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

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Muddle Over Mapping

I was reading this CNet article and noticed that location-based services got a mention:

A question on location-based services saw Ballmer plug Microsoft's "heavy investment" in mapping. But when a participant asked why MapPoint had not expanded to Southeast Asia so such services could be built, Ballmer was stumped.

"I didn't know we weren't doing well there," he said. "I'll address that with the team vigorously."

That doesn't sound hugely encouraging... And then I saw this NYT article (login required) about how users are becoming disillusioned about online maps:

ONLINE mapping services were supposed to be a godsend for business travelers when they were introduced a few years ago. But for motorists like Diane Taub, the devil was in the turn-by-turn directions.
Roughly 1 in 50 computer-generated directions is a dud, according to Doug Richardson, the executive director for the Association of American Geographers. He blames inaccurate road information for most of the failures.

"You have to have the latest data about road characteristics - things like one-way streets, turns and exits in your system in order for it to generate accurate directions," he said.

Even if the streets remained static, online mapping would be an inexact science. Most of the major Web sites draw their data from a small group of competing suppliers and update their maps quarterly. They use a process called geocoding, which assigns a latitude-longitude coordinate to an address, to find a destination. Then their systems calculate the most efficient route. Each site handles the data in a slightly different way, which is why search results vary from mapping site to mapping site.

Online maps are free, of course. And to get something that hits the mark most of the time and doesn't cost anything, well, where's the catch?

If you're out for a Sunday drive, there is none. But business travelers know that the errors can be costly, especially when a deal hangs in the balance. The more business travelers lean on the Web-generated instructions, the greater the chance they will eventually drive away with a printout that leads them down the wrong road.
Online mapping specialists say the directions will probably never be completely dependable, at least for business travelers on important road trips.

"Maps are generalized, graphic devices that help us understand the world," said Michael Peterson, the chairman of the International Cartographic Association Commission on Maps and the Internet and a professor of geography at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. "But they are not accurate depictions of reality."

So are online maps as good as they can get? Unless the world stops changing, the answer may be yes.

That doesn't mean you have to get lost. To improve your chances of making your next business meeting, consider buying a navigational computer that uses G.P.S. technology. Those systems constantly monitor your position and calculate the most efficient course. An old-fashioned atlas would help, too.

If people are becoming increasingly distrustful of online mapping/directional services, does this mean that they will be more likely to pay for a navigational device like those offered by Navman, or will they give up on digital mapping altogether and stick with a paper atlas? Probably a combination of both...

Virgin's city guide podcasts

Netimperative: Virgin Atlantic podcasts city guides
"Virgin Atlantic has launched a new service that enables New York travellers to download audio guides to their portable MP3 players.

The first podcast is a series of four audio guides to New York. They begin with a guide to the ten coolest restaurants, the second is an insider's guide to shopping.

The third is all about 'off-the-beaten-track' New York while the fourth is a guide to the ten things you just have to do, if you're on your first trip to the Big Apple.
Breda Bubear, head of advertising and communication at Virgin Atlantic said: "We believe that providing travellers with relevant destination content will help them plan their trip, and giving it to them in a portable format will enable them to make the most of their time away."

The podcasts are to be followed by guides to other destinations as well as more in-depth broadcasts on the airline’s destinations, from live radio shows to what’s on guides and personal experiences."
I like how the Virgin offering is somewhat personalised, depending on what type of travel experience you're looking for - obviously the 'new media travellers' will be interested in more of the 'off the beaten track' type of guide. And seeing as the portable digital audio function is converging into the mobile phone anyway, it makes perfect sense for these podcasts to be available on your mobile. Combine the cityguide podcast with mapping, throw in some context-awareness, and you have a really value-added, immersive travel experience!

It seems that there are so many different ways to approach location-based tourism, but all of them seem to be arriving at a similar point - after all the literature reviewing and expert interviewing I've done thus far, it seems a lot more important to concentrate on the affective, consumer side of things, rather than the structural, industry/technology side of things, because that's already been well established... Hopefully I can find some really interesting results from my focus groups, and make a real contribution to the whole area of location-based services research!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cellphedia & FoundCity

TheFeature has a nice article out called 'Phone App Writers: The Next Generation', which discusses a few of the projects presented at New York University's annual Interactive Telecommunications Program event. As usual, people have already put into action some really cool-looking ideas, including Cellphedia and FoundCity, both of which look extremely relevant for LBS.

