Google to Charge High-Volume Users for Map Use

November 9, 2011  - By
Image: GPS World

It couldn’t stay free forever. Google’s recent decision to charge high-volume users may force some of the larger companies to look elsewhere for alternatives. In the meantime, attendees at two San Francisco Bay Area conferences learned that push location marketing is not the cool thing to be into, privacy still is a big deal that thwarts consumer acceptance…and that the word “experience” is being used too much.


SAN FRANCISCO — Google’s major partners, who have more than 25,000 Google Maps application uses per day, will be charged starting next year — a decision that was a hot topic at the Geo Loco conference here. Some say it won’t hurt small companies much — and may even help companies who compete with Google. Either way, some say the decision was inevitable for companies making a profit — and using Google’s resources for free.

“It’s really not going to affect a lot of people — just those at the over 25,000 uses a day threshold,” said J. Kim Fennell, deCarta CEO, on a Geo Loco panel. Fennell said he sees a lot of commoditization of the LBS space, from maps to navigation. “The big thing, now that maps are commoditized, is better local search capabilities for the consumer,” he said.

One panel member, Gary Gale, director of Places Registry for Nokia, disagreed, saying that while Google keeps on giving its location products and capability away for free, it may force companies to look elsewhere when it decides to charge them. “People don’t like change. Some people will look for alternatives,” he said.

According to published reports, high-volume websites will be offered Google Maps Premium, a paid service that costs $10,000 per year. Planned fees will be $4 per 1,000 page loads over the 25,000 per day threshold.

Google’s Bernardo Hernandez, head of global emerging platforms, told Geo Loco attendees that the company, which recently purchased restaurant guide publisher Zagat, says there are millions of Google Maps users worldwide each day. He said that heading use trends is the continued growth in mobile applications. “Phones are pocket guides,” he said in a reference to the Zagat purchase.

Facebook Debunks Push Location Marketing

If one looks beyond a young high-tech company speaker constantly saying the word “experience” (as in consumer experience or user experience), sometimes something important is said. Facebook’s Paul Adams, global brand experience manager, said that companies should not use push location marketing to consumers. Rather, they should have their friends and family tell them what products and services they should use.

Adams said that Facebook is the platform to do that — basically saying that the average Facebook user has 130-170 friends that equate into about 8,000 friends of friends, exploding into even larger numbers for friends of friends of friends (whew!).

In other Geo Loco news, location-based deals seem to be lackluster in revenue growth. Groupon Now’s location-based capability is only 1 percent of its revenue. “The motivation for merchants and consumers to participate [in Groupon Now’s program] is just not there. People just aren’t using it,” said David Hagreaves at the Geo Loco conference. Hargreaves, a consultant, said that the big ticket items that Groupon seems to be excelling at — restaurants, spa/beauty — are just not seeing the numbers for LBS.

Indoor Positioning Big Topic at Two Conferences

Indoor positioning capability, boosted by Wi-Fi and other technology, seemed to be the hot market topic at both CSR Locations and Beyond Summit 2011 and Geo Loco conferences. CSR rolled out its SiRFstar V and SiRFusion location platform at their conference.

The products fit in the company’s strategy of offering and enabling mainstream consumer location indoors or outdoors, said Kanwar Chadha, CSR’s chief marketing officer.

Years ago, it took a long time to get an outdoor position fix, much less a seamless handoff of a signal indoors. However, Wi-Fi technology, combined with satellite positioning, pedestrian dead reckoning (using MEMs sensors), and crowd-sourced location and aided data from a cloud-based server, has made accurate indoor positioning possible, CSR contends.

Such companies as Micello attended both the CSR and Geo Loco conferences to hawk products that use indoor positioning. Micello is working to offer developers access to thousands of indoor maps to enable applications for airports, trade shows, shopping malls and other complex indoor venues.

In other Locations and Beyond Summit news, privacy was a hot topic, though it is being labeled as a service provider problem, not a developer’s. “The industry has a lot more work to do in regards to privacy. The younger generation understands the implicit use of location — and privacy has been built into the infrastructure,” Chadha said. “We have no control of those elements. That responsibility belongs to the service provider.”

A CSR moderator, Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, said that the younger generation “scares the heck out of me” in terms of their willingness to embrace location services without care of privacy issues. “But having said that, you can’t beat the value of LBS when you need it,” he said.

In other conference news:

  • David Chiu, who spoke at Geo Loco and is running for San Francisco mayor, said there is big opportunity for companies who want to work with the city. He said buses don’t arrive on time — nor does the city know where they are most of the time.
  • James Urquhart, who spoke at the CSR conference and is cloud computing and virtualization marketing manager for Cisco, said that the industry has a rare and huge opportunity to reduce costs that directly affect profit and loss in the M2M space.
  • Duncan McCall, who spoke at CSR and is CEO of PlaceIQ, said that while location-based advertising has been promised for some time, there still are not enough location impressions. He says data is not yet aggregated together in a useful way.
  • While folks have been quick to point out that LBA is in its early stages, Alistair Goodman, Placecast CEO, at CSR, said that his company is seeing advertisers spend six- and seven-figures on campaigns in this space.
  • Kanwar Chadha, CSR CMO, said he does not like the term LBS, but prefers “location experience.”
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About the Author: Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy is GPS World’s editor for location-based services, writing a monthly column for the LBS Insider newsletter. Dennehy has been writing about the location industry for more than 20 years. He covered GPS and location technology for Global Positioning & Navigation News for seven years. His articles on the wireless industry have been published in both consumer and trade magazines and newspapers.