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

Monday, July 25, 2005

Mobile news roundup

Been quite busy doing my traveller focus groups lately, so haven't really had much time to keep up with my feeds, nor write many posts here, but will try to rectify that soon! Here are some interesting articles I came across just now anyway:

MY|Blog for Pocket PC
Basically it's a program which automatically uploads a photo taken on a Pocket PC phone to an internet web server; the really exciting part is how it also automatically tags location information with the photo as well! This would be perfect for travellers...

MSN Virtual Earth now available in beta
I was already quite impressed by that Channel 9 video, but how will the actual user experience compare to Google Earth? In the end though, it's not a matter of who 'wins' or not, if there's competition, then the products will get better faster, and the consumers will have more choices! So everybody wins...

Wired: When Cell Phones Become Oracles

A story about an MIT Media Lab project, which tracks participants' phones to then develop an algorithm to predict their behaviour... potentially huge for mobile marketers! But really interesting social implications as well, of course... Must try to get hold of the related academic papers, if I can!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Location-based tourism, BBC-style

Here's another example of a digital graffiti type location-based tourism application. More and more of these are popping up now, it appears that despite all the reservations and problems associated with the deployment of true LBS, people are trying anyway - and good on them!

BBC's 'Coast' project, offering "39 new interactive walks exploring the past, present and future of the UK's coast - including 12 you can follow using your mobile phone." (Also see related articles from digital-lifestyles.info, textually, & mobhappy.)

I can already see a huge opportunity for something similar to be done along New Zealand's beaches, given how much of it we have! Of course, our nation's history is not as extensive as the UK, but I'm sure there would still be many fascinating Maori or colonial stories for interested visitors.

However, from the focus group that I've conducted so far, I've learnt that travellers are rather wary of mobile services such as digital post-it notes, as they are perceived to detract from the face-to-face, human interaction side of travelling (which is apparently the whole point of travelling in the first place). Basically, a location-based tourism application must be implemented in a way that still encourages active discussion between travellers, instead of creating an environment where users become shut in their own virtual cocoons...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Relevant news update

I've been too busy to regularly keep up with my Bloglines feeds lately, and now I'm being totally swamped! This is an attempt to list some of the more relevant items from my backlog of news...

Airbus calling
"Airbus aircraft will be outfitted for mobile calling from next year, a move that puts the European manufacturer on the same track as rival American manufacturer Boeing."
I think I've already discussed the ramifications of allowing mobile calls during flights in an earlier post... But basically the airlines will have to be veeery careful when implementing this because of the whole annoyance factor on other passengers, but SMS is the ideal mobile option here, coupled with another silent activity - surfing the net on your laptop's broadband connection.

Mobile tracking service goes on sale in UK
"Mobile phone location service KidsOK has gone on sale in the UK today, allowing parents to locate their child using a mobile phone."
Again, it all comes down to trust between the parent and the child - if it's a younger child then it's not a bad idea, but teenagers will easily find a way to get around this if they are trying to escape their parents' prying eyes. What I like about KidsOK is that they're contributing to charity as well. =)

Marrying Maps to Data for a New Web Service
"David Gelernter, a computer scientist at Yale, proposed using software to create a computer simulation of the physical world, making it possible to map everything from traffic flow and building layouts to sales and currency data on a computer screen."
Just another interesting story on the continuing battle for online mapping supremacy between Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, and how they're trying to ensure enough support for developers to build compelling applications. Which all makes perfect sense, of course!

Right, now it's time to go through the mobile blogs to see what I've been missing these last few days...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Mobile Interactive Visitor Information Service

MIVIS: Mobile Interactive Visitor Information Service
Delivering the right information to the right place at the right time

MIVIS will create 'points of relevance' based on:

