By Christopher Peralta
Mobility’s first phase saw fixed-line communications go mobile. The next phase saw the Internet go mobile. We now behold a paradigm shift in the third phase, where real world communication bridges to the virtual world, via richer communications on smartphones.
For device manufacturers and location-aware service and app creators, it’s no longer about creating unique standalone experiences, it’s about enhancing real-time experiences by enriching everyday consumer behavior with virtual content and relevant information to a particular place and point in time. Location is an important canvas to a series of components that will unlock the possibilities of a more fulfilling, spontaneous — and sometimes amazing — mobile experience. By bringing together the quality of positioning and maps, enabling personalization with places and recommendations, evolving the simple check-in, and enhancing the experience with augmented reality, we activate a seamless, immersive experience that adds value to consumers’ daily life adventures.
Most importantly for wireless operators, location, as a key part of context and relevance, provides a unique opportunity to create revenue.
Location Positioning and Maps
As we create advanced mobile positioning technologies, consumers increasingly become accustomed to location-aware services. Outdoor positioning was our entrée into the market, and it has becoming more and more accurate via new satellite systems in addition to GPS (GLONASS, SBAS, QZSS), use of motion sensors, assisted-GNSS enhancements, and software algorithms to enable instant time to first fix (TTFF), and seamless fixes. On the other hand, pinpointing your location indoors still presents challenges from an accuracy standpoint.
At Nokia, we support Open Mobile Alliance Secure User Plane Location (OMA SUPL, incorporating AGPS and cell-ID) standards for our devices, and enhance our proprietary Nokia Positioning Service (NPS) based on leading-edge assisted-GNSS (GPS+GLONASS) technologies. Our NPS service supports global crowd-sourced databases for cellular tower and Wi-Fi access-point location information. These provide virtually instant TTFF everywhere and enable always-on location awareness — even on devices without an integrated GPS receiver or data connectivity.
We’re also setting our sights on the next frontier: research concept around high accuracy indoor positioning (HAIP) technologies. Nokia’s current HAIP trial system relies on a dedicated positioning beacon, which acts as an indoor satellite when placed on the ceiling. It can accurately locate your position in a room and how far you are from your desired destination in real-time, with an accuracy of up to 30 centimeters. In this manner, we could direct a potential customer to a physical store front, and further to a specific product on the shelf inside the store.
Another example comes from Shopkick, with its own proprietary solution for indoor positioning that utilizes a similar beacon placed inside a retail store. On the device side, the ShopKick app listens via the mobile device microphone and alerts a company when a valued customer physically walks into its store. According to TechCrunch, one of Shopkick’s partner retailers “is estimating $50 million in measurable incremental revenue as a result of the Shopkick mobile app.”
The business opportunity is clear: retailers can now directly connect to the consumer for one-to-one marketing and engagement. Consumers are rewarded instantly, on the spot, and enticed to collect further rewards through loyalty programs.
Imagine enhancing this experience further with a visual representation of your position on a map in an outdoor situation, which can offer a wealth of functionality and create a 3D representation of the real world. At Nokia we are further enhancing our NavTeq maps that deliver accurate 360-degree panoramic street-level imagery, 3D building overlays and a point-of-interest (referred to as a place in this article) interface as individual layers. The map data collection provides individual high-density content layers that enable more fluid animation and 3D mesh building overlays. Users can highlight and select buildings and places to interact with in 3D within their surroundings. This merges the real and virtual world, allowing physical and digital objects to co-exist and interact in real time. Imagine the endless opportunities: zoom in on a 3D map of a restaurant storefront, click the menu on the window to see the special of the day, or receive a discounted offer based on something you have liked in the past.
Places and Recommendations
The way we interact with our mobile device is evolving to mimic the way we exist in the real world. When we refer to a place or to a location, for example, we don’t talk in terms of coordinates or an address, rather we say “the Starbucks around the corner from MOMA.” In building devices and applications, we build the place with the foundation of core data (name, address, longitude and latitude, contact details) and layer on top of that an ever-expanding amount of rich data that comprises ratings and reviews, hours of operation, wheelchair access and spatial data extended to entrances, and more. Thus, we begin to layer in context and we no longer need to know the Boolean constructs that we learned in Web 1.0 to talk to a search engine and find exactly what we want.
