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.

Google Chrome OS netbook will have GPS (leaked specs)

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

chrome os Google Chrome OS netbook will have GPS (leaked specs)

Specifications have supposedly leaked for the Google Chrome OS netbook and if true, the 10.1-inch portable computer will include GPS. According to the IBTimes, the Google Chrome OS netbook will be powered by an ARM CPU and have an NVIDIA Tegra chipset. Additionally, it’ll have a 1, 280 x 720 pixel, HD-ready, touchscreen display, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 2 GB of RAM, a 64 GB SSD, a webcam, multi-card reader, Ethernet and USB ports, and a 3.5 mm audio jack.

All of the usual Google apps will apparently be included as well like Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Voice Search, and Google Maps.

Google is also said to be selling the Chrome OS netbook directly to consumers for under $300, though is the United States there may be some tie up with network operators. The same idea as the Nexus One it seems. Take this all with a grain of salt though. I’ve never heard of IBTimes for starters and the Chrome OS netbook (if there is such a thing) isn’t supposed to bit the market until winter 2010!


Nokia Booklet 3G appears at Nokia World

Posted in Netbooks, Nokia on September 2nd, 2009 by Justin – Comments

As expected, the Nokia Booklet 3G netbook appeared at the Nokia World conference today.  A few more details have emerged regarding the GPS-wielding portable device, adding to what we found out last week from Nokia’s official announcement.  Here’s the spec list:

  • 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Z530 CPU
  • 1.8-inch 120 GB HDD, 4, 200 RPM
  • 1 GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1280 x 720 resolution, 10.1-inch display
  • assisted GPS
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • 1.3 megapixel webcam
  • hot-swappable SIM card slot
  • accelerometer
  • USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • HDMI

In addition, the Nokia Booklet 3G supports the heat generated within its 0.78-inch thick design by employing a metal casing.  Probably a smart idea given the removable 16-cell battery that lasts for a reported 12 hours.

Nokia tends to charge big for its gadgets unless they’re subsidized by carriers and the Booklet 3G is no exception.  Though it’s expected to be subsidized, if not, the price is a massive €570 (US$810)!


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.

ASUS’ T91 netbook confirmed for July 15 with GPS

Posted in Asus, Netbooks on July 11th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

ASUS’ T91 netbook, first announced at CES 2009, is confirmed to launch in the United States on July 15.  Though the swivel-display netbook only has an 8.9-inch display (touchscreen by the way), one of the three versions of the T91 incorporates a GPS chip into the hardware.  I’m not sure if the US will get all three versions, but Europe will for sure.  One is just a basic unit, while the second incorporates GPS, a digital TV tuner and integrated 3G, while the third model features Windows 7 and a multitouch display.  The US version will ship for approximately $499.


Why do humans have such a poor sense of direction? And what can we do about it?

Posted in Garmin, Geospatial Technology, Mapping, Netbooks, Technology on July 6th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

whereami Why do humans have such a poor sense of direction? And what can we do about it?I’ve just finished reading a fascinating interview in The Boston Globe with Colin Ellard, head psychologist at the Research Laboratory for Immersive Virtual Environments at Waterloo University in Ontario, Canada.  The gist of the interview is that humans don’t have the connection with physical space that every other animal does because we have the cognitive ability to enable our minds to travel from the present location and time.  Thus, we easily become disoriented.  Of course, we also have the ability to create Google Maps and Garmin so we’re okay.

But Ellard advocates deliberately seeking to explore physical space in a way that doesn’t necessarily come naturally for us humans.  Here’s some of the points I found interesting from the interview:

  • humans are horrible at mentally representing curves.  This is why we can often find our way around tightly built architectural environments but can’t find the way around the straights and curves of an entire urban area.
  • because our grasp of where we are is weak in comparison with our overall intellect, we may be able to understand why we’re destroying the environment.  If our minds aren’t in the here and now (and when are they?!) we can’t appreciate the consequences of our actions in a global context.
  • improve your sense of direction by engaging in physical spaces in a playful, interactive way such as geocaching.  The handheld and GPS coordinates annotate and contextualize the physical space we move through in such a way that it keeps our attention ‘here’ where it belongs.
  • safely, but purposely, getting lost in an urban environment and using storytelling as a way to understand the present environment is another great way to re-engage with physical space.

I definitely recommend checking out the entire interview.  It’ll give you a different look at ‘geospatial’ than you’d typically get here.  Ellard has also recently written a book called Where Am I?  Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon but Get Lost in the Mall (In the United States, Where Am I? is changed to You Are Here).

Dell Wireless 700 GPS kit adds location to Inspiron Mini 10 netbooks

Posted in GPS Software, Geospatial Technology, Netbooks on July 2nd, 2009 by Justin – Comments

inspiron mini 10 gps Dell Wireless 700 GPS kit adds location to Inspiron Mini 10 netbooks

In my opinion, the wide majority of laptops and netbooks that come to market in the next couple of years will either have a built-in GPS chip or be compatible with some sort of location aware add-on.  PC maker Dell seems to think this is a good bet too, announcing a new GPS kit for its Inspiron Mini 10 netbook.  A combination of hardware and software, the Dell Wireless 700 kit has a Broadcom GPS chip packaged with ALK Technologies’ popular CoPilot navigational software.

