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

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Boost Mobile's LBS Games

Boost Mobile Introduces Location-based GPS Mobile Games

"Boost customers are now able to download and play location-based GPS (Global Positioning System) games on their cellular phones.

Boost Mobile has partnered with Blister Entertainment to introduce Swordfish and Torpedo Bay, two GPS-enabled Java games, in the USA. Boost customers can play both games by downloading the applications directly from their Java-enabled Boost phone or from Boost LIVE."
Unfortunately this isn't New Zealand's Boost Mobile, but still, very interesting news indeed! =)

Monday, August 15, 2005

All about innovation

Well I'm off to Sydney tomorrow night, just for 2 days to visit Visa and some other people who are also interested in my research, so here's a few things to read while I'm gone! =)

Did you know that BusinessWeek's Innovation section is filled with really insightful articles? I especially like the slide show about 'How to Learn Creativity and Innovation' - it sums everything up so well in such a succinct, graphical way. I especially like this diagram showing how coffee progresses from being a $0.01 commodity to a $5 experience.

And I haven't had a chance to read this properly yet, but it looks very promising:
Mapping Emotions
"Consumers crave "personal meaning" in products and services. To innovate, new methods are being developed to help designers understand the emotions that drive consumer decisions.
We are at a point in time where companies can no longer compete simply on technology. Technology has become relatively inexpensive -- and rampant. Many companies face competitors that are equal in technical expertise. The competition has simply caught up."

Finally, on a somewhat unrelated note, textually has a nice post about mobile phones specifically designed for a certain age group, namely older people.
In Mobile Phones, Older Users Say, More Is Less
"At a time when cellphones are letting users do more tricks, from video calling to downloading digital music, one of the latest models from Vodafone has no camera, no browser and hardly any icons, reports the WSJ Instead of being sleeker and cooler than ever, the phone is large and ordinary-looking."
It also has a really good list of links to other 'elder phones', which may be useful later on. But yeah, there's definitely a market for these beyond just older people - there are plenty of late adopters and laggards for which these kinds of bare-essentials handsets would be ideal. And of course, ease of use will benefit everyone - even (or especially) tech-savvy innovators and geeks will appreciate it. =)

Friday, August 12, 2005


I actually thought I'd already blogged about this, but maybe I've just seen it in lots of other sites, that's all! Also, there are so many similar applications now (which is good) that it's hard to keep track (which is bad)... This one is called Geominder:
"Geominder allows you to create location-based reminders that stay attached to physical locations. When arriving at a marked location, Geominder can play an alarm and display a stored text note or a voice note previously associated to the location."
Hmm, not sure how this could be relevant to tourists, as they don't really have a daily routine within certain areas (as opposed to locals who live and work in a particular city), but perhaps if the reminders could be shared between different devices, they could alert their friends to particular points of interest? That's just going back to the whole digital post-it note idea though, anyway...

I guess one possible situation would be if they saw something they wanted to buy, but wanted to wander around and compare prices first, then they could set a geominder at that particular shop, so when they walk past, it'll say 'hey, remember to buy this sheepskin rug here' or something like that? Otherwise, this doesn't seem particularly suited for travellers. =\

Navizon & RFID Tourism in Kyoto

Navizon’s P2P positioning system: "a GPS, WiFi, and cellular peer-to-peer based mobile positioning system for Pocket PC devices."
I particularly like this illustrative diagram of the system.

Perhaps more relevant is the following article:
Tourism goes RFID in Kyoto and Shiga
"Uji and Hikone (in Kyoto and Shiga, Japan, respectively) are launching a pilot RFID-based sightseeing program as early as October, wherein interested parties (i.e. tourists) can use phones, PDAs, or other connected devices with RFID readers to get information on their surrounds (not too different sounding than the Town Pocket RFID program, if you ask us)."
Neat idea, but how many phones have RFID readers? Would it be better to just stick to cameraphones which can scan semacodes or QR codes? Or not have to require any sort of special hardware at all? I guess that's just wishful thinking, though...

