|Asia-Pacific I 2005
|Locating everything–Electronic trackers
|Chief Executive Officer
|CPS–Cambridge Positioning Systems Ltd
Chris Wade is the Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Positioning Systems Ltd. – CPS. Chris Wade joined CPS—then, a start-up venture capital funded company—and transformed it into a global leader in high accuracy mobile location technology. Before joining CPS, Chris was European Managing Director for network infrastructure supplier DSC Communications. Previously, he worked for Nortel, holding a number of senior positions in Norway, Turkey and the USA. Chris also acts as a telecommunications consultant and non-executive director to a number of leading venture capital companies.
New, highly accurate technology lets mobile operators accurately track users, even in crowded city centres and indoors. Device manufacturers and solution providers are now integrating standardised, high accuracy location technology into their phones, PDAs and other devices. The uses of this technology range from parental child tracking to fleet and workforce management. As both the cost and size of tracking devices drop, they will be increasingly used in laptops, cash boxes and other valuable assets to track their whereabouts.
Picture the scene: a busy downtown in a major Chinese city. Couriers carrying important documentation are making their way between banking offices. Vehicles are delivering goods to a chain of stores. A businessman arriving at the railway station tries to find both a hotel and cash machine. A mother lets her child out to play with a warning not to leave the local area. All are seemingly unconnected events, but in the wireless world, there is now a common thread. Whether it is for the enterprise or the consumer, the ability to precisely and rapidly locate assets and people—for improved business efficiency, personal safety and security—is now a reality. Compelling new applications are now emerging which ensure companies can monitor safe delivery of assets or the arrival of their people at their destination. Turning to a mobile device allows individuals to place themselves and the services they want, using a variety of devices. Families can monitor their childrens’ whereabouts and even set virtual limits on where they can play from the handset or PC. Location is a logical, intuitive extension to the mobile experience and one that operators are now exploring and exploiting as a platform for new compelling services. So why should be this be the case? After all, as sceptics point out, location-based services have been hyped for years without delivering on their promise. However, new drivers have emerged to ensure location is now very firmly on the map. First, new location technologies are now available which, for the first time, combine high accuracy, low cost and all-environment coverage—seamless solutions that are easy to deploy at the network and device level. In short, they deliver what users expect—fast, accurate locations where people want services to work, like city centres and indoors. As analysts, Frost and Sullivan confirm: “Ultimately, increased adoption of location-based services is expected to hinge on the availability of low cost, reliable solutions, which can be speedily implemented and can leverage existing network assets” (Location-Based Services Report, May 2004). Secondly, operators seeking new revenue opportunities but facing increasing competition are looking for new ways of capturing and retaining customers with innovative new services. The potential for low cost, higher accuracy location and user profile data to effectively filter out irrelevant content provides a far more personalised customer experience and offers considerable potential when coupled with a broad range of services. Critically, enterprises are now turning to location technologies as a means of managing their workforces or vehicle fleets more effectively. The increased need for staff and asset security also drives adoption. Where enterprises were previously turned-off by the performance and usefulness of low accuracy technologies, the availability of highly accurate solutions creates new business models where efficiency gains far outweigh the cost of deployment. In turn, this new demand feeds into operators who are keen to retain and attract new corporate customers. In fact, a kind of ‘tracking mania’ has developed in the enterprise. This is driven by the use of very small, low cost, GSM modems to track large number of objects. The size and cost of these devices make it feasible to put them in the collars of dogs and cats, embed them into laptop computers, or integrate them into cash boxes. Tracking device can now protect these valuable assets and locate them accurately and quickly, anywhere. Thirdly, the major network device manufacturers and solution providers are now integrating standardised high accuracy location technology into their offerings. This critical element in the equation, the support of global vendors, underpins the ability of operators worldwide to bring location-enabled services to market. The widespread availability of location software enabled devices—from handsets and PDAs through to credit card sized modules—is also providing a catalyst for service take-up. Finally, the location-based applications industry has matured and developed. Through trials and service deployments, a clearer focus has developed as to the kinds of services that