The blogosphere is abuzz once again with privacy concerns. This morning the New York Times published an article entitled “You’re Leaving a Digital Trail. What About Privacy?” highlighting a number of businesses that utilize anonymous customer data in order to make more effective decisions. And while it’s made clear that the data is indeed anonymous and can’t be abused, online chatter about the lack of privacy in our lives is pervasive.
While privacy is a legitimate concern in our internet age, it continues to frustrate me. First of all, the data companies like Google compile about us is never data about US. It’s simply an addition to the grouped data of a segment of users like us. In a recent conversation with Greg Skibiski, CEO of Sense Networks, the maker of the upcoming CitySense iPhone app, he made this clear (he’s quoted in the Times article). And he should know. The company’s MacroSense platform is built specifically for sorting through and making sense of data about us (you can read more about this conversation in an article I wrote for VentureBeat). Sense Networks sorts through data about us from major wireless carriers, but it’s sorted into groups of users with similar specifications, if you will. Nothing is directly correlated to an actual person.
It’s also a concern that stands in the way of mainstream location-based service and application adoption. Not everyone wants to be found at all times. In the end though, the data that everyone’s so concerned about is used to make products and services better, likely contributing to more dollars flowing through our troubled economy. Do you really think Sergey Brin is going to phone up your spouse and let him or her know you’re addicted to porn?
I think the solution to the whole privacy discussion is simple. Data about you is everywhere. If it makes you uncomfortable, consider quitting your job, cutting up your credit cards, ditching the cellphone and cable subscriptions, curling up under a rock, and never entering the wild world of WWW again. And if you do, opt-out and shut up.
I’ve maintained throughout the year my thoughts on the company’s supposed rise. I’ve thought that it may be too late with the rise of competing map platforms from Google and Yahoo. But I could be wrong. In the interview, MapQuest–Mark and Christian for this article’s purposes–revealed that the company is profitable and users have responded well to geotargeted and behaviorally relevant advertising on the dot-com property. Definitely a good thing. Perhaps more interestingly though is the company’s views on its competitors.
According to MapQuest the real competition in the online and mobile mapping landscape is Yahoo–not Google, NAVTEQ, or TeleAtlas. The company quotes search and site engagement stats to make their case:
Google Maps may be gaining ground in terms of unique visitors but our user engagement and value proposition is very different than Google Maps. Visitors to MapQuest are far more engaged as we are actually a destination website. Consumers actively look and search for MapQuest. In fact, MapQuest is the 8th most searched term, according to Hitwise. Google Maps is 57th. MapQuest also has a deeper level of user engagement as demonstrated by 113% more pages viewed per visitor per month than Google Maps and visitors spending 78% more minutes (13.8 compared to 7.8 minutes) on MapQuest versus Google Maps.
Google Maps visitors, MapQuest points out, tend to be driven to the platform by search–it’s not a destination site. But they do admit over the long-term, Google’s search dominance give the company the ability to create new behaviors. For now though, says MapQuest, “our biggest competitor is Yahoo given what they have evolved into. Yahoo is much closer to Mapquest in terms of page consumption versus the shallower user visits in Google.”
We definitely won’t be seeing the Kohjinsha SC3 and SX3 ultramobile portable computers (UMPC) in North America anytime, but you can order them online.
The SC3 Series, available at the beginning of December, has optional GPS, a 7-inch LED-backlit LCD touchscreen and runs on either Windows XP or Vista. Inside you’ll find a 1.33 GHz Intel Atom Z520 CPU, 1 GB RAM, 60 GB HDD, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi b/g support, and a 1.3 megapixel web camera.
The other night my wife, a certified Facebook junkie, noticed that there were some new Facebook virtual gifts being passed around. From Dell, eBay, and Sephora, I wondered what the significance of these gifts were and starting digging for more information.
Turns out, according to AdAge, the gifts are part of a holiday promotion. This weekend, the three companies are each offering 250, 000 free virtual gifts in order to drum up conversation and a little brand recognition. The ultimate goal, of course, is to convert involved Facebook users into actual buyers of products that cost money. In an email from Facebook corporate communications executive Matt Hicks to AdAge, he said over 30, 000 of the virtual gifts had been sent in the first night alone.
All of this makes me wonder: Can virtual gifts be used to monetize location-based social networks? I would think so. A recent ABI Research study revealed that 46% of dot-com social network users have visited a social network on a mobile device. 70% of those have visited MySpace and 67% have visited Facebook. MySpace has always been a profitable business and Facebook could likely leverage its dot-com user base to make random virtual gift giving a successful revenue stream on mobile. But what about location-based social networks that emphasize mobile like Loopt ?