Finally, Company Launch SMS Service That Understands English and Provides Movies Information. I'm linking to this because a few of my focus group participants mentioned movie listings and so forth, and this could also be easily adapted to other things, such as tourism information enquiries.
"The same technology can be easily deployed to book movie tickets, take pizza orders, make payments and take call-centre enquiries. For example, users can simply text in 'Book two tickets at 2pm' or 'Call me about my account'. The possibilities are limitless," said Mak.
It's definitely a lot better than having to learn a particular SMS method, anyway!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A near-comprehensive list of mobile LBS apps

via The Mobile Weblog: A really fantastic list of links for most of the mobile location-based services that are currently out there, by SamC. I'm going to copy Oliver Starr and also repost this in its entirety, just to make sure that I can find it again later - it's going to be really useful in my literature review! =)


"Meetro is a new location-based community building software. Using WiFi signals, it is able to discover the general location of a user without GPS.

City residents are then visually shown exactly who's in their vicinity and the general interests they share. The software itself is a free download from www.meetro.com. A desktop-compatible version has been recently released so people without WiFi can also get in on the fun.

Other related projects include Skyhook Wireless, a software-only positioning system (see DailyWireless: Next Generation 911?). They use a nationwide database of known Wi-Fi access points to calculate the precise location of any Wi-Fi device.

The location of any Wi-Fi device can be determined without new hardware. Skyhook says they created a reference database of over 1.5 million private and public access points along with their locations. The WPS client software utilizes this reference database to calculate a device’s location to within 20-40 meters. The Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) initially is being rolled out in 25 metropolitan areas.

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.

Herecast uses a symbolic naming system -- instead of using coordinates such as "42.9875, -81.2915", it expresses your location in terms an ordinary person would use -- for example, the name of the building. Every wireless access point broadcasts a unique identifier, which can be used to tell it apart from other access points. That identifier can also be used as a "landmark" to identify a particular location.

Quarterscope's Wi-Fi positioning technology, is a similar GPS replacer. Wi-Fi Planet has the scoop on Quarterscope and their Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS). It calculates the position of a client in a manner similar to other Wi-Fi positioning developers such as PanGo Networks, Newbury Networks, Bluesoft and Ekahau.

Location Based Services might also develop around some of these (free) software packages:

Directions Magazine has a series of articles on mobile location-based services and content. Other magazines include Geospatial-Online, Geo World, GPS World and Wireless DevNet. Here's a great list of innovative mobile projects. Hacking Google Maps has become a professional endeavor. "


Just spotted this over at textually: SMS will tell you where to find nearest cabbie
"Using a mix of satellite tracking and mobile technology, BeepTaxi links taxi drivers with customers so they don’t have to go through a radio operator.

Clients only have to text their name and destination: the tracking system will find them and the closest cab driver will ring them back to arrange a pick-up."
This reminds me a lot of Zingo - in fact, it seems pretty much exactly the same, really! So while I still think it's a really good application, it's not a totally new idea... Couple something like this with MCom's mobile payment system, and you've got a totally efficient and convenient taxi service, all thanks to your mobile! Great for both travellers and locals alike...

Vodafone + 3G + New Zealand

I suppose it'd be pretty common knowledge by now, especially for everyone in the mobile industry, but Vodafone launched 3G in New Zealand today! First off, here's the official press release from Vodafone. I won't get into the technical aspects too much because it's not really my specialty, but I will comment on a few things from a marketing perspective...