Cellphedia is "a cell phone application that promotes the sharing of knowledge. It allows to send and receive encyclopedia-type inquiries between specific, pre-defined groups of users, through Text messaging. Users can register here on this site and start building the quick-reference Cellphedia-type encyclopedia entries, by asking other users and answering other users' questions where-ever cell phone service is available."

& FoundCity is "a social mapping tool for creating a personalized map of your life on-the-fly. Using your mobile phone, you "tag" or capture photos throughout the day, label them with any words you want, and send them to your map. At home, you access and customize your map, which you can share with friends, keep private, or publish openly."

Sounds interesting! Again, slim to no hope of those services being available in New Zealand... ah well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

In-flight mobile usage

After I read this article at The Register, I thought I might as well contribute my $0.02 to the issue - well, actually, the following excerpt sums it up pretty well:
"While the majority of respondents would not approve of passengers making voice calls during flights, some 64 percent of respondents indicated their approval of using mobile phones for data services such as SMS. Of the 11 specified wireless activities, in-flight messaging emerged as the most popular choice among respondents."
I think this is how you could keep everyone happy - unlimited SMSing (which will suit the teenagers well, and is still a perfectly acceptable method of communciation), but if you want to make a voice call, you must retreat to a small soundproof booth at the back by the toilets, or something like that. Another silent way to use the mobile is data services - perhaps a traveller could be checking information about their destination, planning their itinerary and booking their hotels etc, all while still sitting on the plane?

But there's definitely no way you could make the allowance of in-flight mobile phone calls workable - how annoying would it be to constantly hear phones ringing when you're trying to get to sleep, or your neighbour chatting loudly away for half an hour? I guess people have always talked to each other on the plane anyway, but when you're on a call you tend to be less aware of your physical surroundings and forget to lower your voice, so... The airlines will have to be careful about this, otherwise it could result in a disastrously horrible experience for the majority of the passengers...


Looks like there's another location-based digital graffiti project - Rixome. Here's the blurb from near near future:
"rixome is a network and a tool that turns mobile screens into windows that show the virtual and public dimensions of our point of view.

A walker (a rixome user) can see on his/her mobile phone/PDA/laptop screen the virtual interventions that have been added to the location where s/he now stands. For example, a spoken message can be left on a given location for other "walkers" to hear through headphones whenever they pass by. The message can also be written, or it can be a 3D animation or image, a photography, a drawing, a video."
What I'd really love to know is, when will there be something like this available in New Zealand, and will it be just a short-term research project, or will it be ongoing? Hopefully the latter!

MSN local search & more WiFi positioning

Via CNet: MSN to offer local-search service
"Microsoft's MSN plans to launch on Tuesday a test version of a local-search function that integrates mapping and satellite image technology to help consumers pinpoint nearby stores and other locales.


Local search is particularly convenient for mobile phone users, many of whom are in their car or otherwise in transit and are looking for directions and other information on the fly.

The launch of MSN Virtual Earth follows on the heels of new local search and mapping tools from rivals. Google has integrated satellite mapping into local search through its acquisition of Keyhole. It also began testing a service last week to let mobile phone users search for Web sites optimized for mobile phones. In addition, the company has partnered with BellSouth, SME Global and Leads.com to fine-tune its local search. "
Well, it seems more and more like Microsoft do have some sort of a plan for LBS! As I've said, it would be very easy for them to link this with the Windows Mobile platform to make it a really seamless user experience... Unfortunately local search on MSN doesn't seem to work very well at the moment if you're in New Zealand - I typed in 'pizza' and the initial results displayed assumed that I was in New South Wales, Australia! After I specified my location as Auckland, the results remained unchanged and not one of them directed me to a local pizza place... Oh well, I guess it's still in beta, after all!

Also from CNet: Wi-Fi used for location services
"A Boston, Mass.-based start-up says it has developed software that uses Wi-Fi signals to pinpoint locations better than satellite-based global positioning systems can.