The same ABI Research study mentioned above said that no other social network aside from Facebook and MySpace reached above a 15% mobile penetration rate. And none of the social networks with a mobile focus have substantial dot-com visitors either–not relative to the two biggies anyway. What location-based mobile social networks do have though is the ability to use place as a way to target gift giving. In essence, offering virtual gifts with more social and geographical relevance. If company’s did this right, gift giving could become a significant revenue stream that none have tapped into so far.
Update: With the recent Clearwire merger with Sprint’s Xohm network, it looks like the new name will be Clear. So change my prediction to: Garmin’s nuviphone will be carried on the Clear network.
The last time we heard about Garmin’s nuviphone was during the company’s 3rd quarter earnings call. At the time the company confirmed a “early 2009″ release but no specifics. According to gadget blog T3, they’ve had a hands-on with the nuviphone over in the UK where it will be exclusive to an unnamed carrier. It’s unlikely Garmin would want to compete with Apple’s iPhone or T-Mobile’s G1, so we can rule carriers O2 and T-Mobile out of the question. In the United States the consensus has been that the nuviphone will be offered by AT&T but I’m not so sure.
If you remember, back in August Garmin and uLocate Communications partnered so uLocate’s popular WHERE application could be offered on Garmin products, none of which I’ve seen yet. It’s seems pretty likely that WHERE will have a prominent place on the nuviphone. Now think back to Sprint’s recent announcment that uLocate Communications would play a big part in the location-based backbone of the XOHM WiMAX network. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure XOHM is only officially available in Baltimore right now, though it will launch officially in Chicago, Dallas/Ft Worth, Boston, Providence, Philadelphia and Washington DC before the end of 2008.
So let’s pull this all together. I think the nuviphone was delayed because of delay’s in the XOHM network rollout. I think Garmin has been waiting on WiMAX to release the nuviphone so they can launch with Sprint, not AT&T.
Pharos’ Traveler 117 and 127 GPS-equipped smartphones are set for availability on December 1, but with Black Friday tomorrow I know you might not be able to wait. If that’s the case, the Pharos Traveler 619 smartphone is available at Dell.com now for $199.95. Not only is the Traveler 619 roughly $300 cheaper than the former pair, it also boasts a 2.8-inch VGA touchscreen, 3.5G support, a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE radio, GPS, a 2 megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Windows Mobile 6.0 and all kinds of pre-loaded Windows software.
The folks at Digital Review have performed a thorough review of Nikon’s GP-1 GPS geotagging device and were suitably impressed. If it’s not available now, it should be in the next few days for a little less than $300. Compatible with Nikon’s D90, D200, D300, D700, and D3 digital SLR camera models, the GP-1 uses GPS satellite information to add latitude, longitude, altitude, and time information to your photographs.
According to the reviewers, a cold acquisition time takes between 40 to 60 seconds, the latter in urban areas, while a hot acquisition takes only 5 seconds. Geotagged pictures can be integrated with maps with Nikon’s ViewNX V1.2 software or online at mypicturetown.com, and digital review says that a picture’s location is accurate to within 10 meters. Definitely a recommended product if you’re a big DSLR fan who wants to keep track of photos on a location-based basis.
Google Maps got a major overhaul yesterday, integrating Street View more effectively into the mapping platform. At the core of the change is a little guy called ‘Pegman’. He sits at the top of the zoom bar, and when dragged over the map you’ll see a preview of any relevant Steet View material. If you drop him on the map Street View will take over the entire window, but a small map of the surrounding area will remain in the bottom right hand corner.
There’s also a new split-screen feature that’s great for getting driving directions. Not only can you see directional arrows and other guides in the Street View window, but you can preview turns in advance from the Maps window.
The new setup might now be quite as intuitive as it previously was, especially for long time users. But the video above explains it all pretty well.
ClarionMiND, the internet-connected GPS device we’ve been expecting in North America for the past few months is available for $649.99 from Amazon. More of a mobile internet device than dedicated navigator, the ClarionMiND is available in black, red and white and has a host of smokin’ features. The Intel Atom-powered device sports a 4.8-inch WVGA touchscreen, GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, preloaded maps of the United States and Canada, Google Maps-powered POI’s, a Firefox-based browser, 4 GB of SSD storage space, and a microSD card slot. You’ll also be able to check out the owner’s manual ahead of time at the MyClarion website.