GPS Software

10 geospatial industry trends to watch in 2010

Posted in Apps, GPS Manufacturers, GPS Software, Geospatial Technology, Industry, Mapping, Mobile, Netbooks, Venture Capital on December 28th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

2009 was definitely the year that the geospatial industry took off from a mainstream consumer perspective. Sure location-based applications and services have been around for years, but not for the average Joe/Jane like you and I. This year will be the first year that I actually put together a prediction post, my thoughts regarding what will trend in the industry in 2010. It’s part of my goal to focus on content quality this year which I’ll talk about in a future post. So here goes. These are a few of the areas I think will be important to watch in 2010 and I hope you add your thoughts and opinions in the comments after the post.

1. Augmented reality explodes-and by explodes I’m not referring to the marker-based applications and browsers on the market now. While some industry insiders like to badmouth the augmented reality stuff available now, every successful industry needs to start somewhere. I think 2010 will bring a proliferation of location-based augmented reality apps running the gamut from marketing/advertising to social networking, and even filtering back up to military uses.

2. Game mechanics proliferate-right now Foursquare and Gowalla are the two biggest GPS-using mobile applications that have successfully incorporated game mechanics. Both have been quite successful acquiring users that use the respective apps repeatedly, though neither have the user base (and probably never will) that Facebook and Twitter have. I think we’ll see something from Twitter in this area in 2010 with the launch of its Geolocation API though I think it’ll be in the form of an acquisition (like its recent GeoAPI buy). Once Facebook incorporates location into its platform (which I think will be in 2010), I think we’ll see some interesting uses of game mechanics here as well.

3. Virtual goods and mobile coupons will be huge-I’ve talked about virtual goods before as a fitting business model for location-based applications. Geographical locations, especially those with some sort of historical significance, lend themselves to having a monetizable virtual good attached. Plus the next-to-nothing cost of a virtual good isn’t threatening to the average consumer, even young ones. Eventually though, and I think 2010 will be the year, mobile coupons will a massive industry. Especially once they can be tied to location-not only outdoor location, but in-store location as well. This year I was impressed with the “mobile deal” app usage by people looking for holiday buying deals. Next year the mobile deal apps will be much more complex, contextualized with geolocation, and even more popular!

4. Google-need I say more. Google’s movement in the geospatial industry in the past year has been something like a rocket taking off into space. It seemed like every week the company had a new geo-announcement pertaining to its Maps and Earth platforms, for both end users and developers. With innovations like Google SketchUp making it so easy to create 3D building models, the Google Earth platform will move increasingly toward a 3D interface in 2010 and count on many more information layers becoming available. Possibly most significantly, Google Maps Navigation, free and open source GPS navigation software that is only available legally in the United States will become globally (or at least moving in that direction) available. What that means for Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, Mio and other dedicated PND and GPS handheld manufacturers remains to be seen. Free GPS software that can be used by Garmin and others will also have a direct effect on the viability of companies such as NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas. Right now, on a global scale, both companies have better overall mapping data than Google. But remember that Google cut Tele Atlas as its mapping data supplier in the US recently and that trend will continue.

5. Android LBS apps surpass iPhone LBS apps-okay, maybe not in quantity. Right now the iPhone app platform is the place to be, but with the sheer amount of apps in the App Store it’s becoming tougher for developers to stand out. That goes for LBS apps as well as other types. In 2010 though, we’ll see a ton of Android phones hit the market and they’ll be better than the Droid (imagine that). With more Android phones available, and more Android APIs to work with for developers, I think we’ll see many LBS developers creating innovative applications for the Android Market. I don’t really consider the Blackberry App World, Palm App Catalog, and Nokia Ovi Store as major players at the moment.

6. Search engine results incorporating location-you could argue that there is already Google Local Search and other search engine niches that return search results that are local to the person searching. But I think that geolocation in real-time will play a part in search results, not only on the mobile phone but on the desktop as well. Google and Microsoft already incorporate real-time Twitter results in their search results. Indirectly that means Tweets appended with location information appear in search results almost immediately. Eventually location, whether it be indirectly or directly through mobile search, etc., will play a huge part in search engine results. Especially as search algorithms move to real-time rankings. Look for movement here in 2010.