  • Heritage & Culture
  • Recreation, Leisure and Adventure
  • Food and Wine
  • Natural Environment - Flora/Fauna
  • Industry – wine makers, craftsman, artist
  • Aids – maps – weather – track information
MIVIS is truly interactive where it
  • Creates a platform where people can tell their story consistent to the viewer's geographic location.
  • Enables us all to bring our stories alive in an environment where the story teller may be a child, grandparent, authority or an observer to an event.
  • Develops and grows a digital resource that can be accessed on request in 'real time'.
MIVIS content is developed along strands
  • Regional Tourism Initiatives & Visitor Information Centres.
  • Tourism Trails. E.g. Classic Wine Trial, Heritage.
  • DOC Sites
  • Conservation Educational Centres (as illustrative of LEOTC (learning outside of the classroom strategy)
  • Local commercial groups. E.g. Food HB (Related to main regional initiatives).
  • Archivist's custodians of content. E.g. Libraries and Museums
  • Tourism Operators.
  • Site Operators. E.g. A winery
  • Community Groups.
While not automatically location-sensitive (in terms of using A-GPS or WiFi hotspots to triangulate a user's location), MIVIS uses cameraphones & semacodes to deliver added content about a particular POI (point of interest) to a traveller, in their native language if required. I don't think semacodes are mentioned in the website itself, but was included in a powerpoint presentation of the project which was forwarded to me (thanks, Ross!).

Since it's based in a nature reserve, it reminds me a lot of the WebPark Project, but the use of semacodes is more reminiscent of a near near future post from April about eRuv, 'a street history in semacode' (also refer back to Russell Buckley's related post).

From the MIVIS project blurb, it sounds like they understand the major issues for location-based tourism applications (need to be easy to use, instant, collaborative, etc), but this is the sort of thing that really needs a critical mass of users to really take off... I wonder how it'll go?

Personal World Map

Another extremely cool thing that I couldn't not blog about, found via near near future, which is definitely one of my favourite blogs (if not my absolute favourite blog) of all time.

Personal World Map
Here's the first paragraph from the about section, though it's definitely worth it to read the whole thing:
"At this moment, in which information flows through our planet in intervals of time that human beings are not even able to imagine, time seems to be playing a more important role than distance. The supremacy of time over distance is not only real for the flow of information but also for our movements across the earth. Places which are more accessible seem to get “closer” to each other while less accessible places become isolated. This fact clearly affects our perception of the earth."
Obviously this is all quite new, and I can't fault them for not having Auckland or Wellington in as a potential starting point, but isn't that the problem with most new local tech apps? Both Google & MSN's local searches are completely useless if you live in Auckland. That aside, it's amazing how intuitive the PWM interface is, and really shows the usefulness of differentiating between travel time space, money space and geographical space.

Again, this is absolutely perfect for tourists, especially the 'new media traveller'! I will keep an eye out, and hopefully they will eventually add some Australiasian destinations to the map... =)

'The Flying Carpet' (more like 'Map Carpet')

This is somewhat related to both mapping and tourism, but mainly I just thought it was really cool, which is why I'm blogging it! =)

via Engadget: The Flying Carpet
"Digital imaging offers the ability to create fantastic images and use them in new ways by creating spaces to transform perceptions and indeed create whole new environments.
Alavi’s latest project is indeed likely to inspire a myriad of ideas from creatives all over the world when they see how he had an aerial view of the Sacramento River woven into a carpet for the floor of a pedestrian bridge connecting the Sacramento International Airport terminal to the parking garage. It is indeed, a “flying carpet” "
It's not enough to just read the description, you've really got to see the photos for yourself to get just how amazing this looks! Imagine stepping off the plane at Auckland International Airport and then seeing all of Auckland laid out like this under your feet... If you want to tie in the technology element, you could have RFID tags embedded within certain attractions shown in the carpet, and allow devices to fetch more information about them. Better yet, you could just use a cameraphone to take a photo of the bit of the carpet that looks interesting, and it will automatically detect what the POIs are, maybe admission prices if that's applicable, driving directions, everything...

Getting a bit more advanced and going into the augmented reality field, you could use a cameraphone or something to pan over the carpet, and the device will be able to overlay street names and tags on the digital screen. How cool would that be? The total seamless integration of tangible and intangible - technical issues aside, this could really create an incredibly immersive, fun, and most importantly value-adding experience for the traveller!

