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LBS & tourism through the eyes of a postgrad marketing student in New Zealand.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

It is all about

I'm so excited! Just discovered a blog which is the most directly relevant to my thesis that I've come across so far:

It is all about
"Trying to keep tabs on our new geo annoted world being created where the world will be the way to search all information and knowledge. From geo notations, georeferenced photos, geoparsed documents, location based services, geospatial search and virtual tourism to how to find out if a friend is nearby."
Too bad it hasn't been updated since December 2004, though. Have added the feed to my Bloglines, of course - I hope the author's going to start writing again sometime this year, if not, I guess I will just have to pick up where they left off... This is exactly why I love the blogosphere - just when you think you've got everything covered, you'll find something fresh and insightful. =) Note to self: try to find more geography/GIS-oriented blogs.

On a side note, I just came across this rather old article on Siemens & SMS graffiti - just thought I'd note it down in case I forget about it later.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Melodious Walkabout

Via near near future: Melodious Walkabout
A Diploma Thesis on 'Implicit Navigation with Contextualized Audio Contents'
"Melodious Walkabout is a PDA-based auditory navigation system. It provides a mobile user with awareness where the destination is located by contextualizing audio contents the user is listening to. The mobile user wears headphones and hears audio contents that reach him from a certain direction. The direction of the virtual sound source unobtrusively tells him in which direction to go."
Very interesting, and the first example of an audio-based LBS I have come across. However, I think that for practical reasons, it'll probably be better if used in conjunction with map-based GUIs. While some people may prefer auditory stimuli, others may prefer to visualise things graphically - it really depends on the individual. I'd be interested to read the actual paper, if it's been published... Though I'm already swamped with papers for my lit review as it is! I will post the links to all the location-based tourism papers I've found via Google Scholar and various databases later.

By the way, unfortunately I've had to disable the comments for this blog - however, if you'd still like to comment on or discuss any topics I cover here, please email me at clararar at gmail.com or clara.leung at auckland.ac.nz. Thanks! =)

Monday, March 28, 2005

The latest on LBS via Technorati

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I've got to re-defend my thesis soon and it's getting a bit hectic... but just thought I'd better note down the following articles:

To BREW or not to BREW (in NZ) from An Enterprise Architect in NZ
"BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless), allows mobile developers to put code directly into a user's handset and execute it without worrying about network-level events, such as breaks for SMS messages. The resulting consumer goodies (such as location-based services, games, and specialized ring tones) are delivered directly to the user's handset by the cell network, usually by subscription, with profits shared by the developer, the carrier, and Qualcomm itself."
[UPDATE: To BREW or not to BREW - Part Two. I tried to use the TrackBack URLs at first but for some reason they never work for me...]

Via pasta & vinegar: Lampposts to provide location-based services?
I like Nicolas Nova's take on the article
"Apart from that other interesting and RELEVANT uses?"

Your cellphone is a homing device
Especially start reading from:
"THE WIRELESS INDUSTRY HAS A NAME FOR SUCH CUSTOM-TAILORED HAWKING: "location-based services," or LBS. The idea is that GPS chips can be used to locate friends, find the nearest pizzeria, or ensure that Junior is really at the library rather than a keg party. One estimate expects LBS to be a $15 billion market by 2007, a much-needed boost for the flagging telecom sector."

A list of some interesting LBS startups
- Telcontar: software and platform for location based services
- uLocate Communication: location-based services (LBS) focused on the consumer and small-business markets
- Wavemarket: location based blogging and alerts
- InfoMove: safely deliver personalized information to consumers while in the vehicle
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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Permission-based Marketing

A nice, concise Harvard Business School case study on permission-based mobile marketing:
Cell Phone Ads That Consumers Love

Some local examples of permission-based (I hope!) mobile marketing:
The Hyperfactory
a&e communications

There was another one that I remember seeing at the Direct Marketing Expo last year but I can't remember what they were called...

[EDIT: Here's another one - Run The Red. I only found out about this because Jon Beverley, the CEO, sent me an email =) Thanks! Still not the one I forgot the name of, though...]

[ANOTHER EDIT: I think this is the other one I was looking for - Touchpoint. While mobile marketing is a component of their services, they don't appear to specialise in it. Still, there's some good case studies on their website...]

