Home North AmericaNorth America II 2015 How Apple and Google are changing the business side of the GPS business

How Apple and Google are changing the business side of the GPS business

by Administrator
Mike GundlingIssue:North America II 2015
Article no.:2
Topic:How Apple and Google are changing the business side of the GPS business
Author:Mike Gundling
Title:VP Product Management
Organisation:TerraGo Technologies
PDF size:220KB

About author

Mike Gundling, Vice President, Product Management, TerraGo Technologies

Gundling is an innovative, high-tech executive with more than 20 years’ experience in creating disruptive product strategies and launching market-changing products that drive rapid growth for venture-backed software companies. Gundling has successfully introduced enterprise, messaging and mobile software platforms in financial, satellite, radar, aviation and geospatial industries.
Prior to joining TerraGo, Gundling was CMO at Metron Aviation, now a subsidiary of Airbus, where helped win the largest small business contract in FAA history, and previously held leadership positions with Era, SRA, iLumin, CA and Thomson Reuters.
Gundling graduated with honors from Brown University with a B.A. in economics and from the University of Maryland with a M.S. in computer science.

Article abstract

Almost half of surveyed companies with field assets and infrastructure are increasing BYOD or CYOD presence in their field work forces this year, according to the Aberdeen Group. Traditional GPS handhelds with outdated PDA interfaces and a stylus are becoming an anachronism to the modern mobile workforce. These handhelds typically use Windows Mobile, an operating system that traces its roots back to 1996 and which Microsoft stopped supporting in 2008. Clearly, these handhelds don’t compare to the performance of, say, an iPhone, so what’s keeping them at work? 

