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.

POIs: Palm webOS update, Mireo ViaGPS, Droid app success, Jingle Networks, and SCVNGR

Posted in Industry, Venture Capital on December 28th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

Palm webOS update connects Google Maps to contacts: the latest Palm webOS update, version 1.3.5, pushed out today automatically launches Google Maps or Sprint Navigation when a contact’s name is tapped.

How to use a Magellan Triton 1500/2000 series handheld GPS for in-car navigation: GPS Review has a great review of Mireo ViaGPS software, available on an SD card for loading onto Magellan devices.

Motorola Droid sucks up Android apps
: while the Android Market doesn’t quite rival the iTunes App Store just yet, it has been picking up speed with new, and hot, mobile phones like the Motorola Droid. Mobile analytics firm Flurry has some interesting stats regarding Android app downloads over the holidays. While the Motorola Droid only accounts for 20% of Android phone sales, more than 50% of app downloads on Christmas day were done via the Droid. Of course, this could just mean that the Droid was gifted more than any other Android phone-which is probably true.

Jingle Networks raises coin for geo ads: Jingle Networks, the company behind 1-800-FREE-411, has raised $6.75 million for expanding its mobile/geo advertising operations, according to Techcrunch.

SCVNGR raises $4 million from Google Ventures, Highland Capital: SCVNGR, a startup that builds location-based games for conferences, universities, and the like, has raised $4 million. This is a startup I think should be watched in 2010.

GPS leads elderly couple into the forest for 3 days (GPS FAIL)

Posted in Industry on December 28th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

car in snow GPS leads elderly couple into the forest for 3 days (GPS FAIL)

Sometimes a good ol’ map, or even echolocation, is better than a GPS navigator. The latter don’t have the benefit of human intuition and/or, um, processing. And therefore can kill you, or close to it.

An elderly Nevada couple trying to navigate their way back home from Oregon learned this the hard way after their GPS navigator sent them 35 miles down a forest service road only to get stuck in 1.5 feet of snow. Apparently this was the shortest route from point A to point B.

Ironically though, the couple, stuck in the snow for 3 days, was able to get a GPS fix on a cellphone after a couple of days which was successfully relayed to a 911 operator. Huh.

(Image credit: andrewbain)


GPS Obsessed nominated for Golden Retrevo Award: Please vote!

Posted in Industry on December 24th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

golden retrevo GPS Obsessed nominated for Golden Retrevo Award: Please vote!Despite the blog being on a bit of a hiatus for the last while with the recent birth of my daughter Ryleigh, consumer electronics uber-site Retrevo seems to be pretty happy with things.

I received an email earlier today informing me that GPS Obsessed has been nominated for Retrevo’s first annual Golden Retrevo Awards which highlights independent gadget blogs. Retrevo’s a major site in the online consumer electronics industry so I’m pretty honored to even be nominated-it kind of validates all the hard work that goes into blogging, especially for myself, an independent blogger without many resources other than passion and a small amount of spare time!

If you like what you see here, please consider voting for the blog by clicking on the Golden Retrevo Award banner in the right sidebar. Each nominee has a unique voting URL, so by clicking on it you’ll be automatically voting for this website. Alternatively, you can copy something like the following and Twitter or Facebook it to your friends: Just nominated for Golden Retrevo Award ( Vote for me here! Thanks for considering a vote for GPS Obsessed and have a happy holidays!


Geospatial news bits: Mapquest, 3D Google Earth, mobile TV, MapQuest and Nokia’s Kamppi trial

Posted in Industry on December 23rd, 2009 by Justin – Comments

MapQuest integrates Citysearch business listings: in an attempt to regain market share from Google Maps, MapQuest has integrated 700, 000 business listings from Citysearch,complete with editorial content. (via search engine land)

Mobile TV to become key feature in PND shipments: according to Digitimes, mobile TV incorporation in PNDs and automobiles will more than double by 2015 to over 17 million units. Of course, this prediction would only hold if the PND actually still exists by 2015…

Google Earth gets 4 more 3D cities
: the Google team has added 4 more 3D American cities to Google Earth-Portland, Austin, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Nokia’s Kamppi trial canned: Nokia’s indoor positioning trial run at Finland’s Kamppi Shopping Center has wrapped up after being tried by 15, 000 different people. The company deemed it a success and says it will use the technology and the information gleamed from the trial in future products, but declined to say much more.

