Alternative positioning technologies will become increasingly important, says ABI

Alternative positioning technologies will become increasingly important, says ABI

Many next-generation LBS applications such as social networking, local search, advertising, and geo-tagging are expected to be used in urban and indoor environments – where GPS either underperforms in terms of fix times or accuracy, or fails altogether.

"Users expect a seamless and transparent location experience regardless of application or environment," says ABI Research director Dominique Bonte. "Since no single positioning technology can provide this, the future will be about hybrid positioning systems. Combining A-GPS, Cell-ID, Wi-Fi, cellular, motion sensors, and even TV broadcast and proximity technologies such as Bluetooth, NFC and RFID. A-GPS, Wi-Fi and Cell-IDwill be the winning combination offering accuracy, availability, interoperability and short fix times at low cost."

Bonte says that these hybrid systems will represent 25% of all positioning solutions by 2014. "Stand-alone Cell-ID and/or Wi-Fi will remain important in regions with low GPS handset penetration."

While many barriers such as handset penetration levels and the lack of open platforms still hinder the adoption of alternative positioning methods, the licensing of Skyhook Wireless'sWi-Fi positioning to GPS-chipset vendors Broadcom, Qualcomm, SiRF, and CSR will contribute to widespread availability. Similarly, Sprint's recent decision to allow third-party developers access to its network-based location platform via location aggregators such as Wavemarket, Loc-Aid, and uLocate will stimulate the use of hybrid positioning.

At the same time, alternative positioning technologies are shaking up the entire location ecosystem. Major vendors such as Google are building their own reference databases of cell-tower and/or Wi-Fi hotspot locations via user-generated content and/or self-learning mechanisms, allowing them to offer LBS services independent of carriers. More importantly, it is likely they will make their location assets available to smaller vendors, further endangering the position of the carriers.

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