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Small cells

AlcaLu, Telecom Italia Rev Femto Apps

LONDON -- Femtocells World Summit 2011 -- Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) released the first standards-based software development kit (SDK) for femtocells here and revealed a collaboration with Telecom Italia (TIM) and Accenture to develop new femto applications.

AlcaLu worked with Accenture to create the SDK, which is based on the Femto Forum Ltd. 's application programming interface (API) specifications, and Telecom Italia is already testing apps on its network developed from the SDK and using femtocells from AlcaLu.

Such a tool should help mobile operators to work more closely with apps developers to create new services. Some early ideas include an SMS notification service in which parents are alerted when their child arrives home from school; presence-enabled tourist services that provide information about attractions that visitors are near; or location-based promotional offers in stores.

The first app that Telecom Italia is testing is an art guide for a museum, which AlcaLu demonstrated here (sans the museum, but we got the idea!). Telecom Italia installed femtos throughout an art museum. As visitors stroll through the building and move between the femtocells, the femtos know where they are located to within half a meter. Using that presence or location data, the app then sends certain information to visitors' 3G devices about the painting or artwork they are standing near. The idea is that this would be a more convenient way of getting the information than renting the audio headset systems.

That's just one example. And AlcaLu says 23 different developers located in China, Canada, India and the U.S. are already working with the SDK.

Why this matters
A standards-based SDK for apps developers is a big step along the way to making femtocells more than just a fix for indoor coverage or network capacity. With new so-called "femtozone" services, the tiny home base stations can be used as tools to boost revenues rather than just retain customers.

And for Alcatel-Lucent, this femto SDK is yet another facet in its applications enablement strategy. (See Think Before You Develop, AlcaLu Lures Developers With Free Tools , AlcaLu OpenPlugs Away at Apps Enablement and AlcaLu Shows Off Its Apps Abs.)

For more
For more on the development of femtocell applications, see these stories:

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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