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Location technologies prominently featured at MWC

March 18, 2016  - By
Virtual reality was huge at MWC, such as this demonstration at the ST Telecom booth. (Photo: Kevin Dennehy)

Virtual reality was huge at MWC, such as this demonstration at the ST Telecom booth. (Photo: Kevin Dennehy)

When more than 50 companies ask for interviews during the Mobile World Congress, which has grown to more than 100,000 attendees, you have to jot down what the product, service or strategy is — and then move on. So, here’s a wrap up of my four days in Barcelona.

BARCELONA, Spain — Location technologies are playing a prominent role in the development of Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled products and services, particularly for connected vehicles, at Mobile World Congress here, held Feb. 28-March 2.

One location company, Glympse, partnered with two major companies, Google and Samsung, for their location sharing products. With Google, Glympse is part of the company’s Project Tango, which provides a mobile device with 3-D motion tracking and depth sensing.

Samsung launched its Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones to a packed auditorium of guests and press members. While the phone has an improved camera and battery life, the S7 and S7 Edge also have Glympse’s location-sharing capability for both an installed Car Mode and an app called My Place. “The Google Tango [product] allows a mobile device to know where it is, and our location-aware product allows people to see where their friends are. It’s been a great partnership,” said Bryan Trussell, Glympse founder and CEO.

Indoor location and mobile advertising

The number of mobile advertising and indoor positioning companies at MWC seems to be increasing each year. Most companies involved say the market, which has such big players as Google, Intel and ST Telecom involved, is finally arriving.

Polestar’s Jean Chenebault, COO, said the company has its Bluetooth beacons in hospitals, airports and shopping centers. “We are at Schiphol Airport, Yale Hospital and many others. We have 600 beacons installed at the Mobile World Congress,” he said. “The market for indoor location has really grown.”

At MWC, indoor positioning vendor Indoor Atlas signed a deal with Yahoo! Japan, which is the leading Internet portal in the country with 63 billion page views a month. The company, founded in 2012 with seven employees, uses geomagnetic positions based on the magnetic sensor in a smartphone. The company’s biggest customer, Baidu, is using the magnetic positioning in its maps product, said Indoor Atlas CEO Janne Haverinen.

Another company says its system is complimentary to GPS to deliver latitude, longitude and floor-level altitude in areas the satellite-based system doesn’t work, or works poorly. “We determine positioning, again, where GPS doesn’t work well,” said Christian Gates, NextNav vice president, strategy and development. A bonus point for NextNav is that it doesn’t burn up wireless spectrum, which is expensive, unlike cellular positioning, said Tom Wrappe, NextNav vice president, ecosystem development.

Industry veteran Wrappe was with SnapTrack and went to Qualcomm when that company purchased the assisted-GPS company that helped spur location in cell phones. Gary Parsons, former XM Satellite Radio CEO, heads the company’s board of directors.

A mobile advertising company, xAd, rolled out its MarketPlace Campaign builder that allows companies to control location campaigns. Using real-time location data, MarketPlace shows marketers available visitors and brand location. “Instead of showing an advertiser just impressions and clicks to a website, with the location capability we can show them that a customer went to the store to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken,” said Dipanshu Sharma, xAd co-founder and CEO.

Kevin Dennehy in VR goggles at Samsung press conference.

Kevin Dennehy in VR goggles at Samsung press conference.

TCS has new name, showcases products and services at MWC

The acquisition of TeleCommunications Systems by Comtech Telecommunications for an estimated $431 million was completed during MWC. The company will not see personnel reductions, and its operations in Annapolis, Maryland, will continue, said Jay Whitehurst, Comtech president of commercial software group.

The company had several location services at MWC, including its Trusted Location application that provides such organizations as online gaming companies and financial entities a system to identify and prevent fraud using location algorithms. The company, which launched its VirtuMedix product at the 2015 MWC, said it has signed up several doctors for the patient monitoring system.

European fleet market growing

After a slow initial period, the European market for fleet tracking products has seen phenomenal growth, said Edward Kulperger, Geotab vice president, Europe. “We have nearly 500,000 units worldwide, and sell our products through an authorized reseller network,” he said. Geotab, which has a European partnership with Telefonica, offers MyGeotab software for in-vehicle driver coaching, engine diagnostics, real-time GPS vehicle tracing and other functions for the continent’s trucking companies.

Another company, Aeris, has had ups and downs in the past eight years, but has been seeing steady growth recently, said Dan McBride, Aeris senior director of marketing. “We have 7 million connected users through a MVNO-style service provider strategy,” he said. McBride said the company’s IoT products aren’t cookie-cutter in that they are tailored for each project. Currently, the company is pursuing most IoT markets in Europe: fleet, payment, healthcare and network security, to name a few.

Skyhook offers wearables location context

Unlike the Consumer Electronics show (CES), outside of a few new products from Garmin and Mio there wasn’t a big splash at MWC for wearables. However, companies are incorporating location technology on fitness child safety and personal security wearables, said David Bairstow, vice president of product at Skyhook Wireless, which uses GPS, Wi-Fi and cell towers for hybrid positioning.

“Without location you are blind to the user’s surroundings and will be reliant on a paired smartphone to complete your solution,” he said. “The use cases are endless when you pair these devices with location, varying from the ability to save a life, to keeping tabs on your kids, to capturing and adding context to photographic memories in real time. When accuracy is of the utmost importance, precise location can fill the void. The need for location on wearable devices is obvious and opens up a new world of capabilities for the wearable industry that they haven’t had historically.”

