According to the report published by Pwe Research Center on the 6th of September 2011 28% of American adults use mobile and social location-based services. That number includes all kinds of using location information on the mobile phone including getting directions or recommendations based on location of the user. That result is not surprising knowing that according to the Nielsen in the study made in July 2011 74.6% of Android users have opened the Google Maps app on their smartphone during last month. What needs to be commented is that in 2011 only 4% of all adults use geosocial services like Foursquare or Gowalla. This means that the number hasn’t change from a similar study made by Pew in 2010. Growth of those services might be driven mostly by non-american users. Geo-social services are growing extremely fast especially in Asia.
What is interesting are demographic changes. In August/September 2010 6% of men used geosocial services, while only 3% on women shared their location with others. In 2011 the gender difference is only 1%. Does it mean that women started to be less afraid of publishing their location? It seems so. In my opinion the difference comes from the fact that in August 2010 Facebook has launched it’s ‘Places’ which increased popularity and trust to such a services among women during one year period.
Currently due to several scandals the location tracking technology in mobile devices in under constant intense scrutiny but the fact is that the market of is growing and analysts are pretty optimistic about it as well in Europe. From the report it seems that the investors should concentrate on Location Based (Aware) Services that are providing information more than on Location Based Social Networks. We’ll see soon where the market will go.
According to ABI Research – technology market research company – the location-based analytics market in US will reach the $9bn in value by 2016. Currently due to several scandals the location tracking technology in mobile devices in under constant intense scrutiny but ABI but reckons this will not get in the way of the market blossoming in the future.
According to senior analyst Patrick Connolly this temporary debate will not prevent the future success of location-based services, marketing and advertising, all of which will be based on location analytics – the aggregation and analysis of location information to identify trends that will enable new services and more effective advertising.
The firm said that the “real power” of location-based services will come from a combination of analytics and advertising, when consumers can be anonymously targeted through social, geographic, physical and emotional indicators. While the location analytics market is relatively new, it has been evolving for a number of years and has been the major driver for recent location-related acquisitions by the likes of Apple, Google, Nokia, Facebook and Microsoft. Eventually, location will become commoditised and will be treated as just another piece of demographic information. Consequently, location analytics will become the core provider of value in location-based advertising.
Just couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about The Art of Geographic Data. It seems that BBC thought about it before me and made whole TV series about related topic…
The BBC documentary The Beauty of Maps is a fantastic TV series looking at maps in incredible detail to highlight their artistic attributions and reveal the stories that they tell. The British Museum in London is a home of staggering 4.5 million maps, most of which remain hidden away in its colossal basement. The programme delves behind the scenes to explore some amazing treasures in more detail. However apart from TV Show their is an BBC website complementing the series on-line.
The website gives us a chance to experience and explore five of the world’s most beautiful old maps and discover their secrets starting with Psalter Map from 1260. But it as well presents how we map virtual spaces and understand our world today. Click of the image to explore this website:
I found couple of episodes of the series on You Tube:
In this post I’m summing up a little bit of theory about Location Based Services (LBS) that I will use for my further academic research. In some papers, books and blog posts it is possible to see different terms interchangeably used to describe the same service: location-aware services, location-related services or location services. Nonetheless the term Location Based Services has been already used and acclaimed by most scientific and professional communities.
Location based services – definitions.
Although LBS is a fairly new domain of science one can find several definitions:
“LBSs are information services accessible with mobile devices through the mobile network and utilizing the ability to make use of the location of the mobile device.” 
“Location-based Services are IT services for providing information that has been created, compiled, selected, or filtered taking into consideration the current locations of the users or those of other persons or mobile objects.”
So basically LBS are using potential and capabilities of modern mobile devices, positioning technologies and mobile internet to deliver to user value added information or service based on his location. The main value of LBS for users is that they don’t have to enter location information manually but its automatically collected (with positioning technologies) and used to generate personalized information.
