Getting the right information to the right people at the right time is the goal of any successful mobile deployment. But in some cases, before you can do that, you need to know where those people are. With location-awareness built into a device, it becomes possible to proactively deliver information and maintain centralized control from the back office.
"Location is the most important content category for mobile," says Greg Sterling, a principal with Sterling Market Intelligence (SMI). "In that equation, location-awareness is half the battle. If you can locate the user 'passively' you can serve more locally relevant content, which provides a better user experience."
According to SMI, nearly $100 billion is spent annually on locally targeted advertising, a figure that is driving the adoption of location-aware technologies. With GPS devices finding their way into automobiles, laptops, PDAs and mobile phones, consumer expectations for targeted information are rising.
Search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft's Live are beginning to incorporate location-awareness in an effort to provide consumers with such relevant information as local movie times, restaurant locations, addresses and directions. Location-awareness will also help deliver e-commerce applications to mobile devices.
In the enterprise, location-awareness can support asset tracking, fleet management and shipping applications. When integrated with SFA applications such as Salesforce.com, an enterprise can gain the ability to track the location of its salesforce.
While the majority of location-aware apps are built on top of GPS, Skyhook Wireless is offering an alternative in the form of a system that can determine location through reverse triangulation of WiFi hotspots. "We can now deliver real time, accurate location determination to apps that couldn't have done it before," says Jed Rice, VP of market development with Skyhook Wireless.
Skyhook's technology works with any WiFi-equipped laptop or PDA, meaning that enterprises can deliver location-aware applications merely by adding a layer of software to the device. Unlike GPS, WiFi can be used indoors and is more effective in urban metro areas. "We can now acquire a position in less than a second with an accuracy of less than 40 meters," says Rice.
By piggy-backing on existing infrastructure, Skyhook Wireless provides a way for enterprises to test the waters with mobile applications without the expense and headaches usually associated with mobile deployments, Sterling notes. "Enterprises need to assess and determine where and how it makes sense to integrate mobile applications beyond basic corporate email, etc. The infrastructure, however, is still being developed. And it will take a few years before mobile data is totally mainstream."
Swedish research firm Berg Insight points to "circa-2010" as the date when the European satellite Galileo will become operational, thus encouraging the integration of GPS into 60 percent of WCDMA handsets. In Japan, however, NTT DoCoMo announced it was including GPS in all 3G devices from 2007 forward.