It’s coming. Indoor location, which has been stymied by the limitations of GPS and lack of mapping, is finally getting some legs and is heading us towards seamless navigation. A shopper is guided from home to an empty parking space at the mall, and the navigation doesn’t miss a beat as he heads inside and gets directions to a particular store, and perhaps to a given shelf. Today, the location of a wireless device usually cannot be determined more precisely than the building it is within. In tall or sprawling venues like arenas, malls, dormitories, or apartments this is a critical problem for emergency personnel trying to locate a person who has dialed 911. Mobile marketing and social network applications have also been constrained by problems in obtaining indoor location.
Finding Cherries. Aisle 411 is a shopping app with local search and navigation that helps users find a particular item within a store. The app navigates to the threshold of a store and then provides a diagram of the interior (essentially a paper map) with a drawn path to the desired item, for instance, a jar of maraschino cherries. Apps like this provide a good service, but are held back by the nascent state of indoor navigation. Geo-coded locations of indoor stores often aren’t available. Apps that are more granular and attempt to locate goods within a store face greater challengers. Inventory is moved around and geo-coding is infrequent, hence the diagrams of Aisle 411. Some applications like Aisle 411 utilize crowd-sourced maps, in addition to venue-provided maps.
Height Counts. Products are being introduced to determine the elusive “z” plane, or in layman’s terms, height. Location systems work well at determining the “x” and “y” axis but can’t distinguish between a location on the first floor and one on the twentieth floor. Polaris is releasing an indoor location offering in the second half of this year. In addition to Polaris’ existing location technology, the solution also uses femtocell and distributed antennas without necessitating a client on the handset. Polaris can distinguish a position within a range of five floors. Infrastructure provider CommScope introduced GeoLENS Indoor, a solution that integrates with wireless indoor coverage systems including distributed antenna systems (DAS), repeaters, and other RF equipment.
Inside Job. Micello, a small start-up, has been addressing the indoor mapping issue. The free Micello app contains the maps of the insides of large structures including shopping malls, airports, hospitals, and business campuses. So far, Micello has mapped 215,545 structures in 2,200 locations.
3D Indoors. Navteq showed off Destination Maps’ indoor navigation system at the International CTIA Wireless 2011 show, held in Orlando March 22-24 . The maps are available in 200 U.S. shopping malls and provide detailed 3D guidance and information within indoor structures. The system will use transmitters within buildings that communicate via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Monster in the Room. Mobile users aren’t satisfied by industry privacy measures. “About half the people in a study of 1,500 consumers we interviewed are concerned about who knows their location, particularly businesses,” says Kristi Crum of Verizon. Subscribers want to understand how their data is being used, whether is it being aggregated, or if it is being shared personally or kept totally private. It will only take one or two high-profile events involving misuse of data before there is fallout on our industry, warns Crum.
Monetize, Monetize, Monetize. Mobile payment systems will become ubiquitous. Google is collaborating with MasterCard and Citigroup to embed contactless near-field communication (NFC) payment technologies in Android. Financial service companies are becoming players in mobile advertising and will likely provide advertising networks like Google with consumer data that will enable more targeted advertising. Google is starting a pilot in New York and San Francisco and is paying for thousands of point-of-sales readers for stores in the regions. Google will go head-to-head against ISIS, a nationwide mobile commerce NFC venture that includes Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. ISIS plans to introduce services within the next 18 months.
GPS Interference Concerns Grow. The Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation have added their voices to concerns over LightSquared’s hybrid satellite-terrestrial LTE network, which they think may interfere with GPS systems. In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the agencies state they were “not sufficiently included” in the development of LightSquared’s initial work plan to address potential GPS interference issues caused by its network. An FCC spokesman tried to ease concerns by indicating that LightSquared will not be permitted to go forward until potential GPS interference issues are addressed.
At CTIA, LightSquared acted as though there were no hurdles in its way. CEO Sanjiv Ahuja asserted that the company will beat its build-out goals with a commitment to cover 100 million POPs by the end of 2012, 145 million by the end of 2013, and 260 million by the end of 2015. “We are not only committed to meeting these milestones, we are today positioned to exceed them,” Ahuja said.
DoCoMo. There was a large empty space where Japan’s NTT DoCoMo’s CTIA booth would have stood. DoCoMo issued a statement that it was skipping CTIA to focus fully on delivery of mobile services for relief efforts. In the bare exhibit space, a solitary vase stood filled with cherry blossoms.