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

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Darrin Wilkey: Certainly cost is always a concern for consumers. As we’ve seen with carriers, as they make package deals or bundling or price reductions, as they make services more accessible, it certainly helps with the uptake. Here in the United States, many of the carriers are including unlimited data bundles with internet, SMS and instant messaging, and even some of them with Sprint include navigation as one of those features as an add-on bundle. One of the things we found in our research is that consumers are happy to pay somewhere between $3 and $12 for LBS services.

BBCool: There’s that sweet spot in pricing, then?

Darrin Wilkey: Now, if you look at standard navigation pricing, it’s generally around $10 to 10 euros a month. Loopt is around $2-$3. Consumers definitely show willingness to pay for the app. There’s real value in BlackBerry Maps – where consumers don’t pay anything for the basic, accurate mapping functionality. There are ways they can enhance the functionality by upgrading to turn-by-turn navigation or social networking that they’ve definitely shown willingness to pay for in the past.

BBCool: We’ve been talking a lot about the condition of GPS and LBS, and you were throwing out a lot of numbers in terms of growth. In the long-term, what phase are we in for the development of mobile LBS?

Darrin Wilkey: For the past five years, people have been expecting a big “hockey stick” upswing. I think we are now at the cusp of that happening because of what we’ve been talking with the infrastructure finally getting in place and the handset manufacturers building it into their devices, making it more accesible. We need to do a better job of overall consumer awareness, we just need to keep driving those innovative, cool applications that are going to drive broad scale adoption of those services. We’ve seen some really good uptake in navigation and social networking applications, but again, as we start talking about hundreds of millions of users that will have access to GPS in the device, that’s where we really need to start seeing theses innovative, interesting applications, to drive that market space.

BBCool: If right now is the jumping off of that “hockey stick” point, then what are we going to see from LBS in 2 or 5 years? If 2007 and 2008 are the times when LBS really catches fire, what does that mean for 2010 and 2015?

Darrin Wilkey: We’ll continue to see the personalisation trend that the internet has really driven. People are going to want to personalise their location experience. Whether it’s with geo-located blogs, or sharing points of interest. I think local search is going to go crazy with location information attached to it. What we’re also going to see are not only more and more people, but things will be locatable. I’m not sure how futuristic we’re talking here, but let’s think about all the mobile things I have? I have my car, I have my bicycle, I’ve got my friends, I have my family, all the other things around you that are mobile that could potentially be within your network of findability?

BBCool: Have you heard of BlackLine? They do the GPS-Snitch? What do you think of things like that where you can keep tabs on your car, track your employees, or even do GPS-based games based on friends in your group?

Darrin Wilkey: We actually had them at our booth at WES. That’s a great application of something that started in enterprise space, that is, “Where are my assets?” “Where are my employees?”, and bringing it into the consumer space. A lot of people are concerned about “Where is my car?” “Where is my child and how fast are they driving?” When you extend it to things like being involved in a mobile game, it gets really interesting and really exciting, and highlights what’s possible in the future.

BBCool: I’m out of questions. Is there anything that you want to re-emphasize the Maps and Apps contest or LBS in general?

Darrin Wilkey: The only thing I really want to say is that location enhances every application. What I’d really love to see is your reader base sign up for the Maps and Apps program and help us bring it to market together.