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

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Via mobilewatch: Crunkie

'Crunkie™ is a new, free service for your mobile phone and the Web that combines social networking, mobile blogging, and geographic location. With Crunkie™, you can browse interactive maps on your mobile phone or online. Crunkie™ will enable you to see where it's at:

  • Find your friend's location on your mobile phone and meet up
  • Create and swap location-tagged photos and messages
  • Discover and broadcast your new favorite places'
It's great that there's actually lots of LBS apps popping up now for people to download & try out, but I wonder what Crunkie's business model is? Given that they're offering the software for free... That aside, there's also the fact that you actually have to set your own location - i.e. it is not really automatically location-sensitive:
'To set your location, simply move the cross-hair to the location you'd like to identify yourself with, press the fire button and select Set My Location. This will mark your position on the map for you and your friends to see. You will also be given the chance to send a text message with your location update to your friends.'
Then again, this is probably because it's the only feasible way to implement such a service at the moment. However, it won't be incredibly useful if you're moving around, is it? Or if you actually want to coordinate activities with friends in a given location such as a shopping centre - does the location info get any more specific than the building level? Though I'm not sure that anyone can offer that level of specificity at the moment... It also assumes that you already know where you are on a map (so no 'where am I?' services), which may not always be the case.

Crunkie is only supported by a limited range of mobiles (Nokia 3620, Nokia 3650, Nokia 6600, Nokia 6620, Motorola V505, Motorola V600, Audiovox SMT5600), but this is a problem that most LBS application providers will probably face - at least you still have a choice of different manufacturers, with a good selection from Nokia.

Finally, as with most other mobile social networking apps, this will probably require some sort of critical mass to really take off. Since I haven't really heard about it till now, not even in the mobile/tech-related blogosphere, I'll assume that this hasn't occured yet... All the best of luck to them though!

Monday, May 23, 2005

hp & LBS

I'm not sure why I missed out on this earlier, but I guess it's good that I found it in the end: hp has quite a good section on their website about LBS, including some interesting-looking pdfs:
I look forward to reading them in more detail soon! At the moment I've been completely swamped with tutoring work... So far I've conducted two expert interviews for my thesis, both of which were very interesting - they confirmed what I've picked up so far as the key issues for LBS from my lit review and the blogosphere (e.g. permission-based, timely, personalised, relevant), as well as pointing out some other things I hadn't ever considered before! =) Now I should really try to get my hands on some tourism experts...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Nokia Sensor

Nokia Sensor Application: See and Be Seen
  • Spontaneous social circles
  • Your portable personality
  • Instant communities and networks
  • Free to download, free to use
  • Free file sharing
The flash demo on that page is definitely worth a look! The good thing about this is that it's free, and it works with Bluetooth, which is pretty standard with most new phones these days. However, it seems more applicable to individuals who like meeting new people, as opposed to those who stay within their own contact list - that's the impression I got from the demo, anyway.

Something like Dodgeball seems to offer a fuller mobile social network experience, but if Nokia bundles a social networking app on their phones, then of course they will have the upper hand. The file sharing thing is also an exciting area, especially in terms of sharing MP3s and so forth. I wonder if this will really take off?

A cellphone could help save your life

Cellphone used as tracking device to rescue man
Now, before you get all excited about LBS applications for emergencies being available in NZ (like E911 in the US), it turns out that this is how they used the phone to locate the injured man:
"One of the officers used his local knowledge and guessed he was in Mills Lane.

"Then we sent an ambulance up and down Mills Lane while we listened to the siren through the man's cellphone."

When the siren, heard through the phone, was at its loudest, ambulance officers jumped out and found the man.
Very primitive indeed - wouldn't it have been much easier if we had something like E911? I hope that governments in most countries will be moving towards this, not only because it could mean the difference between life and death, but also because it would really spur the development of other LBS applications in that country. I don't see that happening anytime soon in NZ though... =

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Found this via Engadget, although apparently it has actually been around for a long time:
IntelliTours creates audio and multimedia tours that are guided and triggered by GPS navigation. The tours work outdoors anywhere in the world. The tours are packaged for handheld walking tours, auto and RV trips, and fixed-route tourist trolleys, buses and trains.
It seems that there are already lots of existing location-based tourism applications on offer all around the world - there just isn't much academic research/theory on the matter, nor is there an aggregated account of their successes/failures. I guess this is where my thesis can come in! =)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Location-based toilets in China

Dial-a-toilet launched in China

The world's first telephone toilet location system is to be launched in Shanghai next month.

The move was announced at the First World Toilet Forum held in the Chinese city, reports City Express.

Users dial a special number and the system tells them the location of the nearest public toilet.