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The paradoxes of mobile commerce

Re-reading my two previous posts, I realised that they may be a bit confusing because I've been mixing methods without explanation - first I said that tourists could book and pay for their hotels at the same time; then I said that the anonymous nature of Octopus cards as a form of contactless payment may appeal to many.

Basically I'm talking about two entirely different uses of mobile payment. Also, hotels are not a good example because you usually don't pay until afterwards, seeing as they need to check whether you raided the mini-bar or not. So here's a different example - say you want to buy tickets for the Skytower (a popular Auckland tourist attraction).

1) You can remotely pre-purchase a ticket via your Timespot-like device from anywhere in Auckland (or even New Zealand), whereby the ticket price will be added from your credit card account. When you arrive at the Skytower, just show them the electronic ticket or receipt on your device, and you're good to go.

or 2) With an Octopus card chip embedded in the device, instead of paying cash or credit card when you get to the counter, just flash the Timespot in the appropriate place and you're issued a ticket.

While both do away with cash, the first is really more applicable to adding value to a Timespot device and tourism in general. The second option is just another form of payment aimed at enhancing speed and convenience, hence why it was first implemented in public transport in Hong Kong. You could conceivably have both in the same device, but that may confuse the issue here. In fact, I'm getting a little confused myself...

Basically, while I think it would be fantastic to embed Octopus card chips in mobiles to enable that type of contactless payment (which is much more user-friendly than the SMS type), it's a whole different kettle of fish, and will probably be a lot more difficult to implement because of the hardware and retailer-adoption requirements. Even in Hong Kong, Octopus cards are still mainly used for public transport and other small purchases such as from vending machines - people still use cash or debit/credit cards to buy clothes, and this is unlikely to change in the meantime.

While it does mean additional fees for going through the mobile carrier, as well as reduced user-friendliness, Timespot-wannabes will be better off concentrating on the (1) form of payment for practical implementation reasons. Also, the fact that the carrier profits is not necessarily a bad thing - at least then they will have the motivation to cooperate in these types of ventures!

In the end, it's impossible to have anonymity and mobile marketing simultaneously, because as a marketer, first you have to obtain their permission (therefore they lose anonymity) . If you haven't got permission, then you're (surprise, surprise) spamming! Fortunately, most people will happily give you permission if they think you have something relevant and valuable to offer them - for tourists, I'd imagine that a user-friendly, reasonably-priced Timespot device will be very difficult to resist indeed...

More about contactless payment

I just scrolled down here a little bit and saw another post about contactless payments, fun! I have something to add to that, too.

The Octopus Card has been in use in Hong Kong for some time now, and it's something no traveller to the city should be without. Here is a useful blurb - I've picked out the more important bits below:
Octopus cards were developed as an automatic fare collection (AFC) scheme for Hong Kong’s transit system. This contactless smart card ticketing system currently includes over 100 service providers, including all of the major transport operators. The use of the card has shortened queues at ticket barriers, because the card doesn't have to be taken out of a bag or wallet — customers can just wave it past a scanner at a distance of several centimeters.
Nokia has launched a cover for one of their mobile phones that includes an embedded Octopus chip and antenna, enabling commuters to use their phone to make Octopus payments.

While Octopus cards are anonymous by default, over 500,000 personalized cards have been issued and are used for the Octopus Automatic Add-Value Service. Twelve Hong Kong banks and one credit card company support the automatic add-value service. Because each personalized card has a unique identification number, up to 40,000 cards are also being used as security passes at housing estates, for staff identification cards, and as loyalty cards.
Travelers have found that the card provides increased convenience, allowing them to pass through fare collection points 15 to 20% faster, according to Octopus card statistics. The scheme has succeeded because it offers real convenience to cardholders.
Dear Nokia (and Motorola, etc): why not go one step further and actually embed the Octopus chip & antenna into the phone itself, not just the cover? I think that the way of the future in terms of mobile-payments is not via SMS but Octopus card-like contactless technologies. Carriers will hate the idea because they don't profit from it (since it bypasses their network, rather like Bluetooth), meaning that consumers will love it for the very same reason.

For example, take the new 'txt to park' Auckland parking meters. Not only do you have to pay 50c when you SMS Vodafone or insert your credit card to pay for parking, a One News story illustrated just how bewildering the machines were to most of the public, with most just staring blankly at the machine for an extended period of time.