Re: The Vodafone live! MusicStore
Will this kill the iPod & iTunes? That's pretty much a moot point in New Zealand, where there is no iTunes, but it certainly pushes the whole 'cellphone-as-your-mobile-music-device' concept a lot further! I think it's fantastic to give users an opportunity to download tracks straight to their mobile - the fact that you can play it immediately on the same device is something that the iPod simply cannot beat. Sure, there's iTunes phone rumours, and the iTunes brand is very widely recognised and would be hugely valuable in that respect, but when your device is not an iPod, it just doesn't make sense to use iTunes at all. Also, the operators won't get nearly as much out of an iTunes-tied solution - which is why the Vodafone live! MusicStore is so logical; it's sort of like Progressive (i.e. Foodtown Woolworths) pushing Signature Range, or Dick Smith pushing their DSE-branded consumer electronics. So this mobile music store is certainly a step in the right direction! However. I have one major problem with this whole concept:
"Note: Full Music Tracks can only be downloaded to your 3G Mobile and cannot be transferred to other Music devices. This is to protect the music industry & our customers from illegally sharing music."
Right... Say if I really like the latest Pluto single (wicked band, by the way) and I wanted to listen to it on my mobile, I could download it from the V live! MusicStore for $3.50, but then if I also want to listen to it on my computer or my Creative MuVo2, I have to go and buy it again from digiRAMA for $1.69? Okay, maybe Pluto is a bad example because I can't even find them on digiRAMA, but basically, DRM and other such restrictions on digital content is just not the way to go. Please go and read Umair's insightful post about why DRM is flawed, as well as his articles on The New Economics of Music (part 2).

I just don't see how, as a consumer, I need to be 'protected' from 'illegally' sharing music... People have always freely shared music, whether it be taping songs off the radio, making mix tapes for your friends, or lending friends your CDs. A friend once sent me an MP3 of Muscle Museum, by Muse, and I loved it so much that I went out and bought all their albums from the CD store, ended up going to their concert, and generally spent a lot of money on them - all because of that MP3 that my friend 'illegally' shared with me. I'm not saying that piracy is totally okay, but I'm just saying that the music industry needs to wake up and realise that, whether they like it or not, people are going to share music, and they should at least try to understand it and work with their customers to make everyone's lives easier, instead of blindly suing them... But! I should really save that spiel for another day... (not that I haven't already talked about it heaps!)

Anyway, going back to my original example, at the moment it seems that the only way I can be sure I don't have to double pay for songs is to go and buy the actual Pluto CD, rip the tracks onto my computer, and then upload the mp3s onto my MuVo and my mobile. I guess it takes away from the immediacy of being able to get that song immediately on your mobile, but I'm certainly not going to pay $3.50 for a song that's only going to work on my phone... Why not just sell non-DRMed songs? I guess operators and music labels just haven't really 'seen the light' yet - do go and read Umair's articles, he puts it much better than I ever could. =)

Re: The Vodafone 3G Mobile TV
It's really good to see that they understand the sorts of clips that people will want to see on their phones - music videos, short clips from shows like South Park, sports highlights, news, etc... I guess I can't really comment too much here, except to just wait and see what the uptake is like for those services!

Re: Video calling
I got an SMS from Vodafone today saying:
"We wanted u 2 be first 2 know Vodafone has launched Video Calling. Visit Vodafone.co.nz/win & b in 2 WIN a pair of Video Calling handsets! Call 255 for info"
I like the fact that Vodafone don't txt me very often, and when they do, it's usually because there's something in it for me, like with the prepay double up deal or free weekend txting... Anyway, it's great to see that this is priced the same as voice calling - obviously they've done their homework and realised that cost is a huge issue for most mobile end-users (particularly in the younger market segments). However, it's going to take a long time before video calls on mobiles are a common occurrence, probably mainly due to the fact that most people don't have handsets with that capability right now, and they can't really afford to upgrade immediately... The prices of 3G phones will have to drop quite a lot before everyone latches onto the idea, but then again I think the operators already know that... From personal experience amongst my friends, I'd say that the 'sweet spot' for people my age (I'm 21, so late teens/early twenties) is usually around the $199 mark - most people won't hesitate to buy a phone under $200 - of course everyone wouldn't mind having a really nice, flashy handset, but it becomes harder and harder to justify spending that much money on a phone.

