Mobile World Congress Sees Rise in Indoor Location Companies

March 26, 2015  - By
Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy

This year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was the biggest ever, with 95,000 attendees and thousands of booths, conferences and people with sore feet walking a cavernous exhibition hall. While the Geneva Auto Show ran close to the same dates, connected vehicle companies and technology were prominently featured. What was interesting, however, was the rise of indoor positioning companies and mobile advertising agencies with interest in location.

BARCELONA — Joining the 95,000 or so Mobile World Congress attendees were about three dozen companies who are offering indoor location and location advertising services. These companies have exhibited at previous conferences, but not in the numbers this year.

At the huge Fira convention center where MWC was held March 2-5, Los Altos, Calif.-based Pole Star installed more than 600 beacons for indoor location. Visitors were able to be guided to booths and other areas through an interactive map. “Business was good in 2014, we sold 10,000 beacons. We are making money,” said Christian Carle, Pole Star CEO.

One analyst said that the big change at MWC wasn’t the number of indoor positioning companies and demos, but the maturity and breadth of the technology. “Intel announced indoor positioning capabilities in their Wi-Fi chip, and had a demo that was very impressive. Many smaller companies that in past years were showing raw technology were showing polished solutions this year, such as Quuppa, MTI and Sensewhere, said Bruce Krulwich, Grizzly Analytics president, who has authored a report identifying 150 indoor positioning companies. “I definitely see a shake-out coming up, but it won’t be one technology prevailing over another. Different technologies meet different needs in the industry, and different technologies fit different sites. There are technologies that deliver universal indoor positioning, without any infrastructure or preparation, such as Wi-Fi multilateration and sensor fusion.”

Krulwich said that there is a shake-out that’s already started because there are too many companies working on similar technologies. “Start-ups in the area that don’t have differentiating innovation, don’t have integration into retail or other back-end systems, and don’t have market penetration, are already finding themselves in a challenge. But companies with clear innovations and commercial deployments will do fine,” he said.

United Kingdom-based Sensewhere is using crowdsourcing in its indoor positioning software. The software uses radios to scan for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to allow an IP location to reference the sources and form a location database.

“It’s what we call the universal indoor positioning versus venue specific indoor positioning, which can work anywhere — we just need a crowd of people. Our target partners are handset manufacturers, network operators, social media, social network providers, and also chipset guys as well,” said Rob Palfreyman, Sensewhere CEO. “So, there are obviously a lot of companies like Google looking at venues; there is Micello and TomTom looking at add-ins in the indoor location, which is great news, but it just needs to have a technology that can drive the blue dot on their map, and we feel that Sensewhere is the right place to provide that blue dot because of the crowdsourcing global nature of our approach.”

One company, which has developed a popular mobile game, is using its network to attract advertisers for its location-based ad platform. “We already have the infrastructure in place because of our mobile game. With our platform, we can allow advertisers to launch campaigns using our beacon signals and geofencing,” said Pedro Jahara, CEO of Brazil-based RevMob.

New location technology like the ability to track SIM cards was rolled out at MWC. W-Locate, which is partnering with Morpho in Thailand, is tracking SIM cards with its XimLoc product, which the company said is more accurate indoors than other technology.

Even such companies as Geotab, which is a strong player in the fleet market, are leveraging MWC to continue a foothold in the European market. The company displayed its IOX-CAN system that can send data from a mobile device to the MyGeotab system, which can be viewed an analyzed by fleet managers, said Maria Sotra, Geotab marketing manager.

Geotab also partnered with Telefonica in November 2014 to focus efforts in Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom, Sotra said.

At MWC, location-based advertising market is gaining traction as advertisers are seeing the benefit of locating and attracting customers. New York-based xAd said it has doubled its revenue for the second year. “We have billions of mobile ads processed and billions of ad impressions. The company is profitable,” said Dipanshu Sharma, xAd founder and CEO.

He said the company has expanded into France and Germany and added China to its global ad network.

