Venture Capital

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.

Quick reads: Nokia N900, Foursquare news, Bing Maps and more

Posted in Android, Apps, Mapping, Mobile, Venture Capital on September 5th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

foursquare android Quick reads: Nokia N900, Foursquare news, Bing Maps and moreNokia N900 available for pre-order in US: despite Nokia’s failure so far in the US market, I’m still bullish regarding the company’s future prospects.  And I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on the new N900 smartphone.  Too bad its unlocked price is an utterly unaffordable $649.

Bing Maps gets a PHP toolkit: the traditionally proprietary Microsoft has decided to embrace open-source programming language PHP, and make a toolkit for said language available to Bing Maps developers.

Foursquare pulls in $1.35 million, hits the Android Market:
uber-popular location-aware social game Foursquare is now available for Android-based mobile phones.  The company has also raised a $1.35 million round led by Union Square Ventures, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, and a few angel investors.

Loopt gets background location updating on iPhone:
According to Silicon Alley Insider, Loopt has struck a deal with AT&T that will allow the location-based iPhone application to pull in users’ location even when the app isn’t running.  However, the app doesn’t actually run in the background.  Location updates are done server-to-server.  Loopt has a 14-day free trial for 5, 000 users after which the service will cost $3.99 per month.

Nokia, NAVTEQ integrate GPS data
: NAVTEQ is finally incorporating Nokia GPS data into its maps.  NAVTEQ Traffic products for North America and Europe will now have exponentially more data from which to plan routes, predict traffic patterns, and add secondary roads.

NAVTEQ 3D Motorway Junction Objects come to Europe: 3D objects help drivers make decisions at complex junctions in real-time in 10 European countries and 6000 locations.

Borqs raises $17.4 million to help customize Android for mobile brands

Posted in Android, Mobile, Venture Capital on July 10th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

borqs Borqs raises $17.4 million to help customize Android for mobile brandsGoogle’s Android operating system may be free, open-sourced and oft-criticized for being lesser than originally expected (not by me, of course), but its existence has netted Beijing-based Borqs a cool $17.4 million in Series B funding led by Norwest Venture Partners (NVP).  Other participants included GSR Ventures and Keytone Ventures, and over two rounds Borqs has now raised $25.4 million.

Borqs enables mobile phone manufacturers to offer a branded and consistent interface across their handset lineup.  As more Android handsets come to market (18-20 expected this year), it’ll become increasingly important for phone makers to differentiate themselves in some way despite running on the same OS.  The company also builds custom application stores for brands, not only leveraging the Android Market but also run-of-the-mill Java applications.

Borqs also has headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA. and though its only publicly known partner is China Mobile (through the Lenovo oPhone), Borqs is working on extending market reach with partnerships in the United States and Europe.

Sense Networks emerges with $6 million after vicious investor boxing match

Posted in Geospatial Technology, Venture Capital on June 26th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

Sense Networks, a company that crunches location data in order to group anonymous mobile users into ‘tribes’, has secured $6 million in financing led by Intel, according to VentureBeat head Matt Marshall.  The company, one of my LBS companies to watch in 2009, grabbed the cash after a bit of an investment battle.  According to Marshall, Sequoia Capital moved to pressure Sense Networks into taking money from it exclusively, but Sense chief executive Greg Skibiski shot them down (in my opinion, a smart move).

While VentureBeat has all the details about the battle, at the core of the tug-of-war is Sense Network’s approach to advertising.  Its MacroSense software, which uses complex machine learning algorithms, can analyze massive mobile phone location data patterns to group people into ‘tribes’ with others demonstrating similar movement patterns.  Because of the accuracy the analysis provides, Sense can help LBS social networks and advertising providers target ads so precisely that investors very obviously believe there’ll be a huge return on investment in the future.

Sense Networks has a demo application called CitySense for a variety of mobile phones that displays how the technology works at a basic level.  Behind the scenes the company crunches location data in order to provide a heat map of the hottest places in San Francisco.  Try it out and it’s immediately apparent how Sense Networks will be a big name in location-based mobile advertising.

Limbo buys Brightkite, creates bigger Brightkite

Posted in Apps, Industry, Venture Capital on April 8th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

The inevitable location-based mobile social networking consolidation has begun.  This morning California-based Limbo purchased Brightkite in a nearly all-stock transaction and announced a previously undisclosed $9 million financing round from January 2009.  Limbo will be re-branded Brightkite and Limbo chief executive officer Jonathan Linner will remain CEO of the merged company, with Brightkite founders Martin May and Brady Becker in charge of product management and design.