7. Venture capital cash flowing again-in the first half of 2009, venture capital investments were fairly slow given the recessionary economic environment. In the second half of the year though, investments picked up, and quite a few were in the LBS industry. I think VC cash will flow in 2010 into the LBS industry with a focus on monetization platforms (mobile advertising, etc.) and back-end infrastructure (think SCVNGR-it’s a company that has my antennae pointing skyward). The first half of 2010 will probably include quite a few VC investments into consumer application-focused companies as well. I don’t really expect anything in the way of IPOs, though I’ve heard rumors that Loopt may be heading in the is directions. In terms of acquisition behaviour, look for Google and Twitter to gobble up quite a few smaller LBS companies. Facebook may acquire a few LBS companies of its own as I expect its engineers are working on the geolocation aspect of the social networking platform behind the scenes.

8. Location-based mobile video-the ubiquity of GPS-aware mobile phones and even digital cameras has made geotagging photos easy. Just browse through Flickr and Picasa and you’ll seee millions of personal pictures with latitude and longitude coordinates attached. I think 2010 will be the year of location-based mobile video. Mobile video platforms like Qik are incredibly useful and growing quickly in popularity as more and more people have smartphones with generous data plans. 2010 will bring new mobile video platforms that focus on contextualizing videos with location information. Whether this will be from established platforms or from new names I’m not entirely sure. Microsoft Research has a project called Mobicast which stitches mobile video from multiple mobile phones together, kind of like Photosynth does for pictures. In the future Mobicast may be able to figure out how to stitch together multiple video streams from a single location into a single stream using GPS metadata. This is the future of mobile video and we’ll see it begin this year.

9. Every gadget to include a GPS chip-I admit this might not happen in 2010, but things will move in this direction. Dedicated PNDs used to be the sole domain of the GPS chip, but in the next few years every mobile phone will have one, not just smartphones. In 2009 digital camera and netbook makers began to incorporate GPS chips into their respective gadgets, albeit only occasionally. In 2010 I think most netbooks will have GPS chips and they make great little navigation gadgets with apps like Google Maps. In fact, Google’s own Chrome OS-based netbook will supposedly include a GPS chip and one-click Google Maps access. From a cost perspective, the addition of a GPS chip isn’t much to a company with good distribution, but has a high value for the end user. Most digital cameras and possibly video cameras this year will also include an embedded GPS chip. Geotagging pictures is popular among the average electronics user now and this trend will extend to video I’m assuming. Next will come the incorporation of GPS into every gadget imaginable. Just imagine the Amazon Kindle  10 geospatial industry trends to watch in 2010with a GPS chip. Can’t find an ebook? Just launch Google Maps and access an application that routes you to the nearest bookstore stocking your book!

10. PND prices continue to plummet-now that pretty well every GPS manufacturer pumps out hardware and software with the same features, with different names, they can only compete on price. That drives price down and that’s why it isn’t uncommon to net a decent GPS navigator online for south of $100. Even in the middle of summer. This year it won’t be uncommon to net a Garmin or TomTom GPS, an entry-level one, for $50. ‘Nuff said.

GIS software helps real estate developers find the perfect ski hill

Posted in GPS Software, Geospatial Technology on December 28th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

ski hill GIS software helps real estate developers find the perfect ski hill

Jordan Silberman, a geographer at the University of Delaware in Newark, and colleague Peter Rees have created GIS software that helps resort developers pick optimal geographic locations for ski resorts. Highlighted in the January 2010 edition of Applied Geography, the software

“then homes in on the preferred general region and seeks out those locations with the combinations of available land and humidity levels most likely to produce powder snow. Among many other factors, it also analyses accessibility by road, slope steepness – to work out the risk of avalanches – and the likely erosion from tree felling. A key factor is the ready availability of electricity to power the ski lifts.”

In the last couple of years, developers have made quick decisions in a recessionary environment that resulted in ski resorts being built in areas that weren’t suitable. Hopefully the use of GIS innovations such as this one will help real estate developers make better decisions.

(Image credit:  larskflem)


Mobile GPS company Networks In Motion sold for $170 million

Posted in GPS Software, Geospatial Technology, Industry, Mapping on December 3rd, 2009 by Justin – Comments

Networks In Motion, a provider of GPS-enabled navigation software for mobile phones, was purchased today by TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. for $170 million to be paid in a combination of cash, common stock and promissory notes. NIM’s Board of Directors has approved the transaction and will recommend its approval by shareholders.

TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. provides carrier infrastructure with a focus on wireless text messaging and location-based services. With the explosion of mainstream interest in LBS this past year, the company thought it was time to beef up its capabilities in this area.

For Networks In Motion, the consensus seems to be that the sale couldn’t have come at a better time. Why? Because of Google’s impending turn-by-turn-providing mobile GPS software which will likely eventually be just as good as any paid software currently available. $170 million isn’t too bad for what could be a commodity in the very near future.

More details are available in the official press release.

GPS satellites can prevent car accidents? Ford and Auburn University think so

Posted in GPS Software, Geospatial Technology on October 12th, 2009 by Justin – Comments
Ford Mustang dash

Ford Mustang dash

A $120, 000 research grant given to Alabama’s Auburn University in 2008 has started to bear fruit, as preliminary study results reveal that GPS satellites may one day be able to prevent car accidents.

Scientists from Auburn University’s GPS and Vehicle Dynamics lab along with Ford scientists have created algorithms capable of crunching vehicle data related to motion and inertia, combining that with upcoming road curve data pulled from GPS information, and communicating the results back to the vehicle stability system. In essence, this combination of GPS and sensor data enables the vehicle stability system to predict what needs to be done to avoid a crash.

The research team claims it is moving into the prototype phase and will be presenting its research findings at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics in San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 11-14.


deCarta mobile search engine debuts with T-Mobile

Posted in Apps, GPS Software, Geospatial Technology, Mobile on October 8th, 2009 by Justin – Comments
deCarta Mobile Search

deCarta Mobile Search

Location-based software firm deCarta has announced the launch of deCarta Mobile Search, a “brandable local search alternative” to traditional channels like Google or Yahoo. While the Mobile Search engine provides maps, routing, address search, directions and other navigational functions similar to other engines, deCarta says it is different in three main ways:

  1. Content can be added or aesthetically managed by operators, handset manufacturers and/or directory providers.
  2. Spatial search algorithms enables users to find more relevant points of interest than traditional search engines.
  3. “Write once, run anywhere.”

Expanding on that final point: deCarta Mobile Search is an application more than an “engine”. Developed in Javascript and able to run inside World Wide Web Consortium compliant widget runtime frameworks, the deCarta engine can run on most handsets.

European T-Mobile customers will be the first to test deCarta with a 4th quarter launch planned in Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria and the Netherlands.


A roundup: Location-based stuff to know

Posted in Apps, GPS Manufacturers, GPS Software, Geospatial Technology, Industry, Mapping, Mobile on October 4th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

With a newborn on the way in less than two months, a new job, and all the other unanticipated distraction that life brings, I haven’t had any time to blog lately. So I figured I’d put together a list of stuff you just need to know (either because it’s important industry news or just plain cool). Expect some changes in direction here in the future as I try to transition this website into something that’s not nearly as time-intensive to create, but hopefully many times more useful! That said, here’s some news to peruse from the last week or so.

  • Cyclopedia is a Wikitude-like application that overlays geographically-oriented Wikipedia entries over the iPhone 3GS viewfinder.
  • The Wikitude World Browser if FINALLY available for the iPhone.
  • Google ads are now appearing on iPhone maps.
  • Spime Inc. has announced MapMan, an “LBS mapping and navigation engine that powers mobile, netbook, PND and MID based applications with map, routing, geocoding, and POI search features.” The full-blown SDK can be used both offline and online for accessing dynamic content.
  • Apple is apparently looking to free itself from Google Maps dependence with the hush-hush purchase of mapping startup Placebase. The company differs from Google in that it offers a dizzying array of customization options, enabling many more layers to be built into a single map. Check out ComputerWorld for a good rundown.
  • Micello-another startup attempting to provide mapping and positioning technology to indoor locations.
  • Google and Best Buy have teamed up to assist gadget buyers find the best Best Buy deals at the stores nearest to them. The first application will go a step further than most, directly shoppers to products from within the store.
  • Location-based place review app Buzzd has launched an iPhone version with plans to monetize in the near future.
  • Senior financial executive at TomTom accused of insider trading, offices raided.
  • Those lucky bastards over at Engadget were able to wrangle a Garmin nuviphone G60 before it launched officially with AT&T today and have a ton of unboxing pictures.
  • Brightkite 2.0 is on the way with a simplified user interface.
  • The Twitter Geolocation API has started to move out the door. What will this mean for other location-based startups?
  • With a variety of new space satellites recently put into space, the accuracy of European GPS readings has improved from a 20 meter margin of error to less than 2 meters.
  • SPRXMobile has submitted Layar, an augmented reality app currently available for Android, to the iTunes App Store.