Morgan adds that GPS typically only locates things within a few hundred meters, whereas the Wi-Fi location system can get within 20 to 40 meters of an object. And because Wi-Fi routers are often deployed closer together in cities than cell towers are, it can also be more accurate than cellular-based location systems, he added."
Well, this would be great for a place like the Mauritius (the first country to have nationwide WiFi), but probably not so much New Zealand... Maybe just the Auckland CBD? It would certainly be a good way to trial some LBS tourism apps to begin with, anyway - kind of like how they are trialling GPS technology with the Link and the low-emission buses with the City Circuit - one day, I envisage Auckland being serviced by a fleet of timely, GPS-linked, low-emission buses. One day...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Nokia's answer to location-based services

Via Geekzone: Nokia introduces the Nokia 6630 Navigation Pack
(I'm just going to paste the whole thing because it's all completely relevant)
Nokia and Wayfinder Systems are introducing a smartphone-based package that enables people to find their way and explore locations while on the move. The Nokia 6630 Navigation Pack consists of a Nokia 6630 smartphone, a Nokia Wireless GPS Module and the Wayfinder Navigator application.

"Location based services are among the top consumer choices for new mobile applications," said Kirsi Kokko, Director, Smartphone and Business Solutions, Multimedia, Nokia. "With the Nokia 6630 Navigation Pack, we wanted to address this demand with a highly advanced, portable package combining the benefits of a smartphone and navigation. When not using navigation based services, people can enjoy the same device for productivity purposes, taking pictures or video, surfing the Internet or listening to music."

When connected to the Nokia Wireless GPS Module, users can directly from the Nokia 6630 smartphone see their position and the easiest route to their destination on a digital map, provided by Tele Atlas. Wayfinder's map selection currently covers Western Europe, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Greece.

The application also guides users with turn-by-turn voice instructions, and allows searching for street addresses, restaurants and other points of interest. Furthermore, locations or points of interest can be shared by forwarding maps via MMS or email. The Nokia 6630 Navigation Pack does not require fixed installations, making it possible for people to use it whenever and wherever they like.

The Wayfinder Navigator application on the Nokia 6630 smartphone's Reduced Size MultiMediaCard (MMC) offers a 6-month period of navigation including automatic map updates. After the free period, users can extend the service directly from the Nokia 6630 smartphone. In order to access the Internet and download routes, maps and information from the Wayfinder server, users need a GPRS subscription.

In some markets, the navigation pack will also be available with the Nokia 6670 smartphone. The Nokia 6630 and 6670 Navigation Packs are available in Western Europe, with more areas to follow later on this year.
This article is great because in just a few paragraphs it manages to mention digital convergence, the importance of usability and the ability to share POIs with your friends, and the use of a free trial offer to encourage adoption (which has been found to be so important for new mobile services). In fact, the only downside to this whole news item is that I doubt New Zealand is one of those 'areas to follow later on this year'! Maybe later on this decade...

Insights from the Communities Dominate Brands blog

I was just catching up on the RSS feed for the Communities Dominate Brands blog, and saw some interesting posts which I think relate well to LBS:
Living in an experience economy

"Experience culture
Today's world is a world of experience of content, of culture and of content rich brands… a world where knowledge is profit and interconnectivity is power – where enabling and personal empowerment are keys to all B2C transactions.

The implications for business are clear. People will want more 'experiences' and to be able to define themselves by those experiences. They will want advice on how to start to build and then maintain expertise in certain activities.


Solutions enabling memorable experiences
'Value added' comes from the quality of experience provided.

An experience is holistic, total, encompassing, transforming... and emotional.

A 'service' is a transaction, an experience is an 'event' that leaves an indelible memory

Creating meaning through context
Meaning is treated here not as an attribute of information, but as a crucial part of human experience, a component of belonging, sharing, understanding, perceiving, associating, finding relevance, feeling included, seeing value, engagement, attitude, belief, acceptance, receptiveness, expectation and often attraction and desire.

Context is something that already exists in peoples lives. Combining the brand to the context gives the experience new, deeper meaning."

