The Year Ahead for LBS

In 2010, location-based services (LBS) made a major shift towards becoming mass-market, especially basic navigation. Consumers have come to expect to get a well-designed navigation service for free. It’s important to note that at the same time, they are not willing to compromise on the quality of service, in terms of maps, timely information, etc. Hence, LBS prospects for 2011 shift from providing users with great navigation, to providing them with an array of location-based services that go beyond navigation. Here are what we at Telmap feel will be the top LBS trends to look out for in 2011…
Location as a constantly-active infrastructure layer
Location has become an infrastructure layer that’s constantly active on devices, available to optimize a variety of services and activities that are managed through today’s devices. In order to keep the location layer active at all times, devices will be able to seamlessly draw location-data through a variety of location technologies, whether it’s wi-fi, Cell-ID, GPS, or NFC. These transitions are, in most cases, invisible to the user, who can enjoy location features no matter where and when they may need them.

Social activity on the mobile fully integrates location capabilities and features
More and more users are now managing their social networking activities on their mobile, and this trend is expected to grow even further in 2011. A clear indication of that is that in February 2010, Facebook reached 100m mobile users. In August 2010, merely six months later, this number doubled to 200m.

Consumers are now creating, posting and sharing helpful, relevant, real-time content, and in many cases, they do so through their familiar, web-based social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, both of which have added location capabilities to their offering during 2010.

During 2011 we expect to see a proliferation of services leveraging these added location features, heightening consumers’ awareness and usage of location in their day-to-day mobile activities still further. As a result, users will now have access to reviews, recommendations and group-buying offers (such as Groupon) with location-filters added to them. Users will be able to access benefits like these that are relevant to their current location, making their on-the-go experience richer, more efficient and enjoyable.

Driving and navigation will be enriched with road- and driving-related information from the local community
As online communities go mobile, and share retail, commercial and social information, it’s only natural that they will also share road- and driving-related content. Speed cameras, police traps, traffic jams, road closures, road incidents and more, will be shared among community members. This user-generated content will be added to data from official, quality content providers and will be used to enrich the officially-supplied content, as well as to validate it.

The combination of data from content providers, together with the drivers-generated content, will make for a smoother, safer navigation and driving experience. The mass necessary for this type of combined information to be accurate and efficient will become a reality in many territories during 2011.

Tracking is out, sharing is in
We have seen, in recent years, several attempts to create tracking services. One example is Google Latitude. These services never reached mass market usage and popularity. We believe that’s due to the fact that users clearly do not want to be tracked at any time, and prefer to willingly share their location information whenever it’s relevant to the people they communicate with; to the activity they engage in; on a limited-time, limited-group basis. We believe that location-based services will need to seek user approval to share location information, in order to maintain users’ trust and sense of control.

Ultra-local experience
Users, in most cases, use LBS to explore their home environment at the micro-level: neighbourhood, city and sometimes country. Users will seek services that help them seamlessly pay for local services (e.g., parking), book tickets, and make reservations for local events and venues (e.g., movies, concerts and restaurants). They will also want services that enable them to communicate with their local community about local incidents and events, compare prices for day-to-day purchases (e.g., gas), and more.

The quality of the day-to-day, local experience is a key success factor for any location-based service. Therefore, we will see the emergence of more and more ultra-local content providers that enable accurate, up-to-date search and discovery in users’ immediate vicinity.

Cross-operator, cross-networks cooperation is key
Mobile operators understand the power of location, and its role in optimizing end-user experiences. Therefore, we believe that operators will continue to make headway in providing location-capabilities to their subscribers. Operators understand that in order to do that successfully, they need to work together, and create interoperability and openness across networks and operators, as they did for SMS. Therefore, virtual borders will fall during 2011, and location-based services will flow across mobile networks, operating systems, devices, social networks, etc.

Providers who can serve as a central platform for a meaningful cluster of location-based interactions will become more popular and sought after by operators who understand that their subscribers are looking to interact with people and local businesses in their close vicinity, on a day-to-day basis, all from once place. 

Relevant, personal retail offers
2011 is expected to be a big year for mobile advertising, after the experimentation of recent years, as most major brands come to consider mobile as an integral part of their media schedule, driven by the reach and interactivity of smartphones and their constantly-increasing user base. It is only natural, therefore, that the hype and usage around LBS, combined with the mobile advertising evolution, will drive the monetization of LBS. It definitely presents new opportunities to generate revenue streams through location-based advertising, combined with relevant and personal retail offers.

With the location element added, offers can be highly contextualized, relevant and timely. LBS can offer a variety of formats to advertisers, such as sponsored search results, branded POIs, banners, coupons and vouchers, creating enormous conversion potential. By considering user behaviour, search history and profile information, brands can create highly targeted and engaging ads and promotions, offering a variety of calls-to-action, such as view offer/business details; click-to-call; browse; map; share with a friend; and of course, drive-to a location.

Quality mapping is the basis to all
As many location-based services are now expected to be delivered for free, we saw many providers turning to free, user-generated maps in 2010. As location-based services are often sensitive, and require high levels of immediacy, however, we believe that quality maps are crucial in order to provide excellent LBS, and that user-generated maps are not yet there.

Although it’s costly and time-consuming to provide good maps that deliver accurate navigation, or any other well designed LBS offering, it’s also crucial. Therefore, we believe that quality LBS providers who are in it for the long haul will continue to rely on official, quality content providers, combined with a certain level of user-generated content and maps. Cross-referencing and verifications between the two sources will be used to guarantee quality levels and timeliness of the information.

The LBS landscape is changing
We saw a lot of turmoil in the LBS landscape during 2010. We believe that in 2011, Nokia’s LBS presence in Europe will weaken. The smartphone arena is the most relevant arena for LBS, where such services prosper. Nokia is constantly making significant efforts in the smartphone arena, but still, the average Nokia user, even after buying a smartphone, doesn’t regularly use those capabilities that make the phone a smartphone, but rather, continues to use the basic functionalities of a feature phone; mainly voice and text messaging. As for Google’s LBS presence, we believe that it will continue to make strides and progress. Nevertheless, the fact that it’s only supported by Android devices will limit its ability to become the location infrastructure standard in mobile.

Telmap firmly believes that 2011 is the year when location-based services will go beyond navigation, to serve all of users’ day-to-day needs while out-and-about. That’s why we have  designed our mobile location companion as a centralized platform that serves as a social portal, shopping guide, and personal concierge; virtually a meeting place for all things needed for a rich on-the-go experience: seamless access to your community, razor-sharp local search and content, relevant and timely retail offers, and of course, detailed turn-by-turn instructions that will take you where you want to go.


Motti Kushnir is chief marketing officer at Telmap