In the future, it will also give them information such as whether or not the conveniences are free of charge.

Sun Guizhi, director of the Shanghai city cleaning office, said: "The system is mainly for tourists who come to the city for the first time."
This is actually not a bad idea! And a great example of a location-based tourism application... However, I'm not sure about the profitability of this sort of service, as people have survived fine so far without it (i.e. by finding toilets themselves through other means). Still, the story shows that LBS is catching on... =)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Dodgeball & other things

Dodgeball: mobile social software

A really good example of a location-based 'buddy tracking' application, but social software is really a much better term for it! There are so many nifty mobile services out there (many of which are location-based), but they don't really appear on my radar unless someone blogs about it - in this case, it was because Dodgeball was acquired by Google, who definitely look to be trying to dominate the mobile space...

I finally got my own copy of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold as an early birthday present, and so far it's been very enjoyable and inspiring - very, very highly recommended! Then again, if you're interested enough in mobile tech to be reading this blog, it's likely that you've read it already...

By the way, I'm just getting into the 'data collection' part of my thesis research - if you consider yourself to be an expert in the LBS/mobile commerce/tourism field, and will be in Auckland anytime within the next month or so, I would love to hear from you to arrange an interview time! Thanks. =)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Freetext for an enrolment pack

I saw this on my way home today:

enrol to vote via txt

It's not the first (or only) example of a marketing message having an integrated SMS element, but I thought I'd write about it because it's a very good example of one, since:
1) it's free,
2) it's clear what you have to do to use it, i.e. txt your name & address to 3676 and they will send you an enrolment pack (as opposed to the Rideline SMS service), &
3) it's perfectly targeted toward younger people who've just turned 18 and have yet to register to vote, since most of them would be more comfortable with the SMS medium than with the 0800 number

Their marketing campaign could still do with some improvements, though - the other day, everyone in my family got a letter from Elections New Zealand saying 'if your details are the same, you don't need to do anything - if not, please send this back with your updated details'. Since everyone's details were still the same, it basically meant a complete waste of paper for both them and us. So, if there was some way to confirm your details electronically before they sent these unnecessary letters, it would be really good... Maybe in another few years.

[18/05/05 UPDATE: Text messaging to enrol brings huge response - a really nice confirmation of the effectiveness of mobile marketing campaigns, when done correctly!]

Bill Gates has LBS all sorted out?

Was just reading Engadget's interview with Bill Gates (part 1), and while I agree with what Russell Beattie said about how Bill should've responded to the "Is the goal to have a Windows Mobile phone in every pocket just like the goal is to have a Windows PC on every desk?" question, I'm glad Bill briefly mentioned buddy tracking or social network LBS apps, even if he didn't use the word 'location-based' or 'context aware'
"What comes after Windows Mobile 2005? Is it just further refinement and evolution of the platform?

When you get visual recognition in there is that an evolution? When you get speech recognition in there is that an evolution? When you get the kind of mapping GPS stuff that’s so powerful? When you get the “Are my friends near me, then notify me” type of stuff? There’s so much happening in that mobile phone space that we’ve had to get super reliability, super testing stuff, get the foundation, get the credibility. I’d say in some ways the mobile phone space is a little bit like Xbox, where it took many years to get the foundation and get the credibility where you’ve got hardware relationships, where you’ve got higher ARPU on your device and you can show you’re connecting up to different things, and so we’re poised now with the phone thing to have more of an impact."
Then again, it doesn't look like there'll be anything like that in Windows Mobile 2005... Oh well, it's good that they are trying to concentrate on the core need of reliability though! The current version of Windows Mobile I have on my phone definitely makes me optimistic for the future.

Like I said in my last post, it would be easy for Microsoft to dominate socially-oriented LBS due to people's existing familiarity with MSN & Windows Messenger. I don't know if there are any concrete figures out there measuring Microsoft's share in the worldwide instant messenger market, but from personal experience, I know a lot of people now stick with MSN as opposed to ICQ, AIM, etc, just because it's bundled with Windows XP. So the next logical place would be to extend the MSN Messenger brand to LBS on mobiles! Right?

Monday, May 02, 2005


This is nothing new, but I thought I'd better at least have a link in this blog so I wouldn't keep forgetting about what exactly its name is!

Meetro, a location-based social software, and a great example of a buddy-tracking mobile app.

However, this would easily be superceded by anything similar launched by mobile operators, e.g. Vodafone. An even bigger threat is Microsoft - in a B2B sense, they've already got the context-awareness thing planned for the next rollout of Windows Mobile. All they'd need to do is figure in some sort of context-awareness for versions of MSN Messenger on Windows Mobile-run phones, and there's a good chance of widespread adoption by consumers. I really think Microsoft has one of the best shots at the mobile social software pie - if Vodafone doesn't beat them to it.