I thought it was important to repost most of the entry here because it perfectly describes what the location-based tourism offering should be about - creating interactive, memorable, value-added experiences for the travellers. Also, LBS is all about context (both spatial & temporal), so it really is up to the firm (say, Lonely Planet) to combine their brand with the travel context over the mobile device to give a deeper, more involving experience...

Also, I found the following article via that blog - 3G content will turn phone users into salespeople. In particular, check out the following quote:
"Currently, it's the operators that are making the money from content services. In future, Informa Media and Telecoms predicts, it will be the content providers holding the reins. The content owners will seek to shed controlling partnerships with the operators by focusing on selling their content through their own portals."
I wonder if this can be applied to LBS as well?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

‘George Square’ collaborative tourism system

Via pasta and vinegar: Sharing the square: collaborative leisure in the city streets by Barry Brown, Matthew Chalmers, Marek Bell, Ian MacColl, Malcolm Hall, Paul Rudman, To appear in Proc. Euro. Conf. Computer Supported Collaborative Work (ECSCW) 2005, Paris.
[Abstract] Sharing events with others is an important part of many enjoyable experiences. While most existing co-presence systems focus on work tasks, in this paper we describe a lightweight mobile system designed for sharing leisure. This system allows city visitors to share their experiences with others both far and near, through tablet computers that share photographs, voice and location. A collaborative filtering algorithm uses historical data of previous visits to recommend photos, web pages and places to visitors, bringing together online media with the city’s streets. In an extensive user trial we explored how these resources were used to collaborate around physical places. The trial demonstrates the value of technological support for sociability - enjoyable shared social experiences. We also discuss support for collaborative photography and the role history can play in collaborative systems.
This is going straight into my literature review chapter! It's great how it stresses the importance of user collaboration for these types of location-based tourism systems - also see Russell Buckley's related post, 'A Manifesto for Taking Wikipedia into the Physical World' (another way to implement location-based POI info).

Instead of having several competing companies spend millions on building up proprietary spatial information databases, if someone set up a way for everyone to add location information to a database which is relatively easy to access on mobile devices, it would be infinitely cheaper and quicker to assemble the content. Metadata, tagging and search is definitely the way of the future in terms of making sense of the massive deluge of data we are inundated with daily; hopefully this will come through in the next-generation operating systems for both PCs and mobiles. It's 'the power of the mobile many' in action, and fits in well with the 'connected & empowered consumer' concept, too. Is an 'open-source' type of model the key to mass-market adoption of LBS? Perhaps...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Homegrown LBS & Locative Gaming

Looking through my 'location-based services' technorati watchlist today, I found some interesting articles:
Location-based services confronts the 'empty room' problem
"Now that more and more handsets can make use of location-based data, someone needs to populate those services with data. Some are taking unique approaches to filling databases with data."
A The Feature article about the catch-22 of attracting enough users & content for LBS, illustrating how small, niche players are building their own apps and how these will become the building blocks for the future mass-adoption of LBS. This reminds me of a post I did last month about a homegrown ski field social GPS application. There's definitely demand from users, it just needs to be marketed really, really well...

Gamers Turn Cities Into A Battleground
"There's an evolution using the mobility of the phone to create completely new gaming experiences," says Tom Söderlund, who worked as a games producer for Swedish games company It's Alive, based in Stockholm. "I think we are going to see more and more games that blend with our real lives."
A nice summary of the location-based games that are out there, including Uncle Roy Is All Around You, Geocaching, Digital Street Game, GPS::Tron, Pac-Manhattan, BotFighters, Semacode hunting, Can You See Me Now?, Gizmondo's Colors. Though I'm sure that a quick Googling of 'location based games' or a browse through pasta & vinegar will yield many more examples, anyway. That's definitely a whole other thesis topic that I'm not even going to try to get into! But very interesting to read about, nonetheless.

