NEW ORLEANS — CTIA was both about new offerings and the issues retarding industry growth. The hyper local mobile advertising contingency proclaimed 2012 as the year of its breakthrough. Indoor location companies hoped that 2012 would be their year. Although the car manufacturers didn’t exhibit, mobile apps for the connected vehicle were prominent. Mobile wallet and safety apps were hot. The connected home raised its hopeful head once again. Winning back consumers’ trust that their privacy would be safeguarded, including location information, was acknowledged as standing in the way of deeper, more personalized offerings. Carriers sounded alarms about running out of spectrum to support ballooning mobile data consumption.
Industry leaders provided their perspectives on where our industry is headed:
“The reputation of our industry has dropped to the lowest of any major industry. Even the cable and oil industries rate higher with consumers than we do. That’s a bummer.” Dan Hesse, Sprint Nextel
“We are waiting for the Steve Jobs of automotive. We need a platform that lets apps run with zero friction. Jobs listened to consumers; we need that for connectivity to the vehicle.” Alon Atsmon, iOnRoad Technologies
“In two years we will see more vehicle connectivity, indoor location, and mobile based advertising. We are not pursuing indoor location now, but it is on our radar. In the future we will see incremental map updates. Map updates are now done on a country or state basis. We can’t yet pull out a tile of the map and just update it.” Darianna Gessner, TomTom
“There will be advances in location accuracy, reliability, ubiquity and indoor position. We will see a more connected infotainment system in the vehicle. It will connect to the vehicle and make phone calls, provide safety and security, understand proximity, and give lane guidance.” Brian MacLeod, Trimble
“Companies need to be concerned about monetization, distribution, and functionality. Some companies are putting money into developing apps when it doesn’t make sense, and they don’t need to be in an app store. The Financial Times pulled their app out of the app store, because they no longer wanted to share the revenue.” Todd Simpson, Mozilla
How would you like to pay for that? The credit card companies, carriers, and Google are vigorously vying for best market position in the mobile payment industry. Has Ralph de la Vega of AT&T found a new reality plane? During a keynote, he predicted that mobile payments would replace the wallet by next year. With public concerns about privacy and security, a shift needs to occur in the U.S. before it will be widely adopted. Strong, simple, and convincing privacy controls that win consumers’ trust will the first step.
Location Protects Location Labs is the provider of the Sprint “Safely Bundle,” which offers families a way to monitor or restrict their phone-carrying children through location checks and limits on texting, such as while driving or at school. “We are working on developing a way to offer geo-fencing,” says Tasso Roumeliotis of Location Labs. “The challenge is that continuous location checks drain a phone battery greatly.” The goal is always-on location. Geo-fencing has long been used for asset tracking in devices that draw power from the car battery.
Eye on the Road. iOnRoad showed off its clever driver assistance app and came away with the show’s Mobile Application Automotive Driving and Transportation prize. A cell phone, placed in a dashboard mount, provides a forward collision warning by monitoring the distance to the vehicle ahead. It also provides a lane departure warning if the vehicle is traveling over 37 mph and the wheel touches a solid line (not dotted line). The product is being sold for $4.99, a one-time license fee.
CTIA Reveals. TechnoCom has launched a new division dedicated to the LocationSmart platform, a location integration solution. “This cloud-based location and messaging service adds device location awareness to enterprise and consumer applications,” says Mario Proietti of TechnoCom. “It is a cross-carrier platform for location and messaging.” Asked for his perceptions of CTIA, Proietti summed it up as the year of the credit-card companies (mobile payment), mobile solutions for in-car experience, and swarms of booth babes. I would like to see new product reveals, not skin.”
Lost? How far can Hertz NeverLost go without expanding its market beyond their rental cars? Hertz was at CTIA showing off expanded city guides that will provide enhancements to their users. When asked if they had plans to enlarge their market beyond customers of their rental fleets, Linda Senigaglia of Hertz seemed surprised by the question, and asserted that their play is solely with Hertz customers. Ouch.
Spectrum Shortage. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile executives complained that the future of data use is at risk if more spectrum isn’t put to use. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski defended the agency’s decision to block the AT&T T-Mobile deal with a rejoinder about spectrum shortage. “Some have argued that transactions — let’s be frank, one transaction — is somehow causing a shortage,” said Genachowski. “But the overall amount of spectrum hasn’t changed.” While this is true, spectrum is a concern. CTIA reports that U.S mobile data traffic surged 123 percent in 2011.
Rumors. The grapevine is buzzing with rumors that Deutsche Telekom is in talks with MetroPCS about combining with T-Mobile. Sanford Bernstein’s Craig Moffett had a field day with the possibility, “Oh, my, what an ugly baby,” he writes. Bloomberg reports that MetroPCS is in discussion with other partners as well.
At the movies. Have you seen the fabulous new Norwegian thriller Headhunters? Spoiler alert: the main character is tracked via nano-sized location devices smeared somewhere on his body. See the movie to find out where.