So what does this all mean?  The new Brightkite will have 35 employees enabling it to create and debut new features at a faster clip.  In addition, by bringing Limbo users onto the Brightkite platform, the combined user base will be upwards of 2 million, roughly double that of competitor Loopt.  The Brightkite blog states that it’ll now have the resources to develop applications for more mobile platforms such as Blackberry and Windows Mobile, improve carrier integration both in the United States and internationally, and improve its database of points of interest.

But the real question is: can it ever compete with Facebook?

Android founder Rich Miner to head Google venture fund

Posted in Venture Capital on March 31st, 2009 by Justin – Comments

google ventures 300x97 Android founder Rich Miner to head Google venture fundGoogle has announced Google Ventures, the company’s new venture capital arm that will invest in early-stage startups.  Google says it plans to invest $100 million over the next 12 months across a wide range of industries including internet, cleantech, life sciences, and health care.

Android founder Rich Miner will co-manage Google Ventures with Google employee William Maris, and the fund will be overseen by Google’s senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, David Drummond.

Google says the purpose of the fund will be to turn a profit and its first two investments are Silver Spring Networks, a company that develops technology to manage electric grids, and Pixazza, a startup that connects online images to product purchases.  Google hasn’t disclosed how much it invested in either company.

Given Google’s interest in location-based services it’ll be interesting to see if it makes any LBS investments over the next year.  You can find more information at Google Ventures.


AdMob raises $12.5 million more for mobile advertising

Posted in Venture Capital on January 29th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

admob logo AdMob raises $12.5 million more for mobile advertising

Mobile advertising provider AdMob has raised $12.5 million in a Series C extension, bringing the company’s total Series C investment to $28.2 million.

The funding was provided by Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s Growth Fund and Northgate Capital.

AdMob says it will use the extension cash to expand further into the global market, hiring local staff in key areas like Japan, India, South Africa and Western Europe.  It’ll also develop new language interfaces, invest in improving its ad-serving platform, and increase the breadth of its sales and business development team in the United States.

dec 2008 metrics us operating system share by month 1024x631 AdMob raises $12.5 million more for mobile advertising

The company has grown exponentially over the past year, mainly due to serving ads within 3G iPhone applications and websites.  It works with other mobile platforms as well, including Android, a development just recently announced.  In December 2008, AdMob served 6.3 billion ads, up from 2.0 billion in December 2007.

The company has raised a total of $47.2 million.

via admob

Subscribe to GPSObsessed: Feed, Email

Carrier IQ makes money for telecom, raises $20 million

Posted in Mobile, Venture Capital on January 27th, 2009 by Justin – Comments

logo carrieriq Carrier IQ makes money for telecom, raises $20 million

Carrier IQ, a company that provides mobile network operators software to track mobile usage among users, has raised $20 million in Series C financing.  The company said in a press release that investors included Intel Capital and Presidio Ventures.

“Even in these tough economic times, Carrier IQ is able to continue investing in our product development and geographical expansion,” Carrier IQ chief executive Mark Quinlivan said in a statement.

The Mountain View, California-based company provides mobile intelligence and analytics using proprietary software embedded into mobile handsets.  Network operators and handset manufacturers can use reams of collected mobile usage data related to voice and other applications to more effectively develop products and services.

Carrier IQ software is on almost 40 million mobile devices worldwide.


Subscribe to GPSObsessed: Feed, Email

Blackberry Partners Fund invests $3 million in mobile data analytics firm Neuralitic

Posted in Mobile, Venture Capital on January 21st, 2009 by Justin – Comments

neuralitic Blackberry Partners Fund invests $3 million in mobile data analytics firm NeuraliticNeuralitic, a Montreal-based firm that provides “data services analytics to mobile network operators and communication service providers” has raised $3 million from the Blackberry Partners Fund.

The company will use the cash to solidify its financial position and establish a local presence with major wireless operators.

“Greater insight into real-time performance characteristics of mobile data products and services will help operators to better market their Smartphone offerings, resulting in direct benefits to bottom-line profitability. Neuralitic’s solution provides this capability to operators without requiring an extensive network integration effort, overcoming a key hurdle that has hindered this market evolution to date”, said fund partner Marc Faucher in a statement.

This is the fourth investment by the $150 million Blackberry Partners Fund.  Previously the fund invested in mobile LBS social network Buzzd, mobile commerce platform provider Digby, and mobile travel service WorldMate.

Founded in January 2007, Neuralitic has now raised a total of $10 million including $3 million from the Blackberry fund and earlier contributions from earlier contributions by Vertex Venture Capital, BDC Venture Capital and GO Capital Fund, L.P.

via neuralitic

Subscribe to GPSObsessed: Feed, Email