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Social Networking and LBS

So what does social networking have to do with LBS. Right now, perhaps not a great deal, but very soon, it could have a great deal to do with mobile. Social networking is a massive growth segment of the Internet. There are some interesting things happening in this area. One is that Social Networking, which began largely as an online way of connecting to people in more meaningful ways, not only people you know, but also people with whom you have business or personal interests in common.

There has been an interesting evolution in Social Networking recently. The first is that it has gone mobile in a big way. I have been talking with Telcos from UK, Europe, the USA and New Zealand over the last couple of months about LBS and Social Networking. All of them have confirmed that close to and in many cases more than 50% of all mobile data traffic today is taken up by social networking. They didn’t plan for this, they didn’t market or advertise it, they didn’t expect it. Consumers just made it happen and in many cases, developers created mobile phone applications that can be installed as a simple download allowing people to use elements of applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Hyves and many others on their phone including the ability to upload photos and post them on your social networking site, as well as connecting to the phone to ring them, from within the mobile.

In one of my personal blogs, I have written about Social Networking including the first in a series on the use of Twitter for Business. One of the changes that is happening is that the social networks which were largely around connecting to people via the internet, but now there are all sorts of real face to face connections being made. Groups are using social networking to meet their ‘friends’ in the real world. For example, we are members of the Wireless & Broadband Forum. The forum has recently started to use Facebook to invite people to attend their events such as Wireless Wednesday, which was where we held the Prize Giving for the 2009 Location Innovation Awards. I also belong to a number of other business groups which use Social Networking to organise get togethers or ‘meetups’.

Given the interesting change that social networking is evolving from an environment where people find each other and commuicate on the Internet, to actually meeting each other in the real world, LBS offers a great opportunity to enhance that by facilitating finding each other, getting driving directions from where you are to the meeting place. GeoSmart of course has many tools to facilitate this in the mobile environment, such as identifying where you are and providing Driving Directions to the meet location. Geocoding and Reverse Geocoding can identify where you are now and the location of your destination. The Point of Interest Web Service V2 can identify a street address, but also contains a huge database of POI including cafes, restaurants, accomodation and lots of other business data as well as petrol stations, ATM’s, Public Toilets and even boat ramps if you are going to meet on the water.

A lot of mobiles now have GPS built in and for those that don’t, the ability to identify the nearest cell site(s) is another way to get at least an estimate of the location of the user.

Of course another very important component is maps. You can find out more about why our maps are the best in New Zealand for LBS here.

If you are using social networking on your mobile, Location is one of the most relevent components and you will find more information about this in coming blogs, so why not subscribe with your favourite RSS reader, so that you don’t miss anything.

April 22, 2009 Posted by | driving directions, facebook, geosmart, GIS, gps, Hyves, lbs, location based services, location innovation awards, map tools, maps, Marketing, Meetups, Mobile maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, satnav, social networking, Twitter, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proximity Based Marketing and LBS is a Growth Opportunity

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that traditional forms of Advertising are shrinking. There are many statistics backing this up. There are many statistics backing this up and in Asia Pacific, Carat, for example have forecast a 5.8% decline in ad spend for this year. Obviously the economy is a factor in this result, but it also signals a change in advertising behaviour as people are paying less attention to traditional forms of advertising. Many people now have products such as MySky and Tivo is almost here. These products make it very simple for people to avoid watching TVC’s because the can fast forward their recorded TV programmes. TVNZ announced that they were laying off 90 people as a consequence of a $25 million reduction in advertising revenue. The same applies with radio where many people are now opting for their iPods to listen to their favourite music instead of tuning in and being forced to listen to radio ads.

In my opinion, this doesn’t mean that people want to avoid advertising, specials and promotions altogether. They want them to be more relevant. ZenithOptimedia have forecast far greater drops in Ad expenditure, 11% drop in magazines, 10% in radio, 5.5 in TV, but around a 10% increase in Internet Advertising. So traditional forms of advertising decline, but Internet advertising is on the rise.

Why would that be? People are using the Internet far more these days, which takes them away from traditional media, but the key element to me is relevance. In the World Wide Web, it is far easier to ensure that advertising is relevant to the search or type of site that people are visiting. It also offers a great opportunity for call to action with Click Through, which is of course where Google makes the bulk of its income.

The ability to have people opt in to various services that are relevant to their interests and needs, their current time and place means that the offers will be welcomed and will have a far greater sales conversion rate than with traditional means of advertising and promotion. This is where the opportunity arises with Location Based Services (LBS) and Proximity Based Marketing.