Waze finding success in Europe

Another company with a sluggish European start, Waze, is seeing big growth in central Europe, particularly in Italy and France, said Carlos Gomez of Waze. “We are improving the product to tailor it to European driving in city centers,” he said. Part of Google, Waze doesn’t sell any data it collects from users of the crowd-sourced map product. “We don’t sell it and are concerned with companies who sell data to third parties,” Gomez said.

Saying it is the only pure-play navigation company now that HERE is owned by a German automaker consortium, Navmii says its app has been downloaded more than 26 million times in 187 countries. “Many people do not know that Navmii builds its own maps, which it sells to companies around the world,” said Peter Atalla, Navmii founder and CEO. Navmii is also very much in the connected car and autonomous driving space. We are releasing a new version of the app called Navmii AI, which uses computer vision systems to provide ADAS features to drivers.”

Like Waze, Navmii enlists its users, and the data they provide, to contribute to the map to warn the community of upcoming disruptions. “This intelligence enables Navmii to generate high-quality traffic and map data,” Atalla said. “We believe that navigation should be free to users. We make money from the data collected (traffic and mapping) and white-labeling our technologies to power other devices and apps.”

Location critical for connected car payments

Accenture, Intel and Visa collaborated on a product to demonstrate the potential for next-generation connected vehicles. The demonstration showed how it can be securely and temporarily connected to personalized profiles for car sharing services, take advantage of biometric identification technologies and use location-based services (LBS) ecosystems, said Marcello Tamietti, Accenture Mobility Connected Transport lead.

“The proof of concept is integrated with easy-to-use, safe and secure contextual commerce services to transform the car-sharing and driving experience through IoT technologies, whether the vehicle is owned by the driver or not,” he said.

Contextual commerce relies on a payments system being situationally aware, and removing friction from the payments process, Tamietti said. “In this scenario, by applying analytics to data collected from a car on the behavior of a particular driver, services can then be offered through an LBS ecosystem that match a driver’s preference, and then make paying for it [seamless],” he said.

Security issues not going away

As companies roll out products, and differentiation is important, security and data privacy will become a top priority. “Even consumers with little interest or understanding of technology will see news stories about hacked devices and companies, and as a result will look to be reassured about how secure their personal data is, but also how far that data will be ‘legally’ shared with other companies,” Tamietti said. “Recent [Accenture] research found that for nearly half of respondents, security concerns and privacy risks rank among the top three barriers to buying an IoT device or service.”

Creating a secure connected vehicle will involve cooperation among all members of the ecosystem, at every step of the manufacturing process, and throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle, Tamietti said.

Every device connected to a network is a potential source of weakness in a targeted hacking attack, said Kevin Curran, senior member of IEEE and senior lecturer at the University of Ulster. “We might also find, however, that some of the features we are adding to cars, which use a connection such as dialing 911 when a car crashes and an airbag is deployed, with the GPS coordinates leads to lives being saved. We really have to consider the benefits that come from more connected features versus the dangers that may arise to a car vulnerable to remote attacks — which will, of course, happen,” he said.

Timing important for IoT netwoks

LBS and timing information are key enablers for IoT networks and applications. The time, location and velocity accuracy provided by multi-constellation systems provides the fundamental building blocks for numerous IoT applications, said Stephen Douglas, Spirent Communications Solutions and Technical Strategy, IoT. These applications range from simple consumer monitoring devices such as pet trackers through smart-city transportation management solutions to the future of connected cars with autonomous driving controls, he said.

Because of the time-consuming and resource-intensive testing process, sometimes test conditions are unreliable, Douglas said. “With a GNSS signal simulator, you can test your device in any combination of conditions, and repeat the same test conditions over and over again to assess the impact of your modifications,” he said. “Then, when you are confident your device works well in simulated test conditions, you can significantly speed up and lower the cost of field testing by recording the RF signal environment at a test site, and playing it back to the device in the lab.”

In other Mobile World Congress news:

  • This year’s MWC topped 100,000 attendees for the first time. A show getting that big loses its ability to have people network, which was always the big draw for me over CES. The show had 2,200 exhibits/booths.
  • The big deal this year at both CES and MWC was virtual reality. Having VR goggles on most of the time at Samsung, and seeing Mark Zuckerberg walk up to announce a partnership with the Korean giant and his giant Facebook social media platform, was surreal. One company, AirPush, is leaning forward to start its own advertising on VR platforms called VirtualSky, said Cameron Peeples, Airpush CMO.
  • Join Lyft, BMW Group, HERE and 25 other speakers at Driverless, The Business of Autonomous Vehicles, which is March 22-23 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, San Francisco Airport. Panels feature new technology, executive insights on the future, investments, legal and cyber security and mapping. For more information, go to or
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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.

2 Comments on "Location technologies prominently featured at MWC"

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  1. William K. says:

    Security is BY FAR the most important feature for any internet connected anything, from a toaster to an air conditioner. If they are connected and if they include any control function then a hack can cause problems. If the items have no control function than the problem is loss of privacy, also unwanted but not nearly so deadly. Of course, given the typical quality of most home electronics stuff today it is probable that most devices will be hacked most of the time. So setting the air conditioner temperature from a smartphone may be just what some snooper wants to see, so as to know you will be gone for half a day.

  2. Sean K says:

    Kevin, sounds like you had a busy trip to Spain! Thanks for the great insight into the near future of the industry. Auto and truck makers, adding all this new technology into their products need to be responsible and consider security firewalls installed as OEM. For those readers looking for GPS tracking devices for personal or commercial usage check out