The navigation ecosystem is changing rapidly. I’ve mentioned in previous posts the consequences of the commoditization of GPS devices. During the last two weeks, I had the opportunity to read many articles about how the navigation market is changing.
This is a time of WAR.
The New York Times published in October Stops and Starts of GPS Apps “… those portable devices [GARMIN TOMTOM etc] are under attack from a new source: the smartphone, and particularly Apple’s iPhone. The newest version of the iPhone’s operating system supports turn-by-turn navigation … According to a report from the iSuppli research firm, GPS applications for smartphones are about to explode, growing from 2.5 percent of users today to 10.5 percent in 2013. And half of those will be iPhone owners…”
Even Forbes Magazine refers to this trend in warfare terms Google’s Navigation Bombshell “…Location-based service providers suspect the search giant is working on a free navigation app… Google, which generally gives its software away for free and recoups its investment through advertising, would likely sell ads within the navigation application rather than charge users… In early October, Google decided to use this data for its U.S. maps, ending a licensing agreement with map provider Tele Atlas…The shift is telling because companies like Tele Atlas require partners (such as Google) to pay fees for each person who uses their data…”
Having Google in the market with free navigation applications redefines the battle. Companies will need to be really brave to fight this giant. Without any doubt Google gave a completely new meaning to “The Land of the FREE and the home of the Brave”…
If War is what we are speaking about, Sun Tzu teaches us three valuable lessons. The first is that “…in war, numbers alone confer no advantage…”. The second is that “…as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness…”, and the third is that “… those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle …. They conquer by strategy…”
If this is about strategy, this is my game!
Avoiding the competitor’s strengths and striking at their weaknesses
All (accurate) navigation systems are based on GPS data. If the weakness of GPS receivers is that they need a clear view to the sky to successfully determine location, the strategy is to attack the indoor world. Additionally, the GPS accuracy lies between 50 to 500 feet, the strategy then is to find customers that need higher accuracy (~10 feet). The third, but not the last weakness, is the need for maps. As we saw before, Google has generated large amount of map data, and in general the market is dominated by TeleAtlas and Navteq. The strategy is to navigate to “uncharted territories”.
Redefining the Battleground – Embracing indoor navigation.
A few weeks ago I was approached by an inventor with a (published) patent. The general idea calls for an indoor navigation system that uses no GPS data. His idea is very good and to my judgment relatively easy to implement.
The system automatically detects a signal directly from sensors, without requiring the communication with a central system, data plans, or even cellular communication. These sensors are small pocketsize Bluetooth transceivers. There is no need for pairing as every Bluetooth device’s tag has a unique ID. This ID can be used for locating the tag.
Indoor navigation – A winning strategy that redefines the navigation ecosystem?
There is infinite number of indoor navigation applications. The most intuitive one is a person walking into a mall that wishes to locate a specific store, or a particular aisle in a department store or even a specific item on a shelf! From here, you can apply the same principle to a customer looking for a specific conference room, a particular booth in a tradeshow, a ride in an amusement park, or a known piece of art in a museum. If not for the convenience, do it to save a tree. No more printed maps. Go Green!!!
The advantage of using Bluetooth is that this technology is ubiquitous, it’s implemented everywhere. Additionally, is a low cost, low power technology, and when it’s relatively free of obstruction it can provide a ~2 meter error range. Furthermore, a Bluetooth infrastructure can be used for purposes like remote monitoring and control among others.
The ecosystem is completely redefined. An architect with CAD drawings is now a map provider. Every single facility is now a navigable site. Every big retailer willing to drive customers to specific products is a potential customer (they can “route” them through the sales isles if they want). Every shopping property management firm is a customer, as well as convention centers organizations or associations like the Global Retail Executive Council.
We have an ecosystem where the traditional navigation giants are not necessarily present, and there is no defined leader (yet-11/09).
The business opportunity – define a new market
Indoor Navigation redefines Location Based Services as we know them today. The first companies to enter this market will be able to define, create, implement and license ($) new standards and applications. Imagine this: I installed an indoor navigation application in my phone/PDA and subsequently downloaded the map of the mall I usually go to. Next week I’ll visit San Francisco, and upon arrival I would like to visit a local shopping center, or use it at the convention I’ll attend. My application will be useful ONLY if the map of that SF mall or convention center is compatible with the one installed in my phone. For sure I’ll NOT install an additional application per site I visit. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Sounds interesting? Ring a bell? Would you like to exponentiate these ideas? Maybe invest time AND money?
Give me a call! (And leave your comments).