The issue isn’t that people hate ads, specials, good deals and information. The relevance needs to be around space and time. I would welcome a Speight’s Mates Happy Hour electronic coupon, when I am walking past a bar, with a 2 for 1 offer on a Friday evening after work. But I probably wouldn’t even see a printed coupon in a magazine.

I’m sure tourists would take advantage of a special offer to a half price jet boat ride when they are on holiday in Queenstown, when they are within a kilometre of the boat on a sunny morning, than if they read an ad in the plane on their way to New Zealand. The tour operator gets a full boat and all the passengers have more fun. It’s timely, its based on their immediate location and its relevant to their current situation.

Many people think that the technology isn’t ready, but according to a story in ITWire, compound growth of GPS in mobile phones is over 49% and one of the major drivers in the proliferation of SmartPhones. According to Mobile Marketing Magazine, despite the economy, the penetration of SmartPhones grew by 33% to February this year. The traditional definition of a SmartPhone comes from Operating Systems such as Palm, Symbian and Windows Mobile, but if you look around today, many of the mobile apps in those phones such as Contacts, Diary, Email, Still and Video Camera are now standard in pretty much every phone and with the low cost of GPS, that is now being added at great speed.

With Software Development Kits being made freely available for the popular brands and models of phone, this is a perfect opportunity to become familiar with the web services and API’s available from GeoSmart and outlined in previous blogs. All you need is a good idea and a little market research. Of course GeoSmart can offer you a Developer Agreement which gives you free access to any tools you need during the development process.

You can find more information on the Developer Page at http://www.geosmart.co.nz or email info@geosmart.co.nz

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April 21, 2009 Posted by | Agencies, geosmart, GIS, gps, lbs, location based services, map tools, maps, Marketing, Mobile maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, proximity based marketing, Sales, satnav, Uncategorized, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Tools Do You Need to Build a Mobile LBS Application Part 5

Route Optimisation

Time is a commodity you can’t buy more of, people are getting busier all the time. So far we have talked about being able to access and view a map, search for street addresses, Points of Interest and get driving directions to or from a location. We have looked at getting the coordinates of a location to display it on a map and we have looked at Reverse Geocoding to get the nearest street address to the location of a person or object.

The next thing is, what if you want to visit multiple locations on the same trip. You might be a merchandiser or service person with several visits to make and it doesn’t matter what order you do them in. You might be on holiday and wanting to explore the many attractions around you, or you could be visiting Open Homes.

It isn’t easy, looking at a map, to sort out what order to sort your visits into, you could get a pencil and a ruler and try to work out the route in your map book, or you could run your pen across the pages, as if completing a maze to sort out the order, but eventually you would have such a big mess that you would have to buy a new book. Of course this blog is about LBS, which typically means that we are developing applications for a mobile phone, that means that the user quite possibly doesn’t have a map book on them, or at the very least, doesn’t want to deface the book.

Here comes Route Optimisation, or as we call it at GeoSmart, Route2GO. Route Optimisation runs a very complex set of algorithms which look at every possible sequence of stops and comes up with the best order to do your visits. In its simplest form, it allows you to set your start and end points (which could be the same) and then tells you what order to make the visits in. The end result will be fewer kilometres travelled, less fuel, less time and less cost. This way of calculating is called The Travelling Salesman Problem. This concept is also great for people like the delivery truck for a furniture store. The optimised route tells the driver not only what order to do the deliveries in, but in reverse order, tells him how to load his truck so he doesn’t have to keep moving heavy objects around the truck, wasting time and energy and of course reduce carbon emissions and pollution.

There is also complex Route Optimisation. In this scenario there are all sorts of exceptions. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll keep it simple and limited to one day, because in a mobile situation, that’s probably all you would do, although of course you can do far more detailed planning in the office, for example a service manager could be planning how to meet their contractual commitments with multiple vehicles, multiple drivers, who don’t necessarily work on the same day and all sort of restrictions on the client side, such as day of the week, time of day etc. But I said I wouldn’t go into that.

Imagine you are in Queenstown on holiday and you are using one of the Proximity Based Marketing examples, we outlined for the Location Innovation Awards, where you want to visit multiple attractions. Some services like the Bungy Jump are a bit of a drive and others are close by, so you have logistical situations as to how to fit the most experiences into a day. But in order to do the jet boat ride and the Earnslaw cruise, there are time constraints and you have to be at certain places at certain times.

Imagine you are house hunting and a number of the properties you want to look at have Open Homes, which are on at different times.

Complex Route Optimisation would let you specify the times you have to be at certain places and also lets you set the amount of time you want to spend at each one. For Open Homes you might plan, say 15 minutes at each property, but the tourist activities have different times. The jet boat ride might be 45 minutes and the Earnslaw cruise an hour and a half. This tool would allow people to really get the most out of their day and at the same time drive the least distance, least time and cost for travel.