Now imagine you're in Hong Kong - just wave your Octopus card over the parking meter, and your ticket pops out. No extra fees because it doesn't go through your mobile carrier or your credit card company. Which solution sounds better?

I think the annonymous, pre-paid nature of Octopus cards will also appeal to many - it's inherently more user-friendly because you're not required to have a credit card or even a bank account, making it a lot more accessible to the wider population. It'll also pacify consumers who are paranoid about being tracked by 'the corporations'.

As with all of these things, the hard part is getting everyone to install the Octopus card readers in the first place - for the skeptics, at least there's the shining example of Hong Kong to look towards...

Contactless Payments & Visa

Read this post about contactless payment technology and how it relates to credit card companies (Visa in particular) and thought I should make a note, since Visa is contributing to my scholarship and I may get a chance to directly ask them about this, which will be very interesting. This technology is highly relevant to travellers for obvious reasons - it saves them from having to wear a moneybelt bulging with local cash while trying to figure out which note is which. Judging by the widespread adoption of EFTPOS in NZ, I'd say that a move to contactless payments here may not be so far-fetched...

In terms of a Timespot-like device, imagine if you could book, pay for and get personally location-specific directions to your hotel, all in one go! After having read other travellers' reviews of the place, of course. Then again, after putting all your eggs in one basket like that (so to speak), you really wouldn't want to lose it or have it stolen. The upside is that all the devices should be easily trackable by a central operating server or the mobile service provider, so as soon as one has been reported as stolen, the police can be directed to where the thief is, provided the device is still turned-on and in one piece.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Now we just need to make it really user-friendly, get a really fantastic marketing team, and find out who's going to fund it all...
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In others' words

Via the excellently insightful Pondering Primate: Local mobile search? Hold the phone
This post pretty much echos my sentiments about the issue, so I won't repeat the same thing here. =)

I also saw a Herald article about how hype kills mobile services, which is oh-so-true! At the moment there is a huge onslaught of marketing communications from both Telecom & Vodafone regarding PTT (push-to-talk); however, I would be interested to see the real uptake numbers. Due to the issue of cost, probably only businesses can afford to adopt it, and even then they may benefit more from Vodafone's TalkZoneZero or Telecom's business capped rates plans... Let's come back to this in six month's time and see if PTT is another dead duck in NZ's mobile waters...
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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Adding value to Timespots

I was going to blog this last week, but my home connection was having some problems and I gave up - here it is now anyway!

I noticed that Engadget finally picked up on that Timespot location-based tourism service in Amsterdam. I say 'finally' because Russell over at The Mobile Technology Weblog mentioned it two weeks prior, and in the blogosphere, two weeks seems more like two months. Still! Good to see LBT (location-based tourism) highlighted in such a highly-trafficked blog.

I wonder if the Timespot offering could be directly adapted for any city, e.g. Auckland? One of their development partners is Vodafone, so it is quite conceivable that Vodafone NZ would be interested in this type of thing. In fact, being such a global brand, Vodafone is in a prime position to ensure that it is the mobile service provider of choice when it comes to LBT using the Timespot model. Other developmental partners included the city council, the tourism board, and a publisher of tourism guides.

In terms of NZ, I know for a fact that the Ministry of Tourism is highly interested in LBS/LBT (hence me receiving this scholarship), and the local city councils are usually quite happy to jump at the chance of promoting their areas (as long as it doesn't disturb the residents too much, i.e. in the form of a V8 supercar race) , so... if someone offered them a sensible-sounding business proposition for LBT, they should (in theory) take it. Who wants to offer it to them? We need a company like Nika (the 'initiator of the Timespots initiative'). What with all the ambitious Kiwi entrepreneurs out there, maybe a Nika-like firm already exists, but they just haven't met the right venture capitalists yet? Anyway, just some more thoughts to throw into the m-commerce cauldron...

I also watched the (somewhat cheesey) promotional video and the 'call other Timespotters for free' proposition definitely caught my eye - it's the beginnings of a social network, rather reminiscent of the Geocaching community. At first I thought it would be pointless building up a social network for tourists, seeing as they're only in the city for a short amount of time, and are always moving around. But then I realised that social networking for tourists would be highly beneficial to the tourists involved.