Anyway, I guess I have written a pretty long entry, and it's not even a review of the services or anything! Personally, I am definitely going to wait a little while before I invest in a 3G handset; I've only had my MPx220 for half a year, and none of the 3G applications are compelling enough to get me to upgrade prematurely, for the reasons I discussed above. Now, if they brought out some proper LBS apps on the other hand... =P

[LATER: The Herald has a review of Vodafone's 3G service up, and they don't seem too impressed with it, expressing similar concerns as those I raised above, such as the problems with the song download feature. Looks like they have a lot of work ahead of them...]

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mobile Search & Magellan

Engadget currently has a good roundup of all the major mobile-specific search engines that are out there, including the offerings from Google & Yahoo. Meanwhile, Geekzone has an article about mobile search, including a bit which really caught my eye:
Nokia introduces mobile search to its smartphones

"(...) The local search engines enable searching for local services or businesses - anything from restaurants and hotels to taxi numbers or flower shops. Results of local searches display the relevant contact data, and the user can instantly, with the push of a button, call the given telephone number or save it to contacts.

With an integrated mapping solutions from ABmaps.com portal by AtlasCT and digital map data from NAVTEQ, the results can be shown on a map. Users can also save and, for example, send the map as MMS to a friend.

When traveling between countries, the search application automatically offers to change to available local search engines. Users can also change the location setting manually, enabling a user to find the contact details, for example, of a hotel in another country in order to make a reservation for a future visit."
The last paragraph sounds really promising for travellers! It's also nice that it's being done by Nokia, as it has a very wide brand recognition, and most people are already familiar with their user interface.

Also saw an Engadget interview with Christian Bubenheim (general manager, Magellan Consumer Products) which may also be of interest, as they talk about GPS devices - it's good to see that people are really using these in real situations where it could mean the difference between life and death! It's going to be especially important in New Zealand, where mobile network coverage is somewhat sporadic; when all mobiles also have an inbuilt GPS chip (as mentioned in that Channel 9 Windows Mobile 5.0 video), that will probably be the best of all!

Monday, August 08, 2005

A9's enhanced Yellow Pages

I heard about A9's 'block view' technology back in January when it was initially launched, but I can't remember whether I've blogged about it yet. In any case, this recent Wired article has rekindled my interest. One of my favourite quotes from it is:
"We're familiarizing people with their surroundings before they inhabit them," says Dorfman. "It's about traveling there before you go."
Sounds exactly like something which would really add some value for travellers!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Now, with cheaper roaming...

Vodafone New Zealand reduces prices for data roaming
"Vodafone New Zealand will reducing its pricing structure for international data roaming from Monday 8 August 2005. The new rate is available for users when utilising data roam on Vodafone's global data network and will be reduced by two-thirds to NZ$10 per megabyte - the same amount it costs casual users to access the data network in New Zealand."
The travellers in my focus groups mentioned the hassle of having to buy a new simcard in every new country they came to, so cheaper roaming charges will certainly help, in that regard! It still doesn't solve the problem of phones not working in certain different networks, but it's a start!

Windows Mobile 5.0

If you're interested in mobiles, especially smartphones, then this Channel 9 video about Windows Mobile 5.0 is essential stuff! Even though they never use the specific term, they do talk about location-based services, e.g. the usual 'where am I' and people-tracking applications; they also mention some travel/tourism uses. It's very nice to see how excited they are about all these developments in the mobile space - however, 'normal' people's reactions to this kind of technology is an entirely different matter!

The 'early/late majority' are hugely concerned about privacy, and many of them don't really see the value in LBS apart from in emergency situations - the rest of the time, they're not going to buy into it unless: 1) their privacy/security concerns are fully addressed, 2) there is no cheaper, easier alternative, i.e. asking people on the street for directions, and 3) it is easy to use and very reliable - if it messes up the first few times they try it, they'll be put off for a long time. This is especially important for applications such as people-tracking, where a very real paranoia exists, and this won't be able to be glossed over just by sheer coolness. Lots of them see existing ways of communication (such as email, IM, voice calls and SMS) to be sufficient for their day-to-day needs.