Wireless Week: Carriers Find Their Way To LBS
"Wireless carriers have started getting more serious about adding location-based services to their portfolios for both enterprises and consumers.
In-Stat, a sister company of Wireless Week, found in a survey of consumers last fall that 85.6 percent of wireless subscribers are interested in at least one LBS application. The applications drawing the most interest were driving directions, maps on phones, local traffic updates, mobile city guides and local weather information. Less-popular applications included child tracking, 411 directory assistance, friend finder and location-based games."
This article is a month old now, but still a really good one to read if you haven't already seen it. It goes through the major US players, the types of applications users are interested in (both consumer & business), and gives a really good general overview of where LBS is at currently.

Finally, remember to register for the NZ Wireless Forum LBS Event next month if you haven't done so already! =)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Location-based vs. Context-based

While this paper is actually from 2004 and you may have come across it before, I only just discovered it and thought it was definitely worth posting:
Mathew, J., Sarker, S., & Varshney, U. (2004). M-COMMERCE SERVICES: PROMISES AND CHALLENGES. Communications of AIS, 2004(14), 1-11.
"This paper provides a brief description of two distinct approaches for designing and implementing M-Commerce services, the dominant location-based approach, and the gradually emerging context-based approach. The authors argue that the context-based approach, while more complex, holds greater potential for the future, given its inherent capability to reflect/support natural human social structures and behaviors."
A really interesting comparsion between 'location-based services' and 'context-based services'. I particularly like the tables contrasting their differences, as well as the illustrative scenarios given. There is absolutely no doubt that mobile devices are becoming increasingly pervasive worldwide, in both developed and developing countries; thus, it makes sense for these devices to intelligently communciate with each other autonomously.

Personally, I think that the seamless integration of both these approaches will provide the greatest value to the end-user. Holistically, it may be better to just take the 'context-based approach' and sweep it under the LBS umbrella in the long run - in fact, I think a lot of LBS developers already understand the concept, they just don't call it that. It's always good to see things from a different perspective, though!


It seems like whenever I say something like 'I wish/what if somebody did this', I later find that it is actually being done, especially for mobile technologies. I guess this is because the people in the industry are even more creative than me, and have obviously had the same thoughts!

For example, in some earlier entries I mused on how we should combine the vastly differing ways of positioning into a holistic process that, overall, facilitates the accuracy and ease of LBS apps. Then, very quickly afterwards, I got an email from Jim Parsons of AlwaysOnGPS - here's the blurb from the website:

"AlwaysOnGPS enables standard GPS users with WiFi enabled PocketPC/PDA devices to determine their precise location (GPS coordinates) in situations WHERE and WHEN GPS SIGNALS ARE NOT AVAILABLE!

Using the power of our advanced (patent pending) WiFi Positioning System, GPS users with WiFi enabled devices can still access extremely accurate GPS Data while located or situated:

- within office buildings, warehouses, campus interiors, clubs, restaurants, museums, galleries, conference facilities, newly discovered venues, between tall buildings, within "urban canyons", inside multi-level car parking decks and even underground!"

That sounds pretty good to me! Not sure if it would work in New Zealand though - maybe it says on the website but I haven't seen anything talking about geographical restrictions, so... Yeah.

The problem with a lot of LBS or mapping apps is that it's all well and good if you live in the US or Europe, but otherwise, you can run into a few problems. Technical problems aside, for social networking apps especially it would be really difficult to get that local critical mass. How would you get around that? Form an alliance with a brand well-recognised within this country. This is where big firms like Vodafone, Nokia, Microsoft or Google would really have the upper hand in leveraging their international brand and high level of resources.

Vodafone Simply marketing at its finest

Yes, the title was supposed to be a pun. =P A short while ago, I noticed that the Vodafone Simply handset had been released in New Zealand, and I was going to write about it. However, I just read this The Feature article: Segmentation, Simply and it conveys exactly how I feel about the matter, so I will refer you onto that instead!

Basically, I think that a handset like this has been long overdue, and I know that other firms have tried (and are still trying) to specifically target mobile phones toward young children and older age groups. However, Vodafone is the company that actually has the brand awareness, global reach & resources, and general marketing 'clout' to drive the mass-market penetration of these devices. I know so many people for whom the 'Simply' phone would be perfect, but already have a perfectly functioning mobile - what if Vodafone offered a discounted trade-in scheme to encourage switching? Not only would it make the users' lives easier, it may also help convert Telecom users...