Another company that is using location technology as a differentiator is Airpush, which had another big presence at MWC. The company’s Abstract Banners was a big draw to attendees. Location, particularly geofenced areas, have created a call to action for consumers, which is attractive to advertisers, said Cameron Peeples, Airpush vice president of marketing.

Connected Car Still Big Opportunity at MWC

Although the Geneva Auto Show was starting as the MWC was ending, there were still several big announcements by connected car companies in Barcelona. Even the well-publicized Samsung S6 and S6 Edge and HTC One M9 handset rollouts included Mirrorlink, the connected vehicle standard from the Connected Car Consortium.

In another big announcement, Audi and AT&T said that all 2016 model vehicles equipped with Audi connect will come with the carrier’s 4G LTE or 3G coverage. This increase in services is big because the auto giant just rolled out 4G AT&T service in Audi A3s last year.

AT&T selected Airbiquity to provide end-user registration and device management connected vehicle services for select customer programs. “Airbiquity will deliver these services to AT&T using our Choreo cloud-based connected vehicle services delivery platform and project management, engineering, and operations teams,” said David Jumpa, Airbiquity chief revenue officer. “This is a ‘white label’ agreement whereby AT&T will integrate Airbiquity’s service delivery capability into AT&T’s connected vehicle customer solutions.”

Another location company is making huge inroads in connected vehicle markets with its Glympse for Autos product. Glympse will be installed in select Volkswagen and Peugeot models through MirrorLink, said Bryan Trussel, company co-founder and CEO.

The app allows users to share location from their vehicle by setting the recipient and timer, and hitting send. The company has a similar app for Gogo inflight aviation networks to allow a person on the ground to know where an airplane is for picking up passengers.

In other connected car news, Accenture is providing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles the capability of in-car, Internet-based services. Starting with the new Fiat 500X, Uconnect Live services, which was co-developed by Accenture, will power an infotainment system that offers music and news services, social network access, the ability to monitor driving style and a range of diagnostic services.

Accenture also partnered with Visa for an IoT-based connected car commerce test. At MWC, the company tested a scenario where drivers could order food from the car using cellular, Bluetooth and beacon connectivity. Accenture deployed a similar system with BMW’s ConnectedDrive, which allows customers to choose services in real time for a vehicle.

Health Market Even Has Location Potential

Niche location applications are growing as Internet of Things, or IoT, markets start to grow. One company taking advantage of the mobile market is Annapolis, Md.-based TCS, which featured its VirtuMedix platform in its MWC booth.

The platform is tailored to emergency physicians as part of the growing market for video telemedicine products and mobile health, said Jay Whitehurst, TCS commercial software group president. “It’s already saving lives,” he said of the platform, which combines encryption, navigation, mapping and messaging.

While the product, now being rolled out in a North Carolina emergency medicine group, provides patients with an alternative to urgent care centers and emergency rooms, it also can be used for longer term cases such as assisted living and rehab centers, the company said.

Whitehurst said TCS has made several company acquisitions that have played a part in new product rollouts, which include the company’s Trusted Location. The application allows financial firms, online gaming companies and others to identify and prevent credit-card fraud. The application identifies and validates a device’s location worldwide.

In other Mobile World Congress news:

  • Spirent said its simulators have the capability to evaluate Wi-Fi Offload and Wi-Fi performance of mobile devices on its test framework. The new product allows companies to test multiple devices on a single unit to cover Wi-Fi/LTE mobility and interoperability. The testing is important in light of wireless carriers’ strategy to extend VoLTE in areas where cell coverage is limited, said Saul Einbinder, Spirent vice president, venture development.
  • Google Waze said its Google Mobile Service (GMS) will be available as a preinstall option on mobile devices. OEMs and carriers can preinstall the app on their handsets so consumers can use the service immediately, the company said.
  • Trimble’s ALK said its ALK Maps and route visualization software is now available in Europe. ALK Maps, launched in the United States in 2012, allows users to overlay routing, geocoding points, weather and other features, the company said.

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.

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