Of course, it's still really important for the technology to keep advancing, but Moore's Chasm is becoming increasingly evident in the LBS industry. I think that marketing will play a key role in crossing this gap between the innovators and the rest of the target market - and hopefully my thesis will make a good contribution in that direction! =)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Cellphones as sensors & Sony Ericsson's location-aware phones

Two items which caught my eye today:

via Smartmobs: Cell phone as sensor by David Pescovitz
"By their sheer numbers, cell phones provide an opportunity to gather geospatial data with much higher granularity and more penetration than previously possible," says Honicky, who is developing such a system with College of Engineering dean Richard Newton. "This is especially true in the developing world, where there's often a lack of funds for scientific research."
If tourists gave their consent, then this could be a really valuable way of gathering traveller behaviour data! Though given their paranoia over people-tracking technology (as seen in my focus groups), a sizeable incentive will probably have to be offered, if any of them are actually going to sign up...

Also, some New Scientist breaking news about Sony Ericsson's 'Chameleon-phone'
"The cellphone industry is always looking for new must-have features to encourage people to junk their existing phones and buy new ones. Sony Ericsson’s latest idea is to sell phones which automatically change the way they behave, depending on the time, date and place.

For example, the wallpaper display on the screen shows pumpkins when the phone’s calendar sees the date is Halloween, and Christmas puddings on December 25th. Network roaming, or GPS, can tell a phone what country it is in, so the ring-tone might change to a reggae tune as the plane touches down in Jamaica, for example.

A restaurant could use short-range Bluetooth signals to deliver the specials menu direct to the phone's screen, and a cinema or church could use Bluetooth to switch it to silent mode. Stockbrokers could enable an option to display the latest share prices every 10 minutes and golfers could use continually updated weather forecasts for wallpaper.

Priority coding lets some automated controls override user settings. So if you are a golfing stockbroker praying in church for sunshine during a wet Christmas in Jamaica, the phone won’t interrupt the sermon with a burst of Bob Marley.

Read the location-aware cellphone patent here."
I must try and see if the local Ericsson folks can give me any more detail about this! =)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mobile Business Literature

"M-lit is the first online bibliographical database dedicated to mobile business literature. It aims to provide a hub where the Information Systems academic community can share references, abstracts and keywords from international academic journals and conference proceedings."
I can see that this database should come in very handy - thanks for the link, Minna! =)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An onslaught of LBS news

The power to follow your every move (New Scientist subscription required)
"Later this year the first four satellites of a rival system called Galileo will be launched. Galileo is a European project set up by the European Commission and the European Space Agency, and is designed to be more accurate, powerful and reliable than GPS, with more satellites - 30 in total - stronger signals and a range of commercial services for different needs. Galileo will also incorporate GPS signals, almost doubling the size of the system. The most significant difference, however, is that Galileo will be a purely commercial enterprise.

The imminent availability of a reliable, fast and accurate satellite positioning system dedicated to commercial users brings the scenario outlined above much closer to reality. This week specialists from areas as diverse as academia, security, surveying and government will meet at the UK's National Physical Laboratory in south-west London to discuss the social implications of Galileo once it goes live in 2008. And while it's impossible to know what the "killer application" will be, the consensus is that Galileo will finally allow satellite positioning to fulfil its potential. It could, some say, have as big an impact on the world as cellphones, PCs or the internet."
Unfortunately you do have to have a proper New Scientist subscription and login to read the full article, but basically it talks about Galileo's possible applications, and how it could really spur location-based services forward. If you would like to read the full article, drop me a line and I'd be happy to email it to you! =)

