Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ESA -Technology Transfer Programme and LBSs

BARCELONA -Framed by the spendid view from the 20th floor of the Mapfre Tower, Bruno Naulais, European Space Incubators Network Manager at ESA, explained some of the current initiatives of the ESA with potential for tech start-ups.

The new Galileo satellite will offer better resolution than GPS, precise timing via an atomic clock and a guaranteed signal (a boon indeed for LBS companies given occasional unreliability of GPS signals on mobile devices).

Bruno also covered other alternatives to GPS.Consisting of three geostationary satellites and a network of ground stations, EGNOS achieves its aim by transmitting a signal containing information on the reliability and accuracy of the positioning signals sent out by the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). It allows users in Europe and beyond to determine their position to within 2 metres, compared with about 20 metres for GPS and GLONASS alone.

In addition, new boosters are being developed as part of the ESA Technology Transfer Programme that will allow indoor usage of GPS, thus providing realtime navigation guidance at large scale indoor events (trade fairs).

A new centre for Innovation in Geospatial and Location Based Services is also being set up by ESA together with Oracle and TeleAtlas.

The ESA VC Fund Initiative is providing finance of up to €1.3m for innovative start-ups and they are seeing the key dealflow in the area of Location based products and services.

More info can be found at

Sunday, November 16, 2008

ESA Living Labs-Mobile Lessons from Space

When it comes to exploring the frontiers, both geographical and cognitive, space agencies are difficult to beat. Many inventions originally conceived for space missions (one example amongst many, lithium ion batteries) have found their way into the consumer mainstream.

It therefore makes perfect sense to attempt to harness the know-how capability of space science for the benefit of the world of communications and related technologies.

Living Labs Global, together with the European Space Incubators Network of the European Space Agency, ESA, run by Bruno Naulais, and Barcelona's 22@ Initiative have organised a half-day event on the 19th November in Barcelona to explore how best to leverage space innovation within the start-up environment.

The event is limited to 50 participants so getting a seat may be a challenge. If you are keen to attend though, you can give it a try by following the title link. Otherwise, I will be reporting back on the event on this blog and provide highlights on the key points.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Location Mobile Trends for 2009 LBSs

The Location Based Service (LBS) sector of Value Added Services (VAS) on mobile is evolving.

I see 3 key trends and a similiar number of challenges for the year ahead for companies within the expanding LBS ecosystem:



There is little doubt that this sector is heating up, with both the iPhone and the Android platforms spawning a plethora of applications. And the global start-up map for LBS indicates that new ventures are emerging outside of traditional hotbeds like the US and Western Europe. This means that differentiation is becoming key. Start-ups with the big budgets can choose to differentiate via advertising (though this is becoming unviable-see point 3 of Challenges below) while smaller companies need to think smart and go for whatever niche they think offers the best returns.


It is apparent that consumers are ready to pay a premium for some LBS services, though this is on a more pay-per-use model than a subscription model. Quick and easy services that everyone can understand and that add immediate value (place me on a map now and show me Points of Interest around me) can be charged successfully and it is looking increasingly likely that pedestrian navigation-type services will also meet with success.


Convergence spans a wide spectrum of meaning. In terms of LBSs, it means that traditional LBS services are moving into the Portable Navigation Device (PND) space, and that the reverse is also happening. It also means that connected devices like the Playstation Portable (PSP) are also moving into the LBS space with the likelihood of new devices entering the market (including the rumoured launch of the National Geographic Explorer Device).The LBS landscape is liable to some tectonic shifts in the coming year.

The LBS sector has consistently offered some of the greatest opportunities but also some of the greatest challenges in mobile, some that I would highlight today are as follows:



Fortunately for the mobile ecosystem, walled gardens are crumbling and we are seeing what I have previously defined as 'Open Playgrounds' being created. This doesn't stop Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) from imposing limitations on accessing their location platforms. No MNO currently offers anything other than 'pull' mechanisms for location detection (the user has to request to be located) while it is the 'push' mechanisms (tell me automatically where I am and push relevant info to me) that would yield the greatest benefits to the user.


Locator technologies are in themselves converging as the need to deliver a seamless location detection service to the mobile user becomes more of an imperative. 2009 will see an acceleration of this trend and successful apps will be able to switch automatically from a GPS to a Wi-Fi to a CellID environment according to the criteria that deliver the best experience to the user (this could be related to location, so delivering Wi-Fi location indoors or battery life, switching to CellID to reduce battery exhaustion).


