Who will make the most money from LBS?

Recently when I understood that Google tried literally hard to convince JustDial board for an acquisition but failed, it gave me immense pleasure. Not because Google failed or JustDial won or any such patriotic feeling but the fact that JustDial team visualized this almost a decade ago.

Nobody was accustomed to local search then but everyone knew that it’s gonna be the future. I feel exactly the same for GIS and the other LBS services which are yet to be seen in consumer domain. After all local search is one piece of the LBS itself.

There is this great conversation I captured which strengthened my belief even more about the potential of Location Based Services as the future applications.

In general I love the content created at Stanford University and this video is an absolute testimony of that. Even more interesting is the fact that the LBS is a mystery to any big player in the world today and being part of such a revolution, that too being on the executing side of it, makes me feel even better.

To follow the conversation in the video, refer to the transcript below. I noted down it by myself to understand the every bit of the conversation, hence, there are chances for mistakes, please cooperate.

The greatest thing about LBS is that there’s strong value for both the potential consumers and for the businesses and technology people involved in it. The LBS by its nature is extremely personal and massive.

Q1. How big cell-phone based location networking be?

Sumit Agrawal (Sr. Product Manager, Google Mobile) – Huge, I think it will be as big as social networking. It will be part of most people’s social interactions with one another on several levels. It’s addictive to be able to track exact physical locations of each other. Various interesting use-cases will emerge when everybody has got the enabled devices which are passively, easily and seamlessly collecting various kinds of information about the user.

Cormac Conroy (VP Engineering, QCT Modem technology, Qualcomm) – We’ll have to be very careful about the privacy issues. People always have to have the ability to keep the information to themselves, if they choose.

But in general we found in technology, people are willing to trade-of privacy for convenience. At the end of the day, people will benefit from the openness of location based information.

Bob Iannucci (CTO, Nokia) – The carriers are struggling with this question, to what degree do they open an information and create together with all of us (us means various stake holders like data providers, device manufacturers etc.) a platform, that people can build interesting applications on.

While GPS is nice but today almost every cellphone has a cell ID and therefore is traceable to convert it to the rough GPS coordinates (if not very fine). And if you’re in an urban area, there’s value there. It will however be interesting to see carriers opening up the Cell-ID information and be part of this platform to allow us to build interesting applications.

Peter Frans Pauwels (CTO, TomTom) – It’s hard to get the carriers to open up, that’s a challenge. But there’s some good news on the horizon, with Galileo coming online. Nobody knows exactly when, but if it happens, we’ll have a huge consolation of satellite around earth, signal strength will go up, we’ll get much better coverage (also inddor), chipsets can be reduced, and power consumption can be reduced.

Bob Iannucci (CTO, Nokia) – Like many other parts of the electronic world that we have lived in for a long time, there is this tension between this general purpose device and fixed purpose device. And it’s almost always the case that the fixed purpose device can be carefully engineered and tuned for an application and it isn’t gonna go away just because I have a desktop computer, doesn’t mean that the computer is taking over the functionalities of the micro computers and rest of the appliances in the house. They’re there, there for a purpose. The PNDs have a role, it’s true that mobile phones, and it’s a fact that NOKIA sells more digital cameras than anybody else on the planet but that hasn’t put the digital camera makers out of business.

So as mobile phones become more and more location aware and more and more able to do nav, that doesn’t necessarily mean that nav doesn’t have a market and the dedicated nav devices go away for the same reason.

Sumit Agrawal (Sr. Product Manager, Google Mobile) – While there’s always going to be the need for the special purpose devices, whether it’s an iPhone or Blackberry whatever you have. Just being able to stick on your dashboard and get the real-time SMS rom your friend, which says, “hey we’re not meeting at XYZ bar but meeting at ABC bar”. You tap a button and get re-routed to that location.

Oh! you got to leave that bar because you got this agenda. This whole inter-relatedness of all the different services and applications that will exist in the cloud will far outstrip the fact that there will absolutely be some compromises with the user’s spread. May be it will fail, may be it will get me in the wrong place, hopefully it will not drive me through a lake but I’ll suffer a little bit with the inefficiencies on the edge of my device and still favor the amazing potential of the general-purpose nature of that cell-phone.


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