Jamming mobiles in NZ cinemas

I thought I'd comment on the recent news items about New Zealand cinemas considering the installation of cellphone jammers. I wasn't surprised by the first story, and was particularly amused by the following passage:
"He said the most antagonistic cellphone users he saw were middle aged women who answered their cellphones in cinemas and continued conversations.

They would get "incredibly aggro" if asked to turn their cellphones off or leave.

Mr Mackenzie said "cellphone rage" between patrons could get nasty.

He had to defuse an incident in Blenheim last year when a man threatened to hit two exchange students sitting on opposite sides of the cinema who were texting each other."
First of all, it's funny that they used the word 'aggro' in a newspaper article, though I guess they did put it in parentheses! Secondly, 'cellphone rage' is a problem not restricted to cinemas - it occurs on public transport, during university lectures, in waiting rooms, etc... Far from the majority of the population are well-versed in cellphone etiquette. Finally, the last example of people texting each other on opposites side of the cinema, while idiotic, is fully believable.

The reaction from mobile carriers is not surprising:
Vodafone public policy manager Roger Ellis said the company certainly didn't condone rude or offensive behaviour, but there were other ways of dealing with the problem -- by using the on-off switch, putting the phone onto silent mode, and turning on voice mail.

"We want people to respect the right to go to a movie, but that's not a reason to attack technology rather than the behaviour of the person."
"If a customer has bought a phone and can't use it in a part of the country because someone's installed a jammer, who is liable for that situation, particularly if someone's life is lost?"
From the cinema and the cinema's patrons' point of view, of course they have tried all those 'other ways of dealing with the problem' - there is an ad at the beginning of every movie reminding you to turn your phone off. However, it's clear that people who are obnoxious enough to have voice conversations or text message intrusively during a movie aren't going to pay attention to that!

It's like how stealing things from a store is illegal - there are signs all over the shop telling you that shoplifters will be prosecuted, yet there will still be individuals who disregard them and steal anyway. I bet that if there was some sort of shoplifting-jammer device, every retailer in the country (and the world) would install it in a heartbeat. Obviously, merely telling people not to do something won't work, so if there's a way to force them not to do it, it's the most surefire way of actually preventing that behaviour from occuring. Of course, anything like this would be highly illegal because of the mind controlling/behavioural modification factor, but it's a good analogy for what's happening with the cellphone jammers.

Re: these jammers being installed in cinemas, I'd say that it's a bad idea, because of uncertainties as to whether it would also disrupt signals outside of the cinema, and the possibility of emergency situations occuring. If someone sitting next to you in the cinema has a heart attack and collapses, instead of being able to call 111 immediately, you'd have to run to an area where you can receive a signal. I guess you could install a landline in every cinema for this purpose, but still, precious seconds could be lost and mean the difference between life and death.

Mainly, I think the best thing would be for all the parties involved (the cinema and the mobile carriers) to join forces, and try to better educate the NZ public on cellphone etiquette, kind of like the drink-driving and speeding ads. Maybe the cinema could give staff the right to remove any patrons found holding voice conversations or text messaging on ther mobile during a movie? The key is more communication, instead of trying to throw money at it (by installing expensive jamming devices) - funny how often that turns out to be the best way to solve a problem!

In the end, people talking in theatres isn't exactly a new phenomenon - it's just that you can now talk to people outside of them, too! Getting disrupted by mobile phones while watching movies in cinemas is just one of the sacrifices we have to make in our always-on, ubiquitously connected society.

Social GPS on ski fields

I spotted this at near near future and thought: it just goes to show the high demand for & usefulness of buddy-tracking LBS - because they're not actually commercially available, people are going out and making their own!

"Social GPS

When Rebecca Anema goes snowboarding with her friends she sometimes loses sight of them. So she decided to make a social GPS to see where she is and where friends are in relation to the mountains.

The system combines a GPS map (altitude, longitude) with an x,y map (trail map, street address) and a social map (where friends are).

The J2ME application runs on GPS enabled phones. It communicates with the GPS to find out your location and sends the data to the database. It also checks who your buddies are and displays their location on your phone screen.

The system is useful anywhere people travel in a group.
The work will be presented at the ITP Spring show on May 10-11, in New York."

For some reason this reminds me of MountMaps, another really cool ski map-related product. =)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Vodafone Future

I was initially sent this link by a friend last year, but since I haven't posted it here yet and I think it's still quite relevant, here it is:

Vodafone Future

The future certainly looks very exciting, especially in terms of LBS! I can't wait for Vodafone to start implementing some real LBS here in New Zealand...