This is something that would definitely appeal not just to the techies but the mass market as well - actually, it would probably make more sense for the non-geeks, as long as the digital media part is easy-to-use, because it has a tangible element that they are in control of. I can see it being a great learning tool too - imagine a geography classroom carpeted with this sort of aerial map, and how that could be used as a teaching tool! The other option of course is to just have a normal vector map carpet (like in the Channel 9 MSN Virtual Earth video) which would be easier for our brains to comprehend spatially.

In general though, the idea is just really cool, it would definitely be great to see something similar here in New Zealand! =D

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

APC: Access Point Compass

It seems like I'm trying to make up for not blogging for a whole week by having three posts within one day...

via near near future: Access Point Compass
An interesting university project about... well, the following blurb puts it best!
"APCompass is the prototype application of the gpsMiddleware platform. It uses GPS technologies integrated with a community maintained database to allow people to explore their local wireless networks. There is an emphasis on pioneering and exploration as users seek out new nodes to extend the database. The project considers issues of privacy, by ensuring every action performed by the user is broadcasted to a central server for anyone to see. Drawing on David Brin's idea of a ‘Transparent Society' APCompass encourages collaboration and accountability as users appreciate the fact that their actions are being constantly monitored."
If there are so many bright university students launching into the user-collaborative sphere, there must be a logical reason for that! And I'm really looking forward to the day that it's truly embraced by the commercial world... I also like this bit from the 'theory' section of the APC site:
"Wireless networking is an affordable way of exchanging information over large distances. When linked together, these individual ‘nodes' produce a larger ad-hoc network that has no centralised control. There are numerous projects that are looking to develop these ‘free networks' all over the globe as sources of free information."
It has a really Smartmobs ring to it... =) I'm actually still going through that book because the first time I started, I got somewhat interrupted. But I think that I will definitely have to add another whole section in my literature review about collaborative user-to-user technologies! The more that firms learn how to interact intelligently with their empowered consumers, the better it'll be for everyone!

MSN Virtual Earth

Virtual Earth: MSN's answer to Google Maps

If you haven't already watched the video, go have a look right now! It gave a very good intro to the new app, but was also informative in other ways, in terms of learning that Microsoft has actually been in the mapping business for a very long time (apparently their first consumer mapping products came out in 1995). Definitely worth watching!

In terms of tourism, this would be invaluable for travellers to check out their destination before they get there, which would go a long way to decreasing the perceived risk of the whole experience; it really facilitates the trip-planning/time management process. The video mentioned an example, e.g. you may be booked into a 'seaside hotel', but with Virtual Earth you can actually check it out in advance to see if that claim is legitimate! Most people I've talked to which fit into the 'new media traveller' category usually travel independently or in very small groups, and they usually express a desire to find out as much as they can about a place prior to the trip, so that they can be really prepared. And if you pile on the user-annotations on top of the map (like in Urban Tapestries), you start to get some really individualised, value-added, rich content which is pretty impossible to get out of a traditional paper map or tourist guidebook. It all fits together!

Of course, it's going to be pretty difficult (if not impossible) to use Virtual Earth on a cellphone/PDA and still get a good experience (combination of data transfer speeds/prices and small screen size), but you could use the rich web app when you're at the netcafe or in the hotel, then have a complementary simplified version on the mobile device?

MSN + Vodafone = seamless PC/mobile IM

MSN and Vodafone to Launch PC-to-Mobile Instant Messaging
"REDMOND, Wash., and NEWBURY, U.K. — June 29, 2005 — MSN and Vodafone today announced plans to launch a first-of-its-kind seamless instant messaging (IM) service between PCs and mobile phones. Customers will be able to see the “presence” of their contacts and exchange instant messages between MSN® Messenger on a PC and Vodafone Messenger on mobile phones and vice versa. By offering customers a seamless PC-to-mobile messaging option with instant messaging, MSN and Vodafone will expand communication choices, delivering an enhanced messaging offering for MSN and Vodafone customers who want to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues."
What was I saying before about Microsoft's potential for controlling social networking on the mobile platform? This is definitely a very strong alliance, given both Microsoft & Vodafone's huge customer bases and brand recognition. A good move all around! Let's see if they actually implement the location element later on...