Fig.2. LBS as an intersection of technologies
LBS – intersection of technologies.
LBS is a field that uses achievements of several technologies. Brimicombe in 2002 proposed to present LBS as an intersection of several technologies: Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Internet, and Mobile Devices (or New Information and Communication Technologies). This concept is pretty straightforward and doesn’t need much explanation. The crucial observation is that the technology is actually going in those three directions: information (Internet), mobility (Moble Devices), location (GPS, GIS). According to statistics only in the 4Q of 2010 there where 100.9 million units of smartphone sold. And it was the first time in the history that sales of smartphones was higher than PCs . Moreover already 25% of users prefer using smartphones over a computer to browse the World Wide Web and the number is growing . Conclusions? Decreasing prices of modern mobile devices are pushing Information Society to go mobile. Now how about location and Geographical Information Systems? People are getting more conscious about the spatial aspect of life. Due to popularity of Google Maps they are already used to certain location-based ideas and their utilization. Maps are in fact one of the first five priorities of Google for the future. Maps are naturally linked with space and for centuries they have been used to find position and to navigate. In the most basic model users where trying to localize themselves on the paper maps and to find their way to targeted place. With the development and release to the public Global Positioning System and first PNDs (Personal Navigation Devices) users started to utilize digital mapping in a mobile way. Therefore it is not a surprise that the most used application on Android and third most used application on iPhone platform is Google Maps. Google recently disclosed that 40% of all Google Map use takes place on mobile phones. There is as well growing number of users of popular Location-Based Social Networks (LBSN). Already well known in USA, LBSNs are gaining popularity in Europe and Asia.
Almost all LBSs are based on components present on the figure 3. All of them create LBS infrastructure and parameters of each of them are crucial for the service to work. Those components are: Service and Content Provider, Mobile Device, Positioning Systems, and Communication Network.
Fig.3. Basic components of LBS
Service and Content Provider
These are all companies providing service, data and that are responsible for the service request processing. Those providers are for example Location Based Social Networks or GSM operators.
These are all non-stationary devices that are tools for the user to request the needed information. For example mobile phones, smartphones, PDAs, tablets, laptops. Those devices can have build-in or external positioning module (e.g. GPS antena).
Positioning of the user is of course the heart of LBS. The user position can be obtained in several ways. The most common two of them are GPS with a several meters accuracy and the mobile communication network which uses one or more cell towers to determine the position of devices with several hundred meters accuracy. The other possibility is to use the position are WLAN stations – there are companies specialized in capturing information about wi-fi location and using it for positioning. This option is possible only in the cities because of need of high network density but it can give surprisingly good accuracy of several dozen meters. Other topic is indoor navigation which can use as well wi-fi or Bluetooth for determining position inside buildings.
The last component is communication network which is responsible for transferring the user data and service request from the mobile device to the service provider and then the requested information back to the user.
1. Virrantaus, K., Markkula, J., Garmash, A., Terziyan, Y.V., 2001. Developing GIS-Supported LocationBased Services. In: Proc. of WGIS’2001 – First International Workshop on Web Geographical Information Systems., Kyoto, Japan. , 423–432.
2. Axel Kupper – “Location-based Services: Fundamentals and Operation”, 2005, John Wiley & Sons Ltd,
After acquiring Navteq in 2007 Nokia seriously disturbed GPS Navigation industry. With free Nokia maps and its dominance on the market many analysts foreseen the death of the paid navigation. At that time I was working for one of the local European car navigation producers and the management was seriously concerned about the future of the company. Then Nokia missed smartphone revolution and competitors (including Google Maps) made many improvements to their navigation apps. I always had a feeling that Nokia is not fully utilizing potential of Navteq (acquired for $8.1 billion). Although Navteq is the biggest geographic data producer in the world, Ovi Maps could never successfully force it’s way through competition.