When you're at a tourist attraction like a lookout point, you might need to ask someone else to take a photo for you or just start chatting spontaneously because you have something in common (travelling). Why not incorporate the natural comraderie of travelling into a Timespot service to add some real value? Kind of like the Yellow Arrow project, but with a Tourism slant - travellers can leave caches (like Geocaching!) of reviews, tips and random messages for other travellers. We know from Wikipedia that the user-created content model is an easy and cheap way of amassing data while giving users a sense of power and community. I will probably try and develop this idea a bit further later, but I think it's definitely something that would make the service even 'stickier' for the users involved.

Monday, March 07, 2005

You mean NZ isn't a dead wasteland for LBS apps?

You know, it's not like New Zealand is a gigantic black hole when it comes to LBS. Successful locative technology firms such as Navman and Electronic Navigation Limited have both originated from this country. Being an island nation, both firms seem to have started out by focusing on marine navigation, but they are branching out into other applications - still mainly b2b (business to business), which is understandable given the cost of these sorts of systems. It's slowly seeping into the consumer electronics realm - Navman personal devices are being sold at Dick Smith Electronics, and more and more people hopping on the telematics bandwagon.

But what about the consumer mobile phone market? How about offering some useful LBS apps to your average mobile phone user without requiring them to fork over a thousand-odd dollars? Well, apparently Vodafone has the answer. Almost everyone on Vodafone NZ (whether prepay or plan) should be able to access some highly rudimentary LBS from their Vodafone menu. But there's a problem, which will soon become apparent via a real, personal demonstration of this service:

1) I take out my Motorola MPx220 (I love this phone) running Windows Mobile 2003, and I press 'Start'.
2) I have to press 'More' three times before I reach the 'Vodafone' menu. I click into it.
3) Here I have five options; I guess that the LBS will be under 'Be Informed', though quite plausibly it could fall under 'Entertain Me'. I stick with 'Be Informed'. Click.
4) Now I have eight options, but the top one is 'Close2U', which seems to be the best bet.
5) Whoa, now I'm presented with ten options, which I'll actually list just to show what kind of services you can look for: ATMs, Fast Food, Petrol Stations, Liquor Outlets, Vending Machines, Car Parks, Taxi Stands, Urgent Pharmacies, Supermarkets, and last but not least, Vdfn (Vodafone) Outlets. It's nearly dinnertime, so I go for 'Fast Food'.
6) Now I get to choose from Burger King, KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Haven, Pizza Hut, Wendy's and Other Fast Foods. I'm curious about 'Other Fast Foods' so I click that.
7a) A long pause. Then I get an SMS from Vodafone: 'Free from Vdfn: Sorry! Close2U is unable to currently find a listing for Other Fast Foods services. Please try again later.' No worries, I wasn't expecting much anyway... let's try another one.
7b) I go back to the Close2U menu and pick 'Petrol Stations'. This time, after a long pause and another 'this info will be sent to you in a text message', I get two SMSes from Vodafone, giving me some information about my nearest petrol stations, including their addresses, phone numbers, opening hours, and even the types of petrol they offer and whether there is a carwash or not.

My verdict? When it finally worked, it had a cool novelty factor, contained potentially quite useful information, and was more or less accurate (I already knew where my closest petrol stations were and they were duly pointed out by the service). However, the types of services accessible were quite limited, and it took a while to really get any results. Furthermore, I'm not really sure whether this service is freely provided by the Vodafone network, or whether they zapped 50c off my prepay credit for each SMS. I'm assuming it's free, otherwise they would've (I hope) put some sort of disclaimer or warning...

An easy way around the breaking of the 3-click rule problem would be to employ some sort of searching interface (à la Google) and link it with Yellowpages.co.nz to make it both quick and comprehensive. As for augmenting this via direction-giving and mapping, it's quite out of the question for many on the network who are still using Nokia 3310s or ye olde 'brick' Alcatels, phones which are simply not capable of displaying such information. You'd think they'd be completely obsolete by now, but I still have many friends who are using monochromatic, GPRS-less and camera-less mobiles.

Despite the hype about the txting culture surrounding today's youth, money is more likely to be spent on the core services themselves (voice calls, SMS) than on flashy phones, which is probably exactly what Vodafone and Telecom want! New Zealand is no Hong Kong or South Korea; many native Kiwis (i.e. New Zealanders) replace their phone out of necessity, e.g. from theft, loss or having them damaged-beyond-repair, than whim. This is especially applicable for younger students who are often strapped-for-cash. Then again, when these same students enter the workforce and the dough starts piling up, they may come into the market for more expensive, information-rich LBS apps requiring more advanced devices such as PDA/smartphones.