Mobile navigation apps retain 1/3 of users after 30 days

Posted in GPS Software, Industry, Mobile on September 28th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

Mobile analytics and monetization startup, Flurry, has released the results of a study today that sheds light on the difficulty mobile application developers have in retaining users over a long period of time. The study compiled usage retention data over a period of 90 days (in 30 day intervals), 200 million user sessions, apps in 19 separate categories, and across 4 mobile platforms including the iPhone and iPod Touch, Google Android, Blackberry, and JavaME.  The results?

Mobile app loyalty by category

Mobile app loyalty by category

The results are fairly intuitive. News, weather and reference applications tend to be the ’stickiest’ as they always have currently relevant content. On the other side of the spectrum are book-related and entertainment applications that tend to be tossed aside after they are completed. Navigation applications sit in the mid-range, closer to having the user retention of news and weather applications. But it’s interesting to note that while user retention for navigation apps sits at 73% after 30 days, it dips all the way to 33% after 60 days, after which it plateaus somewhat. Overall the average navigation app was used 6 times per week.

The lack of navigation app retention in the second month strokes my curiosity a bit. Why such a drop? Is it due to the huge amount of navigation and location-aware mobile apps being released, seemingly on an almost daily basis? Are there too many me-too apps out there? What is it? And whether or not we can pin down the specific reasoning, are there ways mobile developers can make their navigation apps ’stickier’ in order to retain users for longer periods of time? Any thoughts?

App loyalty quadrant table

App loyalty quadrant table

Minna No Nabi what? GPS software for the PSP

Posted in GPS Software, Other Devices on August 31st, 2009 by Justin – Comments

minna no nabi Minna No Nabi what? GPS software for the PSP

Japanese company Zenrin is preparing to launch the Minna No Nabi, GPS software compatible with the PSP 1000/2000 and 3000, but unfortunately not the PSP Go.  The software, dubbed Everyone’s Maps in English, uses Sony Petamaps mapping application and can deduce location from Wi-Fi hotspots in area where GPS isn’t available.  Important to mention is the fact that the actual GPS hardware doesn’t come with the Minna No Nabi package.  Shipping November 5, Everyone’s GPS will sell in Japan for 8, 190 Yen, roughly US$97.


Nokia Booklet 3G netbook announced with assisted GPS

Posted in GPS Software, Geospatial Technology, Netbooks, Nokia on August 24th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

booklet 3g group03 Nokia Booklet 3G netbook announced with assisted GPS

Nokia this morning announced the Nokia Booklet 3G, the company’s entry into the netbook market. The unit has a 10-inch glass HD-ready display and sports a compact form factor, weighing 1.25 kilograms and a 2 centimeter depth. The feature set is nothing less than impressive. Connectivity options include 3G/HSPA and Wi-Fi, enabling access to the web and Nokia’s Ovi services. The Booklet 3G also includes Bluetooth, an HDMI port for HD video output, a front facing camera, an SD card slot, and integrated assisted GPS. The AGPS chip works with the Ovi Maps gadget, enabling the Booklet 3G to find your exact position within seconds. This particular netbook runs on Windows, but some analysts believe Nokia will release an Android-based model in 2010. I think a Moblin-based model is more likely.

Detailed specifications, pricing and availability information will be announced at the Nokia World conference on September 2.

DeLorme launches 2009 USA Topographic Map Data for XMap GIS software suite

Posted in DeLorme, GPS Software, Geospatial Technology, Mapping on July 22nd, 2009 by Justin – Comments

DeLorme announced this morning the 2009 edition of USA Topographic Map Data for its XMap GIS software suite.  Users of XMap GIS will receive a detailed, customizable base map of the United States, Canada and Mexico with a slew of updates and improvements.  Among them:

  • more than 300, 000 new or updated road in the United States
  • detailed road and street coverage for Canada and major road coverage in Mexico
  • 200, 000 new points of interest
  • more than 4, 000 new trails
  • enhanced map colors
  • and, improved horizontal accuracy

For a full roster of details you can read the full press release after the break.

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