Location Services Find a Voice

802.11 may be the technology de jour, but there's evidence that the wireless industry is endeavoring to make the rest of 2003 the year in which location-based services find a broader audience and generate some meaningful revenues.

That was one message that came from a panel debate, "Location-Based Services: Do We Need Them?," held at the CeBIT tradeshow in Hannover, Germany, last Saturday.

Yes -- Saturday! At 10am! In Germany! And despite the day and time, four vendors and a sizeable audience converged in Hall 14 at CeBIT to discuss some of the main issues surrounding the delivery and use of those mobile services that are underpinned by location technologies.

Under the spotlight were: Their contributions -- including their answers to questions about privacy and security, the potential for location-based services, and how vendors are working with operators to help kickstart the market -- can be seen by clicking here and choosing one of the two connection speeds on offer.

Privacy and trust appeared to be the main issues surrounding the use of technologies that help deliver specific services that are dependent on the location of the mobile phone user. Although mobile phone users can disable the technology that allows a mobile network to identify their position, all the panelists agreed that users need to feel happier that they are not being targeted by unwanted marketing campaigns, or tracked against their will. They also agreed that there is some way to go before vendors or operators will make any money from this specific sector.

Research company Ovum Ltd. offers some optimism for these vendors and the operators deploying their service-enabling systems. While location-based services were responsible for just $180 million of operator revenue worldwide in 2002, this will increase to $4.6 billion by 2006 as content-based services are developed and marketed and user-friendly device interfaces become standard, believe the folk at Ovum. There are also opportunities in the enterprise sector, especially in vertical markets where sales and field staff may need to be located.

The vendors clearly believe they have a role to play in helping to make such services a success, and only yesterday Openwave announced four separate agreements to help operators deliver and customers use such services (see Openwave Forms LBS Alliances). Other companies also used the CTIA Wireless 2003 show in New Orleans as a springboard to promote location technology (see CPS Expands Location Portfolio and Philips Chips In With GPS).

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung

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