In the context of interactive travellers, who we assume to be rich enough and tech-savvy enough to afford the more information-rich services, there still comes the question of - who's going to build these services? Vodafone NZ? Unlikely, given that tourists, by definition, cannot be a long-term source of income for the carrier. Maybe someone can write a tourism-specific app for Navman's PiN (personal interactive navigation) devices, with the cooperation of tourism service providers such as hotels, tourist attractions, retailers, etc. I read somewhere that it's easier to use off-the-shelf technology than try to reinvent the wheel. There are already a ton of personal navigation/GPS devices available locally - what's stopping us from improving the user interfaces enough to make it both easy-to use and useful?

Anyway. At least I can finally give a New Zealand example of LBS, next time someone asks...



This is a fantastic example of a well-established form of location-based gaming/community/interaction, with caches all over the world and a huge following. It was this NZ Herald article which pointed me to the site, so it looks like it's definitely catching on here, too. Could this turn into a fun way of conducting tourism for interactive travellers? I'm sure that the foreign geocachers who visit NZ would naturally carry their GPS devices with them to look for local geocaches. Also, what type of business model would be needed to turn this into a revenue-generating, economy-boosting type of thing? Of course, the geocachers themselves will generate tourism dollars through core services like accomodation and travel, but what else is there?

I really should have done a conjoint degree with Geography or something! I wonder if I could somehow get some NZ geocachers as interviewees... If you're a geocacher and you're interested, let me know!
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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Another one-line definition for LBS

Eduardo from Brazil sent me this email with some great insights, I thought I'd share it in its entirety here - hope you don't mind, Eduardo! =)
"Hi Clara,

My name is Eduardo and I live in São Paulo, Brazil.

I have been working in LBS for the last 4 years and for the most part it seemed like my sister likes to say “a useless passion”

Anyways, I came across your blogging site and, as you, I used to struggle to come up with a short concise definition of LBS.

But here is my preferred one : “Location is an invisible enhancer of existing services” therefore “location based services are the existing services you are familiar with but enhanced”.

Just think about the fact that 80% of the knowledge about things has a spatial component!!

Good luck with your thesis about LBS tourism. I really like the subject and you are right on the money about it since LBS makes primarily sense for roamers, people who are out of their own towns...like tourists!!

The exception would be if you live in a city like the one I live in (São Paulo). It is so big that I definitely could make use of LBS provided they were implemented in a cost effective way and with emphasis on the UI (User Interfase). 3 clicks max to get what you want. And perhaps even LBS push services would be even more compelling.

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Greedy Carriers

I just joined up with Technorati and here's one of the first LBS-related blog entries I found:
Yes, Your Phone Has GPS - But You Can't Use It
Sad but true - and this isn't the first example of firms closing off innovation in the name of self-interest, either.

Thing is, LBS requires cooperation from so many different parties (yellow/white pages, the retailers themselves, the carriers, the mobile phone manufacturers, marketers, and most importantly the consumer) that it's simply too much of a hassle for someone to go 'right, let's provide this LBS app' and expect it to be a success.

Therefore, who's going to complain to the carriers that they're standing in the way of progress when they're imposing these sorts of restrictions on their phones? The consumers? Nobody even knows what LBS is!

If only the big guns at the carriers had blogs. With comments enabled.
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Interactive Traveller Research

Well, I definitely need to file this away for future reference!
Interactive Traveller® Research

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An extremely useful website for anyone doing research concerned with New Zealand Tourism:

Tourism Research Council
The international visitor survey data for our German tourists definitely looks like it fits pretty well within the 'interactive traveller' category! The nice German couple I met while tramping the Pinnacles walk fits perfectly within this description. When it comes to my interviews, I'll have to make sure that I have some German respondents. Now I have to wade through all of the other data to build up a better profile of the 'interactive traveller', i.e. the main target market for location-based (LB) tourism apps. And there is oh so much data to wade through!

While I remember, I should mention The Yellow Arrow Project, a fantastic example of electronic tagging & LBS. I could definitely see something like that taking off in Auckland, what with the popularity of hip hop culture and the penetration of txt msging... Now for someone to actually implement it...