Movers & shakers in the LBS industry

Movers & shakers in the LBS industry

With around 47,000 visitors, this year's MWC was not as busy as last year when there were 55,000 visitors, and there were somewhat fewer innovations and product releases in most categories.

There is no doubt that the financial crisis has caught up with a number of the LBS providers, but on the other hand it does look like the actual telecom industry is not going to be hit as hard as many other industries, since people are still using their telephones and most operators have healthy cash flows and profits.

Sixteen new handset models with GPS from the four major manufacturers were introduced during February this year, compared with eight last year. Within five years, 90% of all models will feature GPS, so the trend is obvious.

Almost every manufacturer now includes navigation in their offerings. Garmin and Asus recently partnered on the new Nuvifones with navigation in focus. Other top releases are Sony Ericsson's new Idou, LG's Arena and Samsung's Omnia, which attracted a lot of attention.

There is an apparent consolidation trend in the mobile navigation services market. Wayfinder was recently bolted by Vodafone Group, and passing by their empty booth in Barcelona made me realise that from now on they will probably focus completely on their own operators.

Other navigation providers present were Appello, Telmap and Navigon.

Appello, the streamlined Sweden-based player, announced two new agreements. Garmap, the official Southern African distributor of Garmin products launched Garmap Mobile, its off-board navigation system for the African market based on Wisepilot from Appello. Another big opportunity for Appello came with handset vendor LG's decision to install navigation and local search services on LG feature phones worldwide. The services will be initially offered in more than forty countries, where they will be pre-installed on all feature phones.

Intrinsyc also got a piece of the action and announced its selection by LG Electronics to provide its Destinator navigation and LBS software for multiple models of smartphones running on Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems. HTC, meanwhile, is partnering with ALK to include Co-Pilot on the Touch Cruise.

Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ had their clients and partners in their booths as in previous years – a winning concept to gather the application providers offering everything from navigation to security tracking applications. The fact that there are just two major map providers with extensive coverage of navigable data today, make me wonder when will the Map-Wikipedia arise. The free of charge map source for everyone to use, contribute and improve well competing with the commercial counterparts.

The annual LBS Challenge is a nice tradition and a good way to motivate and put small hardworking LBS application developers in the limelight. This year, NAVTEQ announced Skobbler from Germany as the grand prize-winner of the EMEA edition. The winning application – Skobbler a spin-off from German PND manufacturer NAVIGON – is a solution that allows young urban consumers to share information, personal comments and recommendations on places.

The LBS platform and middleware business is still struggling somewhat. Berg Insight forecasts total annual revenues in Europe for mobile location platforms, including A-GPS servers and middleware platforms, to grow from about €17 million in 2008 to €34 million in 2014.

Some companies have partially left the operator business, such as TruePosition, which has shifted its focus to the government market – safety and security solutions for public safety and national security purposes. Autodesk said at the beginning of the year that it would cut its workforce and spin-off its location services unit as it focuses on its core business. Still active are TCS, Mobile Arts, Andrew, Openwave, Redknee, Mobilaris, Cellvision, Genasys, Reach-U and Telenity.

Location-aware social networking seems to be the name of the game. GyPSii announced a new deal with LG to include its location-enabled mobile digital lifestyle application on a range of new mobile devices. LG Electronics' mobile customers will have access to GyPSii's broad range of location-aware functions and mobile lifestyle services – including user-generated content sharing, friend finding and social networking application, as well as the ability to view it all on a map. They are also on a number of Nokia and Blackberry models.

Author: Johan Fagerberg, senior analyst, Berg Insight

Refer also Thomas Hallauer's review of MWC: Ten to watch from MWC Barcelona

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