Speaking of Vodafone, their 'free txt weekends' campaign was a much-needed counter to Telecom's $10 txt - you could even say that it's overdue. The 'thumb tribe' demographic (which I guess I'm actually part of) is fickle and purely driven by cost/value; a whole wave of my friends switched to Telecom for $10 txt. Now, I know that at least one of these people have switched back to Vodafone for free txt weekends. I wonder what will be next in the 'txt wars'?

LBS articles from the O'Reilly Network

Via pasta & vinegar: A Design Approach for the Geospatial Web by Julian Bleecker
"This coupling of the physical world with the data world represents an exciting and challenging new frontier. Just as no one could have anticipated how radically everyday experiences would change with the proliferation of the Web, it is difficult to say precisely what the Geospatial Web will bring to our daily lives. By tagging content and data with geographic metadata--effectively giving content a location in the real world--it is possible to imagine new metaphors to describe experiences in geographic space. We'll stumble across lost pet notices on our way to work; freeway exit ramps will have indicators for a quicker route to the beach on city streets during a busy weekend; standing in front of a local theater will enable you to find movie reviews left by previous patrons. It's incredibly exciting to think of the possibilities. Perhaps our metaphors for managing content will change as the Geospatial Web grows in consequence. It may be that someday in the near future, we'll be talking about leaving our files, rather than saving them."
This is a really good article about LBS which gives a nice, up-to-date listing of LBS apps that are already out there and has a really good understanding of how to enhance the value of LBS in general. I especially like how Bleecker talks about Craigslist as a LBS and stresses the importance of collaborative mapping. Everyone who is interested in LBS should read this at least once and explore some of the links from it! =)

(Also see The Geospatial Web: A Call to Action by Mike Liebhold)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Telecom Song ID

This has evidently been available for a little while now, but I have been a bit behind on my Bloglines feeds... but better late than never, right?

Via Geekzone: Telecom New Zealand launches song identification via mobile phone
"Telecom New Zealand users have now a new service that helps identifying songs through a mobile phone. User can call *7664 (SONG) from any Telecom mobile phone and hold it in the direction of the music for 30 seconds. The Song Id service will automatically end the call, then send the SMS with the name of the track and the artist."
When I saw this, I thought, 'that sounds awfully familiar! In fact, isn't it exactly the same as Shazam in the UK?' I don't mean that in a bad way though, it's always good to see new mobile applications in New Zealand. Well, as long as they're useful. Song ID is perfect for targeting the youth market, whereas push-to-talk is completely... er... superfluous to that segment.

I hope that Telecom will take some cues from Shazam, and go one step further to let people keep track of all the songs they've tagged online, and then buy the CDs of the ones they like. Of course, the even more logical extension is linking it to the Motorola iTunes phone. Or, if you use a subscription service, automatically fetching that song to your playlist. I mean, all of this is so obvious that I don't think I even need to say it, really!

You know what would be really innovative? Is if they could somehow connect the Song ID service to your brain, so that when you get a song annoyingly stuck in your head and you don't know what it is, they will be able to ID it for you... Maybe in 20 or 30 years? =P

Friday, June 10, 2005

Rosum TV-GPS

Via Shane's Place: Rosum TV-GPS - the website has a fairly good description of how they use TV signals for LBS, plus a pretty diagram, too. =)

Is it a good thing that there are so many ways of positioning, or is it just confusing? If they can't all work together, then will one of them will have to win out over the others in the end? Kind of like how there's GSM and CDMA... In the end though, the more people who work at LBS applications, the better!

Monday, June 06, 2005


Herecast: an open infrastructure for location-based services using WiFi
"Herecast provides location-based services on a WiFi device. At its simplest level, it can tell you where you are. More advanced services can use your location to enhance information lookups, publish presence information, and create unique games - all while preserving privacy.
Once your mobile device knows where it is, it can provide all sorts of interesting location-aware services. For example, you could:
  • Bring up a map of your location with a single click.
  • Access a web site relevant to your location.
  • Publish your location to your friends.
  • Leave messages at a point in space, for other people to discover.
  • Chat with anyone else who happens to be in the area -- meet people you wouldn't have gotten to know otherwise.
  • Play new types of games where you progress as you hunt around the city.

