It wasn’t quite a call to arms, but Bill Ford, head of Ford Motor, called on the wireless community to work with car makers to avoid global gridlock and create a future of “urban mobility,” a network that will track vehicles and automatically instruct cars to change lanes, exit a road, or park. Vehicle connectivity was one of the major themes of the Mobile World Congress, held in February in Barcelona. For some of us, it brought up memories of the PATH automated highways project of the 1990s. You have likely seen photos of that prototype automated highway with platoons of driver-less vehicles riding on I-15 in southern California. The vision has changed, and we are headed towards autonomous, connected vehicles and away from the specialized, and prohibitively expensive, infrastructure that defined earlier efforts.
By 2020, 90 percent of cars will have mobile connectivity, compared to 10 percent today, predicts Machina Research in a study funded by the GSMA. The industry is aflutter with connected activity. Sprint Nextel is partnering with Chrysler Group’s Uconnect voice-activated vehicle communications system that enables Sprint phones to connect to the vehicle’s audio system. The Ford Sync will be available to European customers. The Family Locator from TCS will be incorporated in connected vehicles.
Smartphones Overtake Feature Phones. For the first time, close to half of Americans own smartphones, edging out feature phone ownership, reports the Pew Internet and American life project. According to its report, 45 percent of adults identify themselves as smartphone owners, compared to 41 percent who identify as feature phone owners. There was a notable increase in smartphone ownership by almost every demographic group, including men and women, younger and middle-age adults, urban and rural residential and wealthy and lower-income people.
Apple Grown Maps. For a year, there have been signs that Google was developing its own mapping and navigation service. Apple has acquired digital mapping companies and listed licenses from many third-party location service companies. 9to5Mac reports that Apple’s mapping contract with Google expires at the end of 2012, and hasn’t yet been renewed. The just-released iPhoto application uses Apple-grown mapping, and not Google.
Disappearing Ovi. Nokia is closing down the Ovi Share media sharing site to focus on offerings by its location and commerce division, dedicated to building consumer-centric social location products and applications, as well as platform services and local commerce solutions. Services include Nokia Drive, Nokia Maps, and Nokia Transport.
Gambling Geo-Fence. In the U.S., online and mobile gambling is only legal within the state of Nevada. The location of the mobile user must be determined to ensure she is within state boundaries. Locaid Technologies is the first company to meet all the requirements of the Nevada Gaming Control Board to certify the location of a mobile gambler. Locaid uses geofencing to build virtual, digital perimeters around the state of Nevada and reports it can “prove that a user is physically with a mobile device, and whether the person is located within Nevada state borders, across any major carrier mobile network — whether the mobile device is indoors or outdoors, GPS-enabled or not, and whether the device is a smartphone, feature phone, or laptop computer.”
February Black Friday. Shopkick announced results of an experiment to create a one-day boost in foot traffic at partner retail stores using holiday tactics during a non-peak shopping period. “We asked a simple question: What if retailers could create Black Friday shopping behavior any day of the year that they wanted?” said Cyriac Roeding of shopkick. The company reports that by doubling the incentives they deliver via smartphone, none worth more than a dollar, their retail partners experience double-digit increases. Retail partners include American Eagle, Macy’s, Old Navy, and Best Buy.
Effectiveness of Mobile Shopping Apps? Smartphones are increasingly used for shopping, researching products, comparing prices, and finding retail locations. Nielsen metered the smartphones of 5,000 U.S. volunteers during the 2011 holiday shopping season. Nielsen’s analysis reveals that retail websites are more popular than retail apps. Both genders prefer retailers’ mobile websites over mobile apps. The top retail apps and websites combined were Amazon, Best Buy, eBay, Target, and Walmart, and reached nearly 60 percent of smartphone owners during the end of 2011.
What Was Ford Thinking? In his Mobile World Congress address, Bill Ford, great grandson of Henry, warned that unless the wireless and automotive industries find a solution, global gridlock could one day become a “human rights issue.” In addition to working to end torture, does Mr. Ford think that Amnesty International should pursue the issue of vehicle traffic mitigation?