3D Olympic venues in Google Earth: Google has released 3D models of all 9 major venues for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. They’re pretty great and I recommend checking them out.

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.

Major map updates: Microsoft Streetside and Silverlight maps, Google Street View Canada, Natural Earth Data, and much more

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

It’s been a busy past couple of months for me as I’ve had to go back to punching a clock ( :( ) and just this past Sunday, November 29, I became a father for the first time with the birth of my daughter Ryleigh ( :) ). This evening I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and plow through my feed reader for bit and was astounded at the changes in both Google and Bing Maps over the past month. That said, I think I’ll do a quick roundup for both you and me now.

google maps 3d 150x150 Major map updates: Microsoft Streetside and Silverlight maps, Google Street View Canada, Natural Earth Data, and much moreOne of the most significant announcements for me was the addition of Google Street View in Winnipeg, Manitoba where I currently live. My hometown was added yesterday along with 8 other Canadian cities including Victoria, Nanaimo, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Sudbury, London, Sherbrooke and St. John’s. Today some new imagery was added to both Google Earth and Google Maps and a cool new partnership with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) was mentioned that will have World Heritage sites such as Stonehenge and the Louvre to Street View. On a smaller feature-based note, starred favorite places which have been available for Google Maps for mobile and desktop Google Maps separately for some time, now can be synced. This means you can do handy things like mark points of interest on your home computer with Google Maps in preparation for a business trip, and then access those favorites during your trip at a later time.

Finally (from a Google Maps perspective anyway), Google has launched a new contest aimed at encouraging Google SketchUp users to build 3D buildings for Google Earth. Called Google Model Your Town Competition, the contest is open to everyone including teams, will reward entrants that provide a good look at their town or city from a character or historical perspective. (Any interested Winnipeggers, please shoot me an email at [email protected]!).

 Major map updates: Microsoft Streetside and Silverlight maps, Google Street View Canada, Natural Earth Data, and much more

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Bing Maps platform which has been playing catch up for a while now, just pushed out a huge upgrade with the inception of Streetside photography (much like Street View) and a beta Silverlight version.This looks pretty good though I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet. Hopefully this weekend I’ll have the chance to do a more comprehensive review.

natural earth logo 300x62 Major map updates: Microsoft Streetside and Silverlight maps, Google Street View Canada, Natural Earth Data, and much moreQuickly switching gears, Natural Earth launched today as well. Providing public domain vector and raster mapping data, the website is to provide high quality geographic data for small scale map makers.

Google smashes Garmin, TomTom with Google Maps Navigation for Android 2.0 and other interesting tidbits

Posted in Apps, Industry on October 28th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

google maps navigation Google smashes Garmin, TomTom with Google Maps Navigation for Android 2.0 and other interesting tidbitsToday was a huge today in the LBS industry. With the release of Google Maps Navigation for Android 2.0 (Verizon’s Motorola Droid (PR) will be the first phone to run the new OS), the PND industry was arguably changed forever. In fact, share prices for both Garmin and TomTom absolutely plummeted. I’m still pretty busy with work, among other things, but this development is just too important not to point out.  Here’s a rundown of must-read links for today:

Google Maps Navigation: we all know that voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions aren’t anything new, but when it comes from Google and is not paired to any hardware from Garmin et al., it’s big. Especially when the platform is geared towards mobile phones, long said to be the Grim Reaper in the eventual death of the PND, and costs nothing. Connected to the internet, Google Maps Navigation provides up-to-date map and business data provided by Google (in the United States at least which is where the app is initially launching), search by voice, search along route, 3D views, and automatic rerouting. Visual overlays available include traffic view, Street View and satellite view. Whether or not traffic data and other features typically under the thumb of third party mapping data providers will be any good remains to be seen. Check out the video below for a demo and Techmeme for a HUGE amount of coverage from earlier today.

