
Neustar, which is partnering with TELUS and other major operators in North America to create mobile services, had a large presence at MWC. The company’s intelligent cloud helps operators to integrate location and messaging, said Gary Zimmerman, Neustar’s director of product marketing.
Some of these applications include geofence, which Neustar works with partner ZOS, to create opt-in mobile campaigns that send offers to subscribers based on their location. The company also offers enhanced location that shows how a brand can personalize location information once a consumer gives consent to participate.
GPS World Partnering with GPS-Wireless
GPS World is the GPS-Wireless (www.gps-wireless.com) conference’s exclusive media partner. GPS World’s Chris Litton will be on site at GPS-Wireless 2012, which is March 21-22 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, to discuss why location companies should advertise in the magazine and LBS Insider, which has more than 10,000 worldwide subscribers.