Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ethical Shopping Mobile Apps

I was inspired by a CNN report on Ethical Shopping apps to take a look at what could be an increasingly popular segment of mobile apps. Ethical apps have an element of community involvement, shopping, sharing with friends and continuous updates that make them a compelling proposition not just for the conscious shopper.

There are several country-based apps currently available on iTunes:

1. The Good Shopping Guide priced £2.99 aimed at the UK market
2.  The Good Guide (free) aimed at the US market
3. Shop Ethical $2.49 aimed at the Australian market
4. Barcoo (free) developed in Germany but available in English

Barcoo and the Good Guide are also available on the Android market.

One of the key features of these apps is a barcode scanner, with both the Barcoo and The Good Guide apps providing this, though some app developers exclude this as smaller brands would 'slip through the net'.

Data on the 'ethical footprint' of specific brands is normally gathered from Ethical Trade Associations like Fair Trade or Friends of the Earth. According to William Sankey of the Ethical Company Organisation in an interview for The Guardian although there is growing awareness of the benefits of fair trade and organic goods, there is less information that gives consumers an overall ethical footprint of the product and the company behind the brand. 

"Shoppers may be surprised to find that often there is not a price premium [on ethical goods]," he said. Beko, for example, makers of the cheapest larder fridge is also the top-scoring ethical brand in this category. 

As mobile commerce takes on a bigger role in terms of overall e-commerce and electronic payments, there is a gap available for Fair Trade Bodies to supply their Ethical Product Databases to online stores and so allow shoppers to make more informed purchasing decisions.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Indoor Positioning -Cloud Support for Location Apps?

Indoor Positioning Systems (occasionally referred to as IPS) are hotting up...Navteq recently announced the launch of their Destination Maps service enabling "orientation, guidance and routing for interior spaces"
According to Navteq, Destination Maps "moves the industry beyond the interactive floor plan maps available today and into a three-dimensional data model essential to a more advanced exploration and guidance experience.  It does this by providing pedestrian-specific attributes unique to interior requirements like stairs and elevators as well as recognizing different floor levels (called Z-levels) that are essential for applications to "understand" movement between floors once inside a venue and generate routes and guidance.  NAVTEQ Destination Maps also include a Virtual Connections feature that enables more intuitive guidance by recognizing how pedestrians "cut across" open areas."
Hopefully, the NAQVTEQ development will come hand in hand with more widespread deployment of Femto cells within buildings, to get over those annoying network black-spots that still plague mobile subscribers in certain areas.
A number of location start-ups are looking to capitalize on the promise of indoor location, including Dubai-based GloPos and Swedish start-up Qubulus.
Qubulus co-founder Frank Schuil recently contributed to an article for TheNextWeb explaining where indoor positioning can benefit the current application market the most. Here are a couple of ideas from that article suggested by Frank:
1. Airport apps
In this case indoor positioning can benefit all parties. Consumers can meet other travelers in their proximity, get point of sales notifications from the shops in the airport and know how long it would take to walk to the gate based on their current position.
The airport can monitor the mobile traffic for crowd control, staff management and alerts and the airlines can locate passengers giving them a push notification to start walking towards the gate just in time to prevent delays.  There are already some nifty mobile apps out there that could easily extend their service this way like GateGuru and American Airlines’ recently released Android app.
2. Point of sales apps

Location-based coupons in one way or another have always been the holy grail of the LBS industry. To be able to target a consumer with the right message at the point of sale can drastically improve the ROI of any marketing campaign.

The problem to date is that shops are often inside malls and that products are always indoors. Without indoor positioning the point of sale has proven to be too distant for people to act upon the offer. To get people to buy into an offer indoor positioning needs to drop down to <1m accuracy and become a commodity that existing services can seamlessly integrate into their service to trigger the consumer in the physical space. As a reminder to those who see the possibilities of trigger marketing; the key is not to be as intrusive as the  mall screens in the Tom Cruise movie hit Minority Report.
One of the traditional issues with IPS was the need for building owners (such as shopping mall owners) to make an investment in (expensive) transmitting technology. New technologies based on hybrid positioning, smarter algorhythms and cloud-based infrastructure could take IPS beyond it's current niche markets.