people will use and pay for. Indeed, these applications are now becoming a key feature of wireless portals—not as a standalone service but as an enabler for a whole host of services, including mobile mapping, ‘find my nearest…’ and ‘friend finder’ services. Let us explore some of these applications and how they influ ence people and the communities in which we live and work: The lone worker Health workers visiting homes in dangerous areas, security staff on patrol or delivery and despatch drivers delivering high value goods—all people who would want protection; equipping them simple devices with panic buttons or location-enabled standard handsets would be an obvious choice; Child safety Whether it is tracking children when they are missing—or for peace of mind—the ability to locate loved ones is already proving one of the most popular location services; the great number children and teenagers with handsets and the availability of location-enabled watches or medallions, underlines the enormous potential in this market Personal safety Discreet credit-card sized location devices are now available which can be placed in bags, lunchboxes or even hidden in cars to ensure people are reaching their chosen destination; one of the emerging trends is pet tracking—again utilising small devices to prevent animal theft or loss; Asset tracking Already well established in the telematics field, the advent of new software-based location solutions is making it easier for corporate users that want to track valuable assets; increasingly it is not so much the asset itself, but, the information that the asset contains, such as in a laptop, which is of critical value and importance. There are other factors at play outside the technology community. Government-directed initiatives to provide country wide emergency caller location, within set accuracy limits, is an important recognition of the role wireless technologies can play in improving community and personal safety. While these are welcome initiatives, if location is to become a ubiquitous element of the mobile experience, it is critical that both the technology and the applications be completely aligned with commercial and business user needs. Innovation thrives in competitive environments and the rapid growth in the development and deployment of new applications is firm evidence of this fact. In-depth research underlines this. A recently completed series of workshops with leading operators—many from the Asia Pacific region—explored and endeavoured to understand, current and future location-based service strategies. Collectively, the operators served over 30 per cent of the global GSM subscriber market, in both established and emerging markets. The main findings were: √ Demand for high accuracy solutions is growing as operators seek to differentiate their service offerings in saturating markets. With operators planning to deploy new high accuracy location technologies, new market entrants are looking to high accuracy location-based services as an immediate marketing advantage in the fight for customers; √ Although high accuracy location solutions will be the catalyst for location-based services, deployment costs must be extremely cost-effective; √ Existing low accuracy Cell-ID based services have proved disappointing in terms of application innovation and consumer take-up; √ Corporate vehicle, fleet and workforce management will help drive early usage of high accuracy services in the corporate market; √ The major consumer market driver will be information services, with rapid growth predicted for personal and child safety services. Since this research took place, the market has moved forward, underlining the rapid pace at which location based services are moving into the mainstream of operator service deployments. Powerful new applications have been deployed recently in the Asia Pacific region, highlighting the willingness of operators to launch new location-enabled services for the enterprise market. In China, a cooperative approach between operators, value added service providers and solution providers is a perfect example of this progress. Within months of successful technology trials in a mix of dense urban, suburban and rural environments a new generation of high accuracy location-based services will be launched for the enterprise market in early 2005. Vehicle, personnel and asset tracking will be the initial services offered, but it should not be long before we see consumer services available from every handset. The scene described in the opening paragraph of this article is becoming a reality. ‘Location’ is rapidly emerging, not just as a standalone service, but to enable widely accepted everyday applications. These lessons will soon be used in new WCDMA, broadband mobile systems; location is expected to be one of the fundamental drivers for service take-up. The increased bandwidth of WCDMA promises even higher accuracy levels and new opportunities for applications developers to exploit. Location is moving into the mainstream. It is one of the best examples of an emerging technology in the wireless world today. Operators are making it a key part of their service portfolio, major global solution providers are integrating the technology, new devices and exciting and innovative location-based services are gaining traction. Not that long ago, location-based services were both ‘hype’ and ‘hope.’ Today, we can see they are very much a reality.