Only a few of these have been implemented on Herecast so far, but anyone with an imagination can create their own services that work with Herecast. Location-aware services are a relatively new area of innovation. It simply hasn't been possible to do this sort of thing until recently, so I'm sure the best ideas haven't even been thought of yet!"

Sometimes it seems like my blog is just a series of ads for all the LBS apps that I keep discovering! But I must record them somewhere because it's so easy to lose track... I like Herecast particularly because of its open infrastructure, very much in the spirit of a wiki (i.e. user co-creation of value). Also, while using WiFi as the basis for the services is somewhat geographically limiting, it also seems to be somewhat cheaper and more efficient than using other types of location technologies. Especially in New Zealand, where our hilly terrain makes for very difficult positioning, and the technical infrastructure for LBS isn't really here yet... Probably the only way we will really get LBS is by utilising ALL the possible means of locating a user - GPS, Cell-ID, EOTD, WiFi, etc... Of course, getting them to all link together is another matter entirely!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Hotel check-in kiosks

Is the Check-In Kiosk in the Lobby for Real? (NYTimes login required)

"DUST collectors. That is what employees at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers call their new automated check-in kiosks, as one guest who has repeatedly tried to use them found.

The problem is that the automated check-in kiosks are unreliable. Mr. Harteveldt estimates that more than one in 10 hotel kiosk transactions fail, either because they are incapable of making contact with the hotel's reservation system, or, if they are able to make a link, because they generate a key to the wrong room.

Experienced business travelers often avoid the machines because their performance is so unpredictable.
Guests will just have to get used to them. Besides, any gadget that can get you to your room more quickly is probably a good thing. But some business travelers, all too aware of the reputation the hotel industry has for generating extra fees, are already wondering whether the industry will yet again figure out a way to wring a little extra cash out of unsuspecting customers."

A nice example of why technology has to work properly the first time 'round, otherwise users will forever avoid them in future, and even worse, spread negative word of mouth to all their friends! Of course, if you can just automate the self check-in via a mobile device (that's linked with LBS & m-payment), and it actually works, then that's a lot better than the hotels installing and maintaining expensive kiosks in the lobby. Of course, you're always still going to need staff, but it would make things a lot easier for everyone involved...

M-Com & my thesis progress

I'm always discovering mobile commerce/marketing/LBS companies, even though some of them have apparently been around for quite a while!
"M-Com’s application mTopup, enables consumers with a Telecom pre-paid mobile phone and an ASB Bank account to top-up their airtime credit from their bank account via SMS text message, providing them with a further alternative to topping up their phone. The service, generically termed Mobile Payment or mPayment, is the first collaboration of its kind between a major Telco and a bank in New Zealand."
Sounds interesting & relevant! Whenever I come across these locally-based companies working on m-commerce, I get very excited and hopeful for m-commerce in New Zealand (and thus, LBS). In particular, if you're interested in m-payments, then check out their white paper on MCredit. I may try to contact someone from there for my thesis research... It's strange though, whenever I hear or see that word, I immediately think 'Master of Commerce', as that's the degree I'm studying - I had never thought about it as a short way of saying mobile commerce!

Also, some very nice people have been emailing me over the past few weeks - sorry I haven't gotten back to you yet! Things have been a bit crazy lately, and I am having real trouble finding real tourists to recruit for my focus groups... I just have to work a bit harder on that since it's my first priority...

Anyway, one of the emails was from Sam Critchley of A2B.cc, a location-based search engine which looks quite interesting. I also see a lot popping up on the LBS technorati search, but it's so difficult to keep up with everything going on in the LBS area lately, especially with my own research coming in thick and fast... I think I have a much better understanding of what the critical issues are for LBS though - when I've fully analysed my expert interviews, I will definitely write a summary of my findings here.

Remember, if you are or will be around the Auckland region sometime within the next few months, give me an email and we can have a chat about LBS! Since it's so rare to find people around here who actually know what it is, it's always a nice when you have an excuse to talk about it... =)