Full Article

Where It All Started: Democratizing GPS for the People
When Apple released the iPhone 3G with its GPS chip, more than three million units were sold on that first weekend in 2008. In October of that year, Google introduced its Android operating system, adding Google Maps and a navigation program to a smartphone that was getting smarter. For the first time, individuals had powerful mapping and navigation features they could use from any place on the planet. The subsequent massive adoption was a boon to productivity; its potential seemed limitless. However, it proved disastrous for single-function device makers like Garmin and TomTom.
At the time, Garmin, one of the world’s hottest tech companies, didn’t see the threat posed by smartphones. Co-founder Min Kao told Forbes he wasn’t concerned about them due to “high barriers to entry,” and was reluctant to believe they could successfully integrate GPS signals from satellites with cartographic quality software and navigation features on the smartphone. To say this was short-sighted is an understatement. By 2013, the company had lost 70 percent of its value. The lesson was clear for the doubters – don’t dismiss the game-changing power of mobile GPS.
Mobile GPS Sneaks into the Workplace in Pockets and Purses
The smartphone, coupled with the introduction of the Apple iPad in 2010 and its subsequent tablet competitors, have quietly developed a massive workforce trained in using both the devices and their applications, of which more than half are now location-based. The capabilities of both the devices and mobile users have fostered phenomena in business called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Choose Your Own Device (CYOD). The BYOD and CYOD additions to industry have reduced training time formerly needed by proprietary devices, as well as made employees vastly more productive.
Almost half of surveyed companies with field assets and infrastructure are increasing BYOD or CYOD presence in their field work forces this year, according to the Aberdeen Group. Traditional GPS handhelds with outdated PDA interfaces and a stylus are becoming an anachronism to the modern mobile workforce. These handhelds typically use Windows Mobile, an operating system that traces its roots back to 1996 and which Microsoft stopped supporting in 2008. Clearly, these handhelds don’t compare to the performance of, say, an iPhone, so what’s keeping them at work?
My GPS Is Better Than Your GPS
The arrival of smartphone and tablet GPS at the job site led to managers questioning the “good” and ‘“good enough’” of accuracy.
For some jobs, like mapping an underground gas line, workers needed centimeter-level accuracy, so they clung to their handhelds defensively, for good reason. However, for some gas utility workers, locating an above ground valve for routine maintenance could be done with the 5 meter accuracy a smartphone delivers out of the box. Even within the same organization, not every worker could dismiss the potential of smartphone location services.
Back at headquarters, the price of accuracy started being measured against the bottom line. Survey-grade accuracy that used to cost US$20,000 now costs less than US$2,000. For the companies that actually did the math, the proprietary GPS handhelds found themselves squeezed into a niche for the most demanding, high-precision survey and mapping tasks.
But For the most part, change was slow. Traditional GPS and software had created vertical communities of users resistant to change. For GPS manufacturers and customers alike, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ruled the day. BYOD solutions were dismissed as not good enough. And for some tasks, it actually wasn’t. But as we learned with the Garmin example, doubters beware. Or at least, stay tuned.
Performance Leaps Come From Inner to Outer Space
While proprietary GPS hung on to its industrial customers, the accuracy of smartphones and tablets kept getting better — while prices kept getting lower. With the continuous hardware and software enhancements resulting from the mega-investments of Apple, Google, Samsung and others, GPS antennae, performance and accuracy improved. Meanwhile, the native out-of-the-box accuracy was significantly improved from outside the box, with the addition of more satellites with GLONASS (Russia) and the emerging constellations of BeiDou (China) and Galileo (Europe).
A 2013 test by ESRI ArcGIS testers put smartphone accuracy at 3 meters. Attached to a consumer-grade GPS receiver, the accuracy rose to 1 meter 99 percent of the time. This level of accuracy grabbed the attention of serious surveying professional and geo-experts, and likely converted some to modern, mobile solutions. Yet the multi-billion dollar GPS industry seemed slow to move. After all, if a smartphone couldn’t deliver the highest levels of precision, albeit for a small minority of user scenarios, maybe the mobile revolution would spare the old guard GPS.
The Internet of Things is a Real Thing
Industry after industry has embraced the boundless potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), where embedded sensors exchange real-time data with mobile devices and systems, enabling smart grids, eco-cities, self-driving cars, unmanned aviation and more. In the GPS industry, IoT helped introduce the concept of a location sensor that can be attached to any object, mobile device or machine. Today, the rise of high-accuracy Bluetooth GPS receivers marks a turning point for the business-side of GPS. Innovative GPS manufacturers such as Eos, CHC, Geneq, DT Research, Bad Elf and others have emerged to fill the demand of mobile GPS applications that can deliver accuracy previously only found in GPS handhelds. Not only can the accuracy be matched, but real-time position correction often out-performs expensive traditional handhelds which may cost more than US$10,000.
The new GPS receivers are IOT personified. They do one thing very well, without locking the user in to an all-in-one, single-purpose device. Instead of GPS being bundled in an all-in-one proprietary device, the GPS sensor is an independent service, freely exchanging location data. The result is cm-level accuracy available on a smartphone that costs approximately 10 times less than a traditional proprietary GPS handheld.
From Farms to Factories
Smartphone and tablet GPS capability has made inroads everywhere – from farms to factories –among industries that previously were unable to leverage GPS, due to the high cost of entry. For many organizations, the degree of precision is not as critical as the speed and cost involved in obtaining data.
When precision of data is mission-critical, such as for utilities, oil and gas, water management and other companies, tolerances are not necessarily equal for all users, even in those sectors.
Today, the disruption of mobile GPS extends beyond the enterprise to customers and third parties. Construction firms are able to share mobile “punch lists” of work sites with contractors and customers alike. Electrical engineers obtain approval signatures on location-tagged mobile forms and photos. Shipping firms can get proof of delivery with on-site receipt and verification. The retail sector is taking advantage of a concept called “geofencing” to deliver “hyper-local” ads. Still others are using location-based services to improve the mobile customer experience.
The degree to which smartphone and tablet GPS technology has been disruptive can also be seen in logistics operations that once were dominated by proprietary GPS. Many trucking firms that have shifted to smartphone tracking are finding a significant impact on ROI. Proprietary tracking devices are expected to disappear in some regions and diminish greatly in others by 2022, according to the GNSS Market Report.
Crumblin’ Down the Walls
The global adoption and multi-billion dollar investment in traditional GPS technology created a tightly integrated ecosystem resistant to change. It’s simply been easier for companies to maintain the status quo, expense and limitations of traditional GPS handsets and proprietary vendor software and data. After all, it works well enough and time and money have been spent in training people to use the technology. Of course, truly disruptive technology, especially at dramatic cost savings, will overcome and break through organizational ambivalence.
This is the current market situation in the GPS industry. Traditional GPS solutions now face highly competitive smartphone and tablet alternatives with cost advantages. COOs and CFOs are taking notice
Consider an example in the energy industry, a sector heavily invested in traditional GPS technology. Enmapp is a pipeline data services company based in Calgary, in the province of Alberta, Canada. Program manager Lance Fugate researched GPS surveying solutions available for the iPad and became convinced using iPads would give his clients higher accuracy, with better data, faster and less expensively than with legacy GPS systems. Fugate downloaded a GPS surveying app on an iPad and paired it via Bluetooth with a sub-meter GPS receiver, the Eos Arrow 100. He was up and running in minutes. Not only did the Eos GPS receiver meet the historical accuracy requirements, in some cases it was much better. The efficiency of the crews was also superior with the native iPad features of TerraGo Edge, versus the old-style stylus and PDA screens of the legacy equipment. The labor costs were also reduced since using real-time GPS significantly reduced post-processing.
According to Fugate, “The hardware savings are enormous with the new GPS tablet — less than US$10,000 compared to the old gear which was over US$70,000. But the ongoing reduction of project labor costs is even more valuable over time. The cost reductions and efficiency improvements are a game-changer for us.”
He’s talking about mobile GPS and a revolution in the business side of the GPS business whose time has finally come.

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