This article presents an additional business model associated with a Location Based Social Network, this time applied to a mature market – your automobile GPS devices and fleet management.
If you can recall the definition of social networks mentioned in my previous article about location based services value chain, SNs are: “…online communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.” One thing draws my attention, it doesn’t mention that they must know each other or must have anything in common but sharing interest and activities.
Every morning, I drive over an hour to get to the office. Not only me, but all the other people who are at a stand still on I95 before 8AM. It would be fair to say that we share the same activity (moving at a snails pace on the highway) and we all share a common interest “to get there as fast as possible”. So in that sense we are a kind of social network, we just need the means to communicate with each other and organize our efforts to achieve a common goal. So, if there is a need, there is an opportunity.
Some people have their cellular phone integrated with GPS. Others have cellular phone and a GPS device in their cars. Let’s assume that your GPS device is a new one, and has Bluetooth capabilities in such a way that you can connect it with your phone. At this point we are a social network with the means to communicate.
Assume a nice LBS application developer put together a site for our social network – the “www.SpeedI95ers.com” (fictitious name at the time of publishing this note). If I sign up with SpeedI95ers then I will become what we called in previous articles a “data collector”. As part of my contribution to the network, I’ll transmit my current location every “x” minutes. My location is recorded at SpeedI95ers servers, processed, aggregated with other drivers information to calculate the average speed of my small portion of the road. As there are thousands of I95ers like me reporting, I’ll receive in exchange an accurate view of the road traffic status in real time.
SpeedI95ers developers are happy to see their network growing exponentially, and SpeedI95ers investor are chasing them with “Show me the money before I buy a server farm”
As Tim O’Reilly defined “Data is the next Intel Inside”. Now with the data in hand, let’s see a few possible applications. NOTE: As this is a business forum, I’ll address as much as possible the commercial side without entering in discussion about the technology.
So what would I pay for?
I look at my windshield and I think why my Satellite radio and my GPS can’t be only one device. I already pay for the satellite radio communication, and the road information can be a premium channel for a few dollars more per month. Wouldn’t be nice having your GPS calculating routes and changing the optimal route with dynamic data? Now you can sell the information to/through the Sat/GPS Company.
Here is another nice idea: I would like to save my appointments in my calendar with an associated address. As my phone has a GPS and knows where I am, I will pay a premium price to have my calendar notifying me “Hit the Road Jack” as it knows where I need to be next and the current status of the traffic.
I can continue with many more, delivery routes, movies, etc. But you get the idea.
A few words about privacy. This is a huge concern for many people. What if they use my info to know where I’m all the time? What if the police/insurance companies subpoena my usual speed habits? Technical problems, technical solutions – assure your customers that collected data is ripped of any personal data before it comes to the servers, and once aggregated you save ONLY the aggregated values and NOT the individual contributions. Meaning there is NO individual histories. Information is money, but don’t be so greedy. Most importantly, make sure you have a good Privacy Advocate on board that can direct the company to good business practices.
The business of combining old with new is complex, and requires out-of-the-box thinking. The solution presented in this post can be easily combined with other mobile 2.0 models and strategies presented before.
Can you see the new solutions coming? How can you monetize them? Did you consider milking the off-line cow?
More to come – but I would appreciate your comments.