Actually, just flipping through some of the coverage as I write this, I’ve come across a money quote from Erick Schonfeld from Techcrunch writing about the new app (all emphasis mine):

Navigation apps are a key category for mobile phones, and the iPhone is for once at a disadvantage here. Even the paid navigation apps in the iTunes store can’t compete because Google’s new navigation app is an extension (albeit a customized one) of its search engine. When a navigation app becomes an interface to Google’s massive search engine, it begins to deliver things that GPS app developers like Garmin and TomTom will never be able to build (search along a route, natural language search).

And now for other links that don’t seem nearly as important…

Brightkite 2.0 hits the App Store for the iPhone.

MSN Direct will officially shut down in 2012. Users of the GPS info service can terminate their subscriptions anytime before January 1 of the end year and receive a refund for any unused time left. (via gizmodo)

TomTom’s iPhone app and car kit may just be compatible with the iPod Touch (as was originally rumored in the beginning) after all-in the future. (via gps review)

Fast Company mag has named the SpotLight GPS Pet Locator, developed by Positioning Animals Worldwide, Inc. (PAW, get it?), the #1 Location Tech product for pets in its November issue. (via PR, that’s a PDF link)

How to enable standalone GPS on the CDMA Palm Pre. (via precentral)

Is there any other interesting stuff I missed in the past few days? Please let us know in the comments!

Weekend reads: TomTom GO I-90, Foursquare, Google Map disputes and GPS prices

Posted in Industry on October 24th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

Foursquare partners with San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in order to boost rapid transit use. Users who check in at BART stations can win $25 promotional tickets and become “mayor” for more frequent check-ins than other users. (via metarand)

GPS prices continue to come down in time for the holidays: $50 to $60 average price drop in the last year. (via wsj)

Google has decided to use different map versions for different countries when a land dispute is involved, though the global version continues to show land disputes with broken lines. (via pcworld)

Nokia’s N900 release has been delayed until November. (via electronista)

The International Telecommunication Union has approved a universal mobile phone charger. By eliminating redundant chargers, it’s estimated that annual greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 13.6 million tonnes. (via BBC)

TomTom announced the GO I-90, a double-DIN navigation system with entertainment functionality (…running from portability) (via businesswire)

Location-based stuff to know: Virgin Mobile GPS, Street View, SiRF GPS chip

Posted in Apps, Industry, Mapping, Mobile, SiRF on October 9th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

It’s just plain hard to keep up with all of the new developments in the LBS industry every week. Here’s some of the stuff you need to know, but I missed.

Virgin Mobile GPS?: Virgin Mobile has announced that it will introduce Virgin Navigator for the first time on the LG Rumor2. The Networks in Motion-powered GPS service will include turn-by-turn directions, local search, local gas prices, weather information, traffic information, movie and event information and pricing. Availability is planned for all future high-end Virgin Mobile devices priced at $2.99 per day or $9.99 per month.

More Street View updates: With the launch of Google Street View in Canada and the Czech Republic yesterday, new imagery for the United States and Japan were lost in the shuffle.

Foursquare news: This week, popular location-based app Foursquare launched in London. The company also revealed its full roster of angel investors which includes some big names.

SiRF debuts new GPS chip: CSR-owned SiRF has announced a new GPS chip based on its SiRFstarIV architecture. The low-power chip is optimized for use in consumer electronics devices such as digital cameras, mobile phones, portable gaming systems, and other CE devices aside from traditional GPS navigators.

Street View mashups: The first Canadian Google Street View mashup appears to be the Montreal Public Transit Planner. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it’s a start.