The monetisation model for LBSs has not been proven.But it will. And even if it takes time, let's not forget how long it has taken YouTube to adopt a clear monetisation mechanism (it announced today that it will offer sponsored video search, 3 years after launch). However, there is a tiresome task pending for LBSs to continue educating brands and advertisers of the potential effectiveness of LBS advertising (particularly that which links place with context). However, we live in a period of retrenchment-MNOS are retreating in their shells and curtailing infrastructure spend. Some, but not all, advertisers are cutting back on mobile and retreating to less effective media like TV.

Now is the time for LBS start-ups to redraw the lines of their monetisation models-to squeeze out revenues where they can be squeezed and cut costs in other areas. Highly funded start-ups with high burn rates will need to adapt more to the new low cost environment. The opportunities for small start-ups with smart monetisation ideas will peak next year-but their emphasis will have to be on easily addressing the true needs of the mobile user, requiring an understanding of the likely behaviour of this user in the new economic environment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

AT&T Acquires Wayport to add to Wi-Fi capabilities

AT&T Inc. announced yesterday that it had agreed, through one of its subsidiaries, to acquire privately-held Wayport, Inc., a leading provider of managed Wi-Fi services in the United States, for approximately $275 million in cash. The deal adds Wayport's focused capabilities and enterprise customer portfolio with AT&T's leading Internet Protocol (IP) and 3G networks, and broad consumer and business customer bases, to deliver enhanced broadband connectivity at home, in the office, on the road, and virtually anywhere in between.

The acquisition expands the AT&T Wi-FiSM footprint to nearly 20,000 domestic hotspots, takes the company's global Wi-Fi presence to more than 80,000 locations*, and creates thousands of new ways for customers worldwide to stay in touch. Millions of AT&T customers — plus millions of other consumers needing to connect on the go — will benefit from access to new hotspot locations served by Wayport.

AT&T's global brand, marketing leadership and extensive enterprise sales force will complement Wayport's expertise in enabling and managing applications over an integrated network. Wayport will also extend AT&T's reach in the hospitality, health care, education and retail sectors.

"We're seeing exponential growth of Wi-Fi-enabled devices — such as smartphones — combined with a continued dependency on 24/7, anytime, anywhere Internet access across business and consumer market segments," said John Stankey, president and CEO, AT&T Operations. "Now is the right time for AT&T to affirm our commitment to Wi-Fi leadership. By acquiring Wayport, we're giving consumers more ways to stay in touch and building a more robust network management solution for businesses. We're bringing ready access to the nation's leading Wi-Fi, wireless and IP networks — on a global scale."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Le Web 08 Conference, Paris-Exclusive Reader Discount

PARIS-Once again, Le Web 3.0 (now re-branded Le Web '08) is upon us, and over 1800 participants are expected to converge on Paris for the 2 day event on the 9th and 10th of December.

Paulo Coelho, now popular amongst digital media events, will bless the conference with his insights along with MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe, Mark Simoncino of Meetic , Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and many more..This year's theme for the event is 'Love' and, going along with this theme, as I love my blog readers, each and everyone of you can claim a 20% discount.

Just link through from the title of this post to the Event Website and you can get your ticket for €1196 instead of €1495 if you book by November 20th.

Don't miss out!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mobile Services in Korea-an eyewitness report

SEOUL-As you would expect, things are a little different in Korea compared to, say, Europe...Research reports are all fine and well, but they fail to give that 'finger-on-the-pulse' feel for what is happening on the street.

So, having spent a week in Korea (and considering that this is one of the most advanced countries in terms of mobile communications) I thought I would share some brief impressions of mobile usage in the region.

Firstly, I'd like to dispel the myth that everyone uses the sort of high end LG or Samsung models widely publicised in Europe...while Koreans have a very high penetration of 3G handsets, many of the ones I saw were Anycall handsets, a Samsung local brand or Cyon (the LG local brand) .

Another thing you notice travelling on the Seoul subway, is how everyone has a mobile device of some sort, be it an MP3 player, PSP or mobile phone. And the most widely used feature on a mobile phone that I witnessed was..yes, you guessed it, TV...and not Mobile TV, but good old Terrestrial/Digital TV, whose signal is captured via a not-so-modern retractable antenna.

All of this should not make us forget that Mobile Social Networking is also huge in Korea, with the Cyworld service launched by SK Telecom boasts over 20m users and has built a profitable business model based on sale of creative digital content.

Finally, it was also noticeable how every car (and I really mean all of them, taxi or otherwise) had a GPS PND device-Seoul is a big city, so GPS offers an invaluable service to local drivers.

One bit of trivia...Samsung is actually a word in Korean and it means 3 stars.