Tuesday, April 29, 2008

uLocate-Latest Press Release on N-Series integration

Boston, MA - April 29, 2008 -- Latest Press Release from uLocate re:N-series integration

"uLocate Communications, Inc. announced today that WHERE is now available to users of the Nokia N95 8GB, Nokia N95 and Nokia N82 devices. As a result, users of these advanced smartphones will be able to customize their device with WHERE to unleash the full potential of their device’s embedded GPS technology. For Nokia N81 users, a self-reported location version of WHERE has also been made available.

WHERE offers users access to over 60 unique location-based applications. These applications deliver content that is based on a user’s current location and include options for local search, weather, news, shopping, events and friend finding. Every application on WHERE allows users to click-to-call, get directions to, or see a map of their selection. Users can also send the location, with a map and directions, to their friends via SMS.

Some of the applications on WHERE are location based versions of content from popular brands. Want to find the cheapest gas available based on your current location? Then choose the Gas Buddy application on WHERE. Wondering where the best place to eat is? Use Yelp on WHERE to get restaurant reviews, directions and more. Hear that your favorite sports team is in town? Find tickets to the game with StubHub on WHERE.

WHERE also gives users access to Buddy Beacon, the world’s largest mobile friend finding community. Buddy Beacon uses GPS technology to let users connect with their friends, share their location and update their status across a number of online social networking sites including Facebook. With Buddy Beacon, users can see their nearby friends on a map and connect with them directly through the application.

WHERE is free to Nokia Nseries users and is easy to access, and install, through the Nokia Download store’s GPS / Location section. This means that with just a few clicks, Nseries users can gain access to the application and begin exploring the world around them, and finding what matters, with WHERE."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Truphone Update -Second round of funding raises USD33m

I posted an entry in January on Truphone and its ambitious plans to become the Skype of the mobile world.

This week the GSMA Mobile Business Briefing reported that Truphone had announced that they had closed a second round of funding worth £16.5 million (US$32.7 million) to help build-out its core GSM network. The news comes just days after the company announced it had acquired SIM4travel, a Mobile Virtual Network Enabler (MVNE) platform with travel SIM capabilities.

The latest cash injection was led by private investors, with all of Truphone's existing backers - Burda Digital Ventures, Eden Ventures, Independent News & Media and Wellington Partners - participating. The company raised £12.5 million in an earlier round of funding last year.

The company plans to enable low-cost GSM calls worldwide using the travel SIM in tandem with its existing mobile VoIP service, which works with high-end devices such as Nokia's N-series and allows free calling between Truphone users. Truphone aims to disrupt the existing mobile marketplace by offering cheaper international calls than the established mobile operators.

The company's infrastructure incorporates a global network of SIP gateways, a Nokia Siemens Networks mobile network Home Location Register (HLR) and a GSM identifier. The infrastructure is capable of supporting 40 million customers worldwide, Truphone says.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tuenti -The Spanish Facebook growth story

Madrid-based Tuenti is making waves in the Spanish-speaking social networking space. Billed as the 'Hispanic Facebook', it has managed to register the biggest Spanish-based web community despite still only having a beta-version available of its platform.

The company is playing coy with the figures, but suggests that it already has exceeded Facebook's 380,000 Spanish members.Co-founder Zaryn Dentzel states that Tuenti emphasizes the privacy element of its members above any aggressive growth target...yet, the company has proved extremely capable at expanding its membership. It now serves over 70 million page views every day and the company is already experimenting with advertising.

Tuenti states that even though they will rely on advertising for their revenue, that 'it will not look like normal advertising' but instead will be intergrated within the normal user experience on the website.

The company is now planning to roll-out a mobile version of their website and has recruited a Swede to handle this task and who will join Tuenti's other 18 employees. Possibly the biggest coup (as yet not officially announced) is that Bernardo Hernandez, Marketing Director at Google Spain, will be taking a 1 year sabbatical in order to take over business development at the ambitious start-up. He will join Rupert Van Millinguen, another former Googler, already installed at the company.

Interesting developments lie ahead, particularly as the company builds its mapping capability and rolls out Location Based Services...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mobile Fragrances-Japan Nose how to communicate

I remember reading 5 years ago how 'smell' would revolutionise modern-day TV, and that future TV adverts would not only show you a video ad of a fragrant pizza about to be delivered, but also allow you to smell the delicious pepperoni & cheese warm topping. Looks like the vision was ahead not so much of the technology, but also of the consumer wants, and it all sadly fizzled out into (odourless) smoke.

So, it is with a jaded eye that I read about the same kind of thing coming to mobile, courtesy of NTT DoCoMo (whose eye must also be a bit jaded by their recent drop below 50% in market share in Japan for the first time since 1996).