Nokia Ovi Maps – version 3.8
The Nokia Beta Labs has just released version 3.8 of Nokia Ovi Maps. Apart from several improvements in home-screen and functionality the most important information is that Nokia Labs optimized a beta Web version of Nokia Maps for Android and iPhone. You just need to go to: m.maps.ovi.com with your smartphone to access the web app that allows for basic navigation functions like calculating routes and location your position on the map. Currently “turn by turn” navigation and voice directions are not yet available.
Competing on iPhone and Android market?
Obviously this functionality is not enough to compete on the smartphone navigation market but it’s a good step forward. Nokia has enough resources to create great navigation product for all major platforms. Probably it’s contradictory with company’s business strategy but as we could observe during last couple of months Nokia’s strategy was not very consistent. As I have a sentiment to Nokia (I still think that Nokia 3310 was one of the best phones ever) I would really like to see them disturbing this time smart phones navigation market.
Nokia Beta Labs Scientists released new Symbian application called Nokia 3D World Gaze. It actually looks very cool but it seems to be another gadget app – fancy but not really practical.
How does it work?
The application uses compass and GPS from your phone to locate you and direction that you are looking at. Than it gives you possibility to kind of browse the world in this direction by showing data from services such as: panoramio.com, wikinews.org, wikipedia.org, and geonames.org. For example, you are in Münster in Germany and point the phone directly south, you’re likely to see detailed information of Zurich in Switzerland, with the added bonus of being able to see geotagged media in the forms of images. If you’re pointing your phone directly downwards, will show you what’s on the other side of the world.
Well… it’s another augmented reality app that is rather cool than actually practical. One year ago everyone was talking about Layar and how they’d change the world with their augmented reality application. They didn’t. This application is rather fancy gadget to present on even more fancy press conference than a useful tool. But you know what? I like fancy gadgets!!!
There was a new update to TomTom’s iPhone App released yesterday. Version 1.8 was complement with new Multi-Stop Routes functionality. It means that you can add up-to five extra points to your route without recalculating it, so you can for example pick up friends and visit places of interest more easily – and you only need to plan your route once.
Many bloggers (including Engadget) wrote that with this update TomTom releases HD Traffic data to iPhone. Dear bloggers TomTom HD Traffic service is available in the AppStore at least from March 2010!!!
After acquiring TeleAtlas – one the world biggest producers of geographic data – TomTom became undeniable leader on the GPS Navigation market. With it’s innovative products TomTom’s mission “to reduce traffic congestion for all” becomes possible.
Geographic data which we know are mostly rasters or vectors. Tables. Attributes. Numbers. All very analytic. For some people boring. But is there a beauty in it? Not a beauty for a scientist but in a general sense… Is there an art of geographic data? Aaron Koblin – artist specializing in data and digital technologies – proved that its true. In his project called ‘Flight Patterns’ Koblin visualized airplane traffic over North America over 24h.
And the image of Atlanta International Airport:
We can see how the pattern is changing over time due to different time zones of east and west US.
Do you still have any doubts that geographic data can be an art?
C3 Technologies – company with its origin in the Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab AB, is now applying previously classified, military image processing technology to the development of 3D maps as a platform for new social and commercial applications. And the effect is astonishing especially knowing that according to the company its generated automatically. It is a very promising3D data capturing and visualization solution for the navigation and geographic information systems industries.
How do they do that?
C3 maps are assembled almost automatically using high resolution, spatial areal imaginary. So basically their planes are outfitted with photogrammetric cameras pointing every direction and capturing overlapping images. Knowing the GPS position, angles, rotation and distance between cameras their are able to almost automatically generate 3D, photo realistic, stereo-graphic view on a captured area.
Previously similar data could be captured by LiDAR – remote sensing technology that uses laser scanning to collect height or elevation data. LiDAR is however pretty expensive technology. We don’t know the initial costs of the C3 technology but it seems very cost effective in use. Google Earth from the other side involves using Google SketchUp 3D modeling. That means that people are almost manually putting parts of maps together which is is very time ineffective.