These web services are available as web services and can work very well on a mobile if the application is designed properly. Of course you could also use them on a web site and then have the results sent to the computer as SMS or perhaps a link that open the mobiles browser.

An application that provided these services would use a number of the tools we have previously discussed.

  • You need to identify and geocode the locations to confirm where they are and enable the optimisation.
  • You will want to be able to view the locations on a map to verify what is happening, both for confidence and comprehension.
  • You will need to use the Points Of Interest Web Service to look up street addresses and a database (either your own, a custom one such as seen at Bayleys or Professionals Real Estate.  or subscribing to some of the Point of Interest (POI) categories that GeoSmart offers which cover everything from geographical and historical to cafes, restaurants, attractions etc. You can see loyts of examples on AA Maps.
  • The Directions API would be used once you had established the order of the locations you are visiting and can provide turn by turn driving directions on your mobile from a to b to c and so on.

Just as an aside, the GeoSmart POI database contains additional contact information including phone numbers, email, web site etc, where appropriate. This means that you can also provide links in the mobile application so that people could add information to the contact list in the phone, or the ability to directly call the number from the application, without having to memorise, or copy and save the number.

So now you have used a number of GeoSmart tools (web services and API’s) to create your mobile LBS application. GeoSmart has many more tools available and we don’t stop. Our guys are constantly coming up with new tools and applications. If you haven’t found everything you need to develop your application or concept on the Developer Page, leave a comment or question, or contact us by email at info@geosmart.co.nz.

This was the last blog in this series, but there are many more interesting concepts and stories to tell you about, so please keep coming back, bookmark the main blog page or subscribe using your favourite RSS Feeder. And please feel free to comment, it would be great to share your comments and ideas.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | AA Maps, awards, cartography, Delivery, driving, driving directions, geosmart, GIS, gps, lbs, location based services, location innovation awards, map tools, maps, Marketing, Mobile maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, optmisation, proximity based marketing, route optimisation, satnav, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Tools Do You Need to Develop a Mobile LBS Application Part 4

A key component and possibly the second highest webmap query on the Internet is for Driving Directions and this has even more relevance in a mobile scenario. Driving Directions is a key point of difference for GeoSmart in New Zealand. In many other countries, the government provides free or low cost map data of a very high quality and suitable for car navigation and other purposes. In New Zealand this isn’t the case. The LINZ maps are the official datum for cadastral property boundaries. However, their road centreline is derived by a computation of the property boundaries.

As I’ve previously mentioned, New Zealand was town planned in Edinborough in the late 1800’s and many of the roads they draughted were never formed or constructed. They are known as paper roads. These roads exist on paper and on the LINZ map data used by services such as Google Maps, but they physically don’t exist. An example is Threepwood Road in Otago. If you have a look on the hybrid mode of satellite view and map view on Google, you will see that while the road exists on the map data, it physcially isn’t there in the satellite photography. This would cause a real problem if you wanted to go for a drive on it.

When GeoSmart discovered this problem and realised that, while it didn’t matter a lot for printed maps where you still have to analyse the data and make a decision on where you drive yourself, practically speaking, if you used either car navigation or a printed set of directions and couldn’t see a map as such, paper roads could cause a lot of confusion and grief. With LINZ having the only full maps of New Zealand, we decided we had to make our own maps. To do this we drove almost every road in New Zealand and also used a lot of Orthophotography to develop a driven road centreline, eliminating all paper roads and at the same time creating an accurate road centreline.

While collecting this data, we were also able to collect information such as the intersections controls (roundabouts, traffic lights etc), turn restrictions (one way streets, no left turns), speed zones, whether the road was sealed, accuracy of street signs and much more. We were even able to establish things like the angles of corners and inclination of roads (how steep they are etc).

This enabled us to build the car navigation dataset used by all the major brands including TomTom, Navman, BMW, Ford, Siemens VDO etc. It also allowed us to create sites like AA Maps and provide the API’s used on Wises web site. Now you can go to AA Maps, plan your journey and print out turn by turn directions from anywhere in NZ to anywhere in NZ and be confident that the instructions will work.

So, from there to your mobile. The Directions Web Service will work on any device that can identify a start point and where the user wants to go. The User Interface is up to the developer  and will probably vary from phone to phone because of its controls and screen size. For example a touch screen such as that on the iPhone or Windows Mobile, would have functionality closer to a web page, whereas a phone without a touch screen would have to function differently. That is really just a design issue, not a significant barrier.

