The month of October and now into November was filled with several conferences, but not a lot of location news. A few news snippets, while not blockbusters, were important. One was Waze’s decision to offer its own location-based advertising. Another was a milestone for Ford, which said its Sync information system is now in five million vehicles. On an end-of-an-era note, of which there have been quite a few in the last two years, Sprint has decided to drop the Nextel name. Nextel was one of the innovative companies in the late 1990s and early 2000s, placing location capability into mobile phones and jump-starting an industry.
Waze recently said it is offering a global location-based advertising platform that will be directed to its 30 million users. Waze, founded in 2009 in Israel, says smartphone users can try the service for free — the profit for them is ad revenue from local and large brands.
GPS World’s LBS Insider recently reported that Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, actually endorsed Waze as an alternative to its own mapping service after users were experiencing problems with it. Waze, which is offering the advertisements in the United States, said it saw a jump in downloads after the announcement.
Some industry analysts say it may be a mistake for Waze to swim in the deep end of the pool to compete with such mobile advertising giants as Google.
Waze raised a total of $67 million from investor Kleiner Perkins and Hong Kong investor Li Ka-shing. They cite big partners such as Circle K, Dunkin’ Donuts, MACS, Kum & Go, Wyndham Hotels, Jamba Juice, and P&G.
Palo Alto-based Waze is probably best known for its driving directions based on user input. The company says that its users spend an average of more than 7 hours in their vehicles a month.
The company, in order not to annoy users, is minimizing the number of pins on a map advertisement. According to published reports, the company said its advertisements will include coupons.
From the Waze blog: “We don’t want to bombard you, so you’ll never see too many businesses crowded on the map at once. Instead, the algorithm that powers Waze Ads aims to bring you a helpful selection of the various retailers around you on your daily drive.”
Waze is also making advertising inroads in Europe. It recently announced a partnership with Lumata, an Italy-based mobile marketing company. The deal allows Lumata to have a an exclusive right for advertising on Waze’s app in Italy, according to published reports.
Waze announced in June that car models will soon integrate the company’s mapping software. The company’s iOS and Android app’s users contribute road data while they drive, share accident reports, police speed traps, traffic jams and other data.
Five Million Sync Units in Five Years…
Ford and Microsoft’s Sync infotainment system has been installed in five million Ford and Lincoln vehicles. The unit, which was rolled out at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, was one of the first products to allow smartphones to work with car components.
Sync was innovative in that it bundled turn-by-turn navigation, hands-free calling, text message reading, and other features. Earlier aftermarket products, such as Clarion’s AutoPC, were busts — but perhaps five-to-seven years too early for the market.
Ford jazzed up Sync with touchscreens and voice recognition since it rolled out its first model, which only used push buttons. It integrated other features such as audio, air conditioning/climate control, and navigation. Soon the newer version, MyFord Touch, offered video streaming, music, and a voice-activated climate control system.
Ford announced earlier this year that it was working with State Farm to add all Sync-equipped vehicles to the insurance giant’s Drive Safe & Save approved vehicles. A customer, through a voluntary sign up, can run a Vehicle Health Report that sends information to State Farm. Potential insurance savings for a customer could be 40 percent.
Ford is working with several industry companies, including Pandora and TeleNav Scout, through its AppLink program, which was globally offered earlier this year.
In other LBS news:
- Sprint’s recent decision to drop the Nextel name was the end of an era, but not a surprise. It was Nextel, before its 2005 merger with Sprint, that truly innovated consumer and enterprise applications and markets on the mobile handset. In the wake of Japan’s Softbank purchase of 70 percent of Sprint, the Nextel part of the Sprint name will go away in mid-2013. The new name will be Sprint Corp. The Nextel brand was known for its iDEN technology and network, which is gradually being shut down by Sprint.
- The recent U.S. presidential election had an LBS story. Foursquare had an app that had the goal of encouraging users to vote. The “I Voted” app allowed users to find their local polling station on Election Day and check in to show they cast a vote. Foursquare, trying to show that it offers more than “check-in” capability, recently announced a rating system for businesses. It is not clear whether the service, with 25 million users, is going after companies such as TripAdvisor and Yelp for a share of the evaluation/services market.
- Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S III managed to knock Apple’s iPhone 4S off the pedestal as the world’s most popular smartphone, in terms of sales, in the third quarter, said Strategy Analytics. Samsung sold around 18 million S III phones during the quarter, compared to Apple’s 16.2 million iPhone 4S units. The Galaxy S features a large touchscreen and GPS for location-based services.