Location Based Services in India: Where are you?

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Imagine partying in a pub and you get a beep that your friend (or maybe, ex-gf) too is present in the same pub!

Well, Location based service is in and India will very soon witness a rise in apps that are built for local market.

Location Based Services: A Primerlocation based service india

Location-based services (LBS) are wireless ‘mobile content’ services which are to provide location-specific information to mobile users moving from location to location. Unlike mobile (or mobile internet) services, LBS doesn’t require you to enter your area details. [wikipedia]

Typical Location Based Services applications fall under following categories:

  • B2B (Business to Business) : e.g. resource tracking (fleet management, courier tracking etc)
  • C2B (Consumer to Business) , i.e. Proximity-based actuation services like searching for a business/restaurant etc.
  • B2C (Business to Consumer), i.e. Proximity based notifications (push/pull) : Receive targeted ads, location based billing/discounted ads etc
  • C2C (Consumer to Consumer): Share your location/status with friends, Track your friends etc.

As per a research conducted by iCrossings, most US mobile Internet users are interested in task-oriented content.
Users picked maps, weather, local information and news above entertainment and sports as the content categories they searched (i.e. more task oriented usages compared to generic info based ones)

Challenges in LBS:

One of the most significant challenge in LBS is privacy. Users need to opt-in to use the service. Apart from piracy, most of the users will not be comfortable with “somebody” tracking their behavior (whereabouts, consumer behaviors, and financial transactions, mobile usage etc).

LBS in India

According to industry estimates, 40-50% of handsets sold today are GPRS-enabled. Even then, few people who own GPRS sets use them to access the Internet.
Apart from the low internet usage in mobile devices, LBS is India has not yet taken off in a big way because of the following reasons:

  • Lack of reliable GIS data : volatile infrastructure, lack of fine grained deterministic data
  • Limited and ever changing Infrastructure
  • Too many languages, location names do not follow any convention (there is a formal name for a place and then, there is the commonly used name.)
  • Cost/Maintenance of devices.

LBS players in India

BSNL has launched it’s Location Based service in East Zone and is currently offering enterprise services as well as consumer services:

  • Enterprises can locate, monitor and manage their mobile assets and employees in a secure way using a simple Web browser named ‘Real time fleet and asset management’.
  • ‘Friend finder’ which alerts subscribers when one of their friends in their buddy list is in close proximity to their location or vice versa.
  • ‘Location-based advertisement’, broadcasts advertisement/promotion information to subscribers.
  • ‘Location-based chatting service’ that enables users to communicate and/or meet someone with same interests within the same vicinity. [source]

On the other front, MSN is in talks with Indian telcos to penetrate in Indian mobile market.

The company wants to partner with carrier networks to develop an intuitive search system in which users need not provide the location data. For example, a mobile user can search for the nearest hospital in case of emergency, without specifying where he or she is. Based on a method called triangulation, which determines the phone’s location based on signal strength to the nearest cell tower, and using an existing database, the system can throw up search results listing nearby hospitals. For high-end handsets with built-in GPS (Global Positioning System, which pinpoints location by using satellites) chips, location can be determined within 10-30ft. Other GPRS-enabled handsets can be “triangulated” to within 50ft of the location. [source]

BSNL plans to roll out it’s LBS service nationwide by December 2007.

Successful LBS implementation will result in new advertising channel for advertisers who are facing the heat from TRAI’s DNC registry.

What’s your take on LBS?
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