The Wireless 700 kit will be able to determine your location via Wi-Fi and GPS, while CoPilot will provide 2D and 3D maps and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions.  While a suggested price and launch date haven’t been announced yet, Dell’s Wireless 700 GPS kit will be able to run on any Inspiron Mini 10 netbook running Windows XP, Windows Vista, and when it’s released, Windows 7.


A Nokia netbook running Android? That doesn’t sound right.

Posted in Netbooks, Nokia on June 26th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

I’m still trying to figure this one out, but Lazard Capital Markets analyst Daniel Amir said in a research note this morning that Nokia will offer an Android-based netbook in 2010.  But think about this for a second: the netbook is rumored to be based on an ARM processor, despite the fact that Nokia is teamed up with Intel.  Never mind the Android OS detail.  Granted, that partnership is mainly based around the development of the Moblin operating system.  But then why not use Moblin?  Or what about Nokia’s own Maemo OS?  Something tells me the details regarding the Nokia netbook aren’t completely accurate, though they are apparently “confirmed.”

The netbook is supposedly going to be offered through carriers which wouldn’t surprise me.  But while Amir figures Nokia will be facing “an uphill battle” given the relative dominance of PC players in the netbook market, I disagree.  Nokia, despite being the number one smartphone seller in the world, has been working hard to create a successful web-based service called Ovi.  I for one have been pretty impressed with its mapping prowess (courtesy of a NAVTEQ purchase) and some of the navigational features on its newer phones.

A Nokia netbook might just find a niche apart from all other netbook makers-people who drive for a living maybe?

Mio announces V500, V700 digital TV PNDs, Explora K75 smartphone, and Litepad GPS netbooks

Posted in Mio, Mobile, Netbooks on June 10th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

Last week, Mio announced a variety of new GPS-oriented devices that will all launch during the rest of 2009.  First off is the Mio Moov V500 and Mio Moov V700 PNDs, which both feature DVB-T TV tuners and the company’s new Spirit software.  Both V series models incorporate Explore Mode, an intuitive POI search, video/photo/MP3 playback, Google Maps Send-to-GPS, TruMap Views, 3D Junction Views and Lane Guidance.  The only difference between the V500 and V700 is the display size.  The V500 features a 4.7-inch 480 x 272 touchscreen while the V700 has a larger 7-inch 800 x 480 pixel display.  Each model also features a 600 MHz SiRFPrima GPS chip, 128 MB of RAM and a microSD card slot.  Both models will launch in Q3 2009.

Mio was also showing off its Explora K75 smartphone, which we’ve previously seen.  The handset will have a 3.5-inch touchscreen, Mio Spirit software, Windows Mobile 6.1, and a dedicated hotkey for switching between voice and navigation modes.

Finally, Mio’s new netbooks which we’ve been expecting for some time were finally officially announced.  Dubbed the Litepad N890 and Litepad N1210, the netbook pair will feature 3.5G broadband connectivity, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a GPS receiver that integrates with built-in MioMap software.  The Litepad N890 will have an 8.9-inch display while the premium N1210 will sport a 12.1-inch display and an HDMI output for an HDTV connection.  The official specifications and launch schedule will be announced in Q4 2009.

Cellphone data, Flickr photos reveal economic potential of public art

Posted in Android, Geospatial Technology, Industry, Mapping, Netbooks on June 8th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

How can cellphone activity shed light on the economic benefit created by a public art project?  That’s the question MIT’s SENSEable City Lab set out to answer with its latest project, NYC Waterfalls, reports ReadWriteWeb.  Conducted from June 13 to October 26, 2008 and commissioned by the New York Art Fund, the project placed four man-made waterfalls, created by Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Oliasson, in the New York Harbor.  Using aggregate (not individually identifiable) cellphone data from AT&T Research Labs and chronologically organized Flickr photos, the City Lab attempted to quantify the economic impact of the art project.  The results are telling.

The project cost the city $20 million and brought in a total of $69 million during the study period.  Nearly 1.4 million people viewed the waterfalls from a suitable vantage point, and as derived from cellphone data, the location was 39.1 percent more “attractive” than other tourist destinations in the vicinity.  Other tourist attractions in the immediate harbor area also had an increase in visitors after the waterfalls were built.

The power of cellphone data and even publicly available datasets such as Flickr photos on tourism studies and urban planning is immediately apparent.  Over time, as more studies like this are conducted in different urban areas, city planners will eventually be able to predict where to locate tourist attractions to maximize the potential economic benefits.  It’ll take quite some time though I’d imagine.  NYC Waterfalls is one of the first studies of its kind in a large and innovative city, so it won’t be something that trickles down to smaller cities and towns right away.  But the future potential is fascinating.  How many people in your city would willingly put their tax dollars to a $20 million art project?  Probably not too many without quantifiable insurance that it would be an investment guaranteeing a solid return.  In this case it seems tax dollars were put to good use.