Cellphone maps for pedestrians
m-spatial shows Vodafone where to go
Location, location, location. There's been a lot of talk about location based services for mobile phones, writes Rob Bamforth of Bloor Research.
Much has revolved around personalised location oriented advertising, and for a sneak preview of one version of that future take a look at the Tom Cruise film, Minority Report. But there are better ways to employ location based services to generate increased revenues from subscribers.
Giving directions for instance. Knowledge of location makes perfect sense for any type of mapping or navigation service, and there has been much attention focused on driver aids in cars.
But what about the poor pedestrian?
Pedestrians don't need to know where jams are or when to keep on motorways to travel faster. They need the shortest walking distance between two locations. On a device as generic as a mobile phone, they also need a simple way to specify the start and destination locations, and access the directions presented.
A Cambridge, UK-based company, m-spatial, is addressing this challenge with a pedestrian navigation service, MapWay. m-spatial recognised that the places or locations have more meaning than simply the road links between then, and there's no point simply replicating a paper map on a tiny screen. MapWay targets the problem from the perspective of the walking mobile phone user.
The maps are designed to fit the small screen of a mobile phone. The user can view a sequence of maps each tailored to the user's phone, indicating the directions from starting point to destination. At the start of the journey, the user can employ a 'FindMe' feature that makes use of location information provided by the phone network to start the journey off, on the right foot, so to speak.
The destination location can be searched for by address and postcode in a similar way to many online mapping services. However this service is built on a database of more than 20 million building locations. This allows the user to search for and specify a particular landmark, such as restaurant, station or pub. In many cases you're far more likely to know the place you want to head for rather than its address or postcode. This is especially true when you're already mobile, and are informed of a meeting place via a text message or phone call.
Now Vodafone has integrated the MapWay pedestrian navigation into the travel section of Vodafone live! making it immediately accessible to over a million customers across Europe. That's good, but there's a potential opportunity being missed.
The crucial issue with this type of location-based service, is not so much your current location, but the one you're trying to reach. This may seem obvious. But when you examine the reason why the user is travelling, and what they may want to do when they reach their destination, this becomes a potentially important revenue generator.
If Vodafone (or any other operator) can link the direction service with what's on offer at the destination location, it could generate an untapped source of follow on revenue. "Book a table", "buy a ticket", "when's the next bus" are all potential actions which could be useful to the user, if offered depending on the destination.
Either way, m-spatial has a personal mobile application that walks the walk as well as talking the talk.