Plazes – more comments ..

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I am getting more comments about this article from forumoxford

Ben Gibbs says

It’s an interesting site to study like you say, but I’m not so sure the whole idea is that attractive (which is not your point I know, but I just wanted to rant a bit!). I saw the site mentioned on this board before and had a look. It’s very reminiscent of a lot of so-called Web 2.0 sites (including the obligatory aggravating name), but I couldn’t see the point. Why bother? Unless you are particularly altruistic, narcissistic or masochistic why would you bother to plot or keep your own location up to date for others to see, especially strangers? Just seems like a lot of effort for not much reward and a bit creepy too. For me, the promise of LBS is to provide something as basic as a “You Are Here!” map, with enough detail and scrollability to be useful. Yesterday, I got lost driving in the mountains. I wasn’t amazingly lost because I could always follow the road back, but I didn’t have a map and I kept on wondering where I was and if I’d come out somewhere useful if I just kept driving. I had excellent mobile signal strength but no LBS, so in the end I turned back. I could go out and buy a TomTom I suppose, but that’s hundreds of $’s for a rare occurrence and in this case a dollar for a map would have been worth it. Maybe once “You Are Here!” exists, Plazes could be an overlay for those who really want it.

and my old friend Colin Campbell adds

This subject is right on the button in terms of my current activities. I think there is quite a lot to say here. Firstly Plazes reminds me of my early experience with mobile presence servers. The lessons i learned there was that if its not automatic but requires end user setup and maintenance it tends to die pretty quickly! The idea of annotating and maintaining location logs doesnt seem feasible to me. too much bother.

The automatic router detection is fine but this ties you to a fixed line or WiFi if I’m not mistaken. So this is your roaming laptop user which I dont think is the mass market LBS.

The problem with location is someone or something has to facilitate the raw information ie. the X,Y co-ordinates in most cases. Plazes approach seems to compartmentalise the problem into discreet places identified by router address which limits you in technology supported and doesnt allow for the spontaneous LBS requirement which I think is where the market is.

As an example I am seeing a lot if of interest for location in conjunction with video/picture capture. I played a small part in a Research project a partner ran last year capturing location from mobile video cameras. The footage was uploaded to a server in conjunction with the X,Y and I provided the reverse geocoding capability to reference against the film clips. So you immediately have a photoalbum with a geospatial reference in terms of a location or address where your content was captured.

Clealry there are a number of ways this could work and be implemented but the number one issue is how do you capture the X,Y?

The 2 alternatives are cellid and its derivatives if the device has a SIM. Or GPS if the device has the necessary receiver.

Both have their drawbacks and complications and costs!

Certainly the big market in the last 18 months has been GPS based offline personal navigation systems. tomTom etc…

This is huge mass market and the reason probably is because it is simple, and has a one off cost. GPS is free to receive, (The US taxpayer paid to put the things in orbit I believe!) and it can all be blackboxed and operated without a lot of thought from the user.

A more advanced case with this is vehicle tracking and telematics which combines both GPS and SIM and again can be black boxed and ship and forget.

So where does that leave the mobile consumer connected device ie a mobile phone with LBS. I think there are 2 factors in its favour.

One is its ubiquitous and always with you. (Not many folks carry there tomtom around with them!). the other is it allows connectivity with the on-demand services and data which that offers.

So this takes us back to the mobile operator and cellid LBS or until phones have onboard GPS. We are seeing the emergence of early adopter applications offering content & points of interest all based on where the network says you are. And because you are connected this content can be off board. typically this involves a subscription type pricing model for the service or a one off charge for a lookup on the network (which may be prohibitively high)

I think there is a lot of merit in the all the players in the value chain putting something out there on an all you can eat basis at a low monthly tarrif to really explore this market. ie. £x per month and you can have as many location based enquiries and content feeds as you like.

Throw in peer to peer applications such as presence and buddy finders and you may get some real organic growth.

And I also think mobile traffic reporting one to watch. Have you seen the latest TomTom aquisition

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