Interview: Tele Atlas talks GPS, LBS, and their Innovator Series

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BBCool: You just were talking about how ingrained you are from the production side, with carriers and manufacturers, but what I found really interesting was how you were trying to get the end-user community involved in the judging of the contest.

Darrin Wilkey: What it comes down to is, there needs to be a market, somebody needs to be using it. That’s where we start involving the end-user community to take a look at the cool and innovative applications that are coming down the pipeline. That’s where we start getting a good feel for what is of interest in the marketplace, but also it helps us to drive the awareness at the end-user level as well. It enhances that visibility, that there IS a GPS chip in your phone, or that there is a really easy way to use mapping and social networking applications and all these other cool ones we hope to see over the next couple of months. It’s important to get it down to the consumer level, to make sure that what we’re developing and creating is on the right track, and that it is useful and adds value to the overall user experience in the device.

BBCool: Yeah, in the end, if your average user doesn’t get how to do it, it won’t really take off. Most LBS applications are really segregated from the rest of the device. What do you think it’s going to take to get an LBS application well integrated with the device? Is it a technical hurdle?

Darrin Wilkey: There are always technical hurdles to overcome. Any business owner, whether it’s the carrier or the device manufacturer, they’re constantly having to make a trade-off between what features they’re going to make available and how integrated it’s going to be with the device. It’s always a big dance to get a product to market. What we’re seeing is that the device manufacturers and carriers are realizing that consumers want location enhancement in the device and in their services. We’ve done some primary research recently that shows that GPS is the second-most desired feature in a device, second only to cameras. There starts to be a lot more understanding in what consumers want in this space, that the integration is going to happen. RIM is a great example of this. They’re the first ones to integrate BlackBerry Maps with their Calendar. They’re really starting to integrate it into a lot of the other applications on the device. BlackBerry is a perfect platform for this, it’s so extensible, there’s so many things you can put on it and do with it. It’s a perfect device to have location enhancement on all its applications. RIM is starting to do that, and it’s exciting.

BBCool: I’m going to ask you to get on the slightly pessimistic side. What about data concerns for the average user? Do you see that stunting growth? Let’s say you’re a Blackberry user and you’re on a Rogers unlimited data plan, which is only 25 megabytes per month, and you’re using Google Maps all the time. You’re going to go over your data limit in a week. Do carriers have to figure out how to get the LBS data in these applications to users cheaply before there’s a huge uptake? Everyone might want GPS on their device after a camera, but you don’t have to pay every time you take a picture.