Nokia OVI Maps 3D
C3 Technologies has partnered Nokia to deliver the first usable version of its mapping data with Ovi Maps 3D in the begging of 2011. Currently it features 20 cities with limited functionality: pan, zoom, changing view angle. Company claims however to have 100 city models already produced with 22 more scheduled for Spring 2011. With this functionality its just a gadget to play and to check the possibilities of C3 technology. But does it mean that Nokia will use this data in OVI Maps? I am looking forward to here something about it.
Google Earth killer?
Definitely not yet. The potential of Google Maps and Google Earth is not rooted in 3D view but in data that they have collected and interoperability with open standards (like KML). Row 3D without data about roads, streets, POIs ect. is not very useful.
But let’s concentrate on 3D view itself and compare two products: Google Earth and Nokia Ovi Maps 3D. I order to do that I decided to choose Sagrada Família, one of the most architecturally sophisticated church in the world, situated in Barcelona, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí in early XX century.
We can observe that C3 model is much more photo realistic. Shadows and amount of details is really impressive. We can see however that automatically generated 3D geometrical objects like towers or rooftops of building on the second plan are not perfectly represented and Google Earth has advantage in this field. There is as well difference is representation of trees and ground details between two models. In Google Earth they are flat and in C3 they are convex, however not really well represented.
I’m looking forward to see some more commercial applications of C3 3D maps and how they will develop. Both Google Earth and C3 models have their pros and cons. Maybe in a future we will witness fusion of both technologies.
On Tuesday 14th of June, 2011 Garmin – one of the most popular sellers of navigation and smartphone GPS software – announced that Navigon’s shareholders have signed an agreement for a Garmin subsidiary to purchase Germany-based Navigon. “This acquisition is a great complement to Garmin’s existing automotive and mobile business. Navigon has invested significantly in the European automotive OEM business, and we feel that we can rapidly expand our automotive OEM footprint and capabilities through this transaction,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s president and COO. “With Navigon, we are also acquiring one of the top-selling navigation applications for the iPhone and Android platforms – something that we expect will help drive revenue for the combined company going forward. Combining Navigon’s and Garmin’s strength also improves our competitiveness and standing particularly in Europe.” Garmin said that Navigon will continue to operate as a subsidiary of Garmin and that the deal is still subject to regulatory approvals.
A Garmin spokeswoman at the company’s Olathe headquarters declined to reveal what the company paid for Navigon, which is 90 percent owned by General Atlantic Partners, a private U.S. equity firm. Financial Times Deutschland reported this month that Garmin was considering paying more than $70 million.
Some analysts saw Navigon as a struggling company with just 5 percent to 7 percent of the European market. (It holds about 20 percent of the market in Germany.) By purchasing the company, Garmin perhaps saves Navigon and adds incrementally to its own sales in Europe. Garmin also was enticed by Navigon’s popular applications for iPhone and Android smartphones.
Garmin, Navigon and Dutch manufacturer TomTom, the European leader, have all seen their prospects hurt by the smartphone. Many consumers are forgoing purchases of handheld GPS devices and relying on applications in their phones instead. That has meant a shrinking market for GPS device makers, which have begun to battle for contracts to provide the devices built into the dashboards of cars and trucks. Garmin also has found rich markets in devices made for boaters, bicyclists and people looking to incorporate navigation into their athletic training regimens.
Navigon was founded in 1991, two years after Garmin. The German company’s first signature software product debuted in 1996 as Autopilot, later named AutoPilot 2000. The company continued as chiefly a maker of software until 2008, when it began to sell its own navigation devices. But the timing proved poor with the spread of navigation-enabled smartphones, and Navigon quickly pulled its devices from the U.S. market. Worldwide, Navigon has more than 400 employees. Garmin has about 7,000 workers and more than half the American GPS market. TomTom, its chief competitor, has just less than half the European market and a fourth of U.S. sales.
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