Managing this rich, evolving set of place data in a relevant manner will increase in importance. It will also open the door to getting recommendations outside of your normal social community. For example, heat maps that allow you to instantly see where the action is in cities around the world, quickly sharing insight into where locals eat, dance, and shop. Check out examples from Nokia (maps.nokia.com) and mobile apps like AroundMe or Foursquare Radar. Providing locally relevant content to end users also extends the opportunity to connect local merchants to their specific target audience or entice new ones.
JiWire reported in August that “53 percent of the on-the-go U.S. audience revealed they are willing to share their location to receive more relevant content. Mobile consumers under the age of 34 are more eager to share, with 60 percent offering their location for better information.” Focusing on the qualifier, “offering their location for better information,” is where places and recommendations become a powerful medium, and advertisements and offers become another valuable piece of the rich data set offered via your mobile device.
Consider a restaurant search that returns a result for a Chinese restaurant your friend has rated 5 stars for its Mongolian beef, which in the past, you have indicated you liked. As part of the information presented, you see a 15-percent off promotion when you view the menu prices. Or perhaps you’ve searched for a children’s museum, and navigation finds the destination and starts directing you from your current location. Upon arrival, you might receive an offer for discounted membership. As more consumers gravitate towards location-based or location-incorporating services on their smartphones, there’s a great opportunity for developers and business owners to integrate place and recommendation experiences.
Utilizing positioning, maps, places and recommendations are the building blocks on which you can create contextually relevant experiences that consumers will find engaging and sticky and which can open the door to business opportunities. Research shows that consumers are willing to check-in to a location, either by text messaging or by using a mobile application on a smartphone; the application will use the phone’s GPS to find the current location. Many social networking services, such as Foursquare, Google+, Facebook, and Gowalla allow users to check in to a physical place and share their location with their friends. Comscore reported that “16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers used location-based check-in services on their phones in March 2011, representing 7.1 percent of the entire mobile population.”
I still believe check-in remains a niche as it’s not a natural human behavior but is a good starting point for interacting with a location. Check-in needs to be bundled with offer redemption to encourage people to check-in. Also, check-in data can add a new layer of behavior that may not be reflected in recent purchases. For example, a check-in at a gym adds valuable lifestyle information about a consumer, which can aid in ad-targeting efforts.
Now more than ever, as we explore and engage with the world around us, we want to experience amazing everyday adventures. We can enhance this adventure further by augmenting the rich content associated with places in a visual representation that can be consumed through your mobile device in the real world. Imagine you’re in Times Square in Manhattan and you open an augmented-reality experience like Nokia City Lens or Yelp’s Monocle and start panning around you. Icons might pop up to indicate you have a loyalty card for a particular chain of coffee shop; a consumer electronics store has your favorite Wii game on sale; a good friend just gave a nearby restaurant a 5-star review. Perhaps you’ll even find you can get home in less than half an hour if you take a new suggested route that accounts for traffic that’s moving a little slower than usual on your typical drive.
The Opportunity Ahead
In this third phase of mobility, our mobile devices will be a bridge to enriching our lives with virtual content, as long as it is relevant and engaging. Location is a catalyst to enhance virtual interaction with real-world places, enticing people to visit such real-world places. For developers and marketers, business opportunities lie in using highly accurate positioning to drive consumers into storefronts and directly to the products they want; in enabling highly personalized experiences with places that present the right offer at the right time to the right consumer; and in elevating the check-in to engage and reward the consumer. Context, relevance, and consumer engagement will all provide unique monetization opportunities as location technology continues to evolve.
Christopher Peralta is head of location and advertising services for Nokia in North America, responsible for mobile navigation and location-aware services that connect users to locally and socially relevant personalized content and experiences.