Discrete Wireless' GPS Teen Tracking Device
"One teen who wished to remain anonymous said, "At first I didn't like it, but I soon realized that it gives me a way out of doing things that I really don't want to do. It eliminates peer pressure. I tell my friends that my parents can see everything we do, and everywhere we go in my car, and my friends don't ask anymore."
Is it just me, or does this quote (and indeed the entire story) seem a bit dodgy? Sorry, but I still don't buy into the child/teen-tracking thing at all. Like Russell Buckley has said before, you can't push the responsibility of parenting onto technology in this way. Teenagers will always find a way to get around such 'controls', and it totally defeats the purpose of what good parenting should be about - trust. Yet more and more firms seem to be trying to make money off paranoid people. To prevent teens from drinking & driving or speeding, it's up to the parents to educate them properly and build a relationship of mutual trust - spying with technology won't work, because if they really want to act out, they'll just use their friend's unbugged car, or disable the device in their own vehicle! Hopefully parents will actually realise this too...

Node Explorer upgrades GPS tourism with WiFi, Linux (also see the detailed Telegraph article)
"The unit, a prototype Node Explorer from Bath-based Node, is billed as a location-aware media player. Using GPS to get location data, the Linux-based, ruggedized unit communicates over WiFi with a nearby Node Server to present info on a location in realtime. Currently envisioned as being a tool for tourists, the Node Explorer could be a more versatile solution than current GPS tourism devices, which typically use off-the-shelf components like Pocket PCs, and keep their data onboard, limiting their utility to a narrow, pre-defined geographical area."
This is much more exciting! A definite must-read, especially the detailed Telegraph article which describes the user experience in detail. The more location-based tourism applications there are, the better, really!

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa testing Pocket PC guide
"The Mobile Exhibition Guide (MEG) provides visitors with in-depth information corresponding to the exhibits they are viewing. It compliments Te Papa’s existing interpretative media, and takes the visitors deeper into the exhibition narrative and collection histories by presenting a range of audio and visual media such as moving and still images, with narration throughout the experience and interviews with curators."
Something closer to home! I wonder if I could interview someone who was working on MEG... I hope it's a success! But with companies like Microsoft and HP behind it, I'm sure it will be. =)

UK-based mobile phone location service launched
"Rock Seven Mobile Services Limited launched a new mobile location service called 'Closer'. The service allows their website users to locate individuals anywhere in the UK using a mobile phone signal.
The accuracy of the system varies, depending on the location in the UK. In cities and built-up areas the accuracy is usually between 100m and 1000m. In rural areas, where mobile transmitters are less dense, accuracy ranges from about 1km to 5km. Some mobile networks perform better than others."
Hmm, they probably need to work on the accuracy a bit, but other than that it sounds like they're on the right track! What with the emphasis on being permission-based and everything...

Okay, now I've got to go and finish transcribing my third focus group... Hopefully I will be able to write a brief report on my own research results soon, instead of just blogging about everyone else's!

Monday, August 01, 2005

WiFi at Auckland International Airport

Telecom unwires Auckland International Airport
"Auckland International Airport (AIA) said today it is rolling out a Telecom wireless network that will make the terminal one of New Zealand's largest wireless zones.
"Unlike many other facilities, the wireless network at Auckland Airport can be used for everything from aircraft operational requirements, wireless telecommunications, remote access to information airport-wide and also the retail side, with passengers eventually being able to use specific wi-fi 'hotspots' to surf the internet and check email," Mr Wickstead said."
This is definitely something that could help travellers link up with digital tourism information in New Zealand! And if you want to go down the WiFi-enabled LBS path, this is definitely a step in the right direction. =)


There are so many LBS apps popping up at the moment all over the blogosphere that sometimes I'm not sure whether I've already blogged about it or not! I don't think I've come across this one before though: UpMyStreet starts geo-targeted ad campaigns
"Local information site Upmystreet has begun two new geographically targeted campaigns in a bid, offering clients ad space that is only visible to users in specific regions in the UK.

UpMyStreet provides visitors with local neighbourhood information and services based on their postcode."

The UK seems to be catching onto location-based tourism pretty quickly! I wonder if any of the British travellers who were in my focus groups will notice this more when they get back home..? =) Speaking of which, I still have two focus groups to finish transcribing before Wednesday! Better get back to work...