MocoNews reports that NTT Communications announced yesterday that it’s running a ten-day trial starting April 10 of its new Mobile Fragrance Communication service (Kaori Tshshi Mobile), the mobile version of a service.

Users will be able to download a “Fragrance Playlist” or files of recipes for specific smells along with visual (GIF animation) and/or audio (MIDI) content from i-Mode’s mobile website. The service uses a handset’s infrared port to transfer the “fragrance data” to a dedicated device similar to a plug-in air freshener that is loaded with a cartridge of base fragrances. The device then mixes them to create the chosen smell, which it then wafts out, accompanying the audio or visual content that is played on the phone. People will be able to share their Fragrance Playlists with friends who subscribe to the service.

NTT is also testing a device controller--the Service Gateway--which allows users to remotely control their Mobile Fragrance Communication system through the internet using their mobile phone. For example, a user can send his or her phone to instruct the fragrance device begin operating before he or she gets home.

The company also said it was accepting applications from companies in Japan wishing to develop content and applications for a commercial version of the Mobile Fragrance Communication Service. NTT envisions for example, ringtones, music and horoscopes combined with fragrances.

In a society obsessed with getting a constant 'fix' of new and wacky experiences, it may well be that Mobile Fragrances go down a storm. I'll keep an eye out for any developments beyond Japan, as I am curious to see if society has moved on from the TV fragrances experiment and if anyone other than Ambi-Pur will show a genuine interest...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mobile Internet Conference, Berlin -Take 2

Random Friends vs Regular Buddies

A lot of talk about mobile communities on the second day of the conference, with emphasis on the importance of ‘random friends’ as well as regular friends in order to aid the process of discovery and also on how mobile web differs from standard web, in that it allows creation at the point of inspiration.

Growth Forecasts

Thomas Husson from Jupiter Research provided some interesting stats on mobile internet trends and forecasts, including that:

  • 60% of users never browse the internet on the phone
  • 59% of European mobile users want to access maps and local information on their phone
  • Only 20% of European mobile customers have a 3G phone but over 50% are expected to have one by 2010
  • 40% of European mobile users are expected to regularly access the mobile internet by 2012

· Also, Thomas made the interesting comparison of time spent by an average consumer on different media versus the ad spend on that media, noting how there was a big gap within newspaper (little time spent and high spend) and mobile (high time spent and low spend).

Mobile Advertising Priorities

Antoine Couret from Bouygues Telecom made a good point that what is free on the traditional web cannot be premium on mobile internet and he stated the 3 priorities advertisers currently have for mobile spend:

  • Large, qualified audience
  • Interactive media
  • ‘Certified audiences’ -I think relating to the uni-personal nature of a mobile (as opposed to a PC which can have multiple users)
The Power of Recommendations

Jesus Pindado from Mystrands cam at things from a fresh perspective, emphasising both personal recommendations and 'attention' as key factors to keep in mind. He went to stress that 'attention data' (what the user is eyeballing and when) has real value and has to be protected accordingly in order to be monetized.

Other general comments about the usability of the mobile internet referred to how google can act as an effective icebreaker for users and how transaction-based services act as a deterrent (too complex on a small screen).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mobile Internet Conference, Berlin -Initial Musings

'Hand'-set no more

One of the more interesting insights from Day 1 of the conference was the idea that mobile handsets are 'not just for the hand' -with new uses for mobile devices (Mobile TV to name but one)-creating new needs for handset manufacturers to consider within their product design...maybe the term 'handset' will eventually cease to be associated with mobile.

Device Connectivity

This links to an important discussion on Day 2 around the connectivity of devices -everyone agrees that all devices (cameras, gaming consoles etc) will feature connectivity in the near future, accessing whichever is the best Value-for-Money network available at any given time, whether Mobile, Wi-Fi etc.

Connection Cost

In a discussion around the barriers to stimulating growth in the mobile internet, the cost of data transfer came up time and again...various operators presented their vision on Day 2, outlining how flat rates was the way to go...with prices ranging from €10 to €30 a month for 'unlimited' data transfer...still, if we look at countries like Korea with a €4 monthly flat rate it would seem there is still some way to go in Europe...

Mobile Advertising Inventory

Antonio Vince Stabyl, CEO of Gofresh, made an excellent point about the sheer lack of mobile advertising inventory as a real barrier to getting ad agencies and their clients to pump more of their advertising dollars through the mobile medium...a clear business opportunity all but a few seem to be grasping

Social Networks and Stickiness

He also made a good point about the mobile phone address book being 'the' preferred social network for every user -again, not always exploited to its full potential. Through their itsmy.com portal, Antonio's company offers a range of UGC categorised into different channels and he noted that the key thing in creating a 'sticky' mobile community was the ease of uploading photos/video etc to the medium..make it difficult and you make it likely for members to shop around for an alternative.