If your phone has GPS or the ability to use cell tower triangulation, it will know where it is. But it is also possible (if you know) to tell your mobile where you are and where you want to go This could be an address you want to get directions to, or it could be Points of Interest from our POI Web Service mentioned in Part 2 of this series. Once you know the start and end of your journey, you can use the Directions web service to guide people directly to your desired location.

So now you can have turn by turn directions delivered to your phone. This could be send as an SMS with text directions, it could be an MMS combining text directions with an image of the route map, or an image zoomed in to your destination, or it could be information in your mobiles web or WAP browser, with enanced functionality.

Here’s the thing. If you are at home or in the office, you can use your PC, but it is of no use to you in your car or away from the computer. You may not know where you are going to want to go until you are out on the road. An LBS application with the Directions Web Service can give you the same freedom, without the necessity of interpreting a map, or more commonly the map isn’t there when you need it. Pick up the kids, meet someone for coffee, find your way from the car park to the show. All easy to do with LBS.

Just as a footnote, a few days ago a 62 year old woman set of from Christchurch to her  home on the West Coast of the South Island. She didn’t arrive and her friends and family spent a couple of days searching for her after she crashed her car down a 5 metre embankment. She was eventually found but the story could have been very different. She may not have been found at all, or not until it was too late to save her life, or she could have been found very easily. If she had a mobile with GPS, after she had been reported missing, if the phone was within coverage, it could have been called and located using an LBS service using GeoSmart tools and her searchers could have had turn by turn directions on their mobiles, right to the spot where her car was.

I suspect this sort of application will be available within the next few years, but someone has to create it first. Tracking elderly people is something that is also a major opportunity.

April 5, 2009 Posted by | AA Maps, cartography, driving directions, geosmart, gps, lbs, location based services, maps, Mobile maps, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, satnav, tomtom, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why students are entering the Location Innovation Awards

We received 6 entries in the first 3 days of the awards which is wonderful.

Yesterday I presented at Raffles College and at Massey University, telling them about the competition and inviting them to participate. In addition to the teaser of 3 prizes for the best student entries, there are lots of reasons why students should consider this a great opportunity. The University and College agreed and both are being given assignments around the Awards.

So what are the benefits to students?

They have the potential to help shape the technology future they would like to see. How many times have you looked at technology and thought you could design a solution better? Here’s your chance and you don’t have to have the ability to build a working demonstration.

Computing, Business and Marketing students have an opportunity to work on real life solutons using the skills and technologies they have studied. They get the opportunity to access GeoSmart’s API’s and webservices and gain experience using new tools and concepts.

They fit well into the target demographic for LBS users.

A free trip to the US to meet and learn from industry leaders such as Google and Yahoo. There are also lots of other great prizes.

They will receive recognition and be able to positively influce future career or business opportunities and perhaps the chance to get support to commercialise their concepts.

I am looking forward to presenting at other universities over the next week.

October 9, 2008 Posted by | competitions, gps, lbs, location innovation awards, maps, new zealand, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free New Zealand web cartography tools for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Free New Zealand web cartography tools for educational and non-commercial purposes.

As the Gold Sponsor for GeoCart’2008, the National Cartography Conference at Auckland University from 1-3 September, GeoSmart Maps Ltd General Manager Phil Allen has announced that GeoSmart is offering a set of web tools for web cartographers for use free of charge for educational and non-commercial use. He will outline these in a presentation at the conference on Wednesday 3 September.

“As the leading supplier of commercial cartographic products in New Zealand, we would like to encourage development of new applications,” said Phil Allen. “There are so many opportunities for people to develop wonderful web and mobile applications and we have the API’s and web services, as well as a wealth of geo-spatial data about New Zealand. “

The tools GeoSmart is making available include:

· Web mapping API

· Points of Interest API

· Geocoding and reverse geocoding web services

· Directions API

· Route Optimisation API

· Vector Graphics API

· Map datasets (NZ map base, Cadastral map base, Census map base)

Using such tools, web cartographers can build complex web, Location Based Services (LBS) and Mobile based GIS solutions such as; Carbon footprints for businesses by measuring the journey times of staff going to and from work and including their business activities to computing calorie burn when a user creates a walk/cycle/running route. The tools include all of the APIs required and a set of maps with many code examples. Allen’s paper will present these tools and advise how educational institutes and the web cartography community at large can take advantage of these for promoting and enhancing our industry.

For more information please contact Luigi Cappel luigi.cappel@geosmart.co.nz

August 29, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, carbon footprint, cartography, driving, driving directions, gps, maps, new zealand, route optimisation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment