Location enabling your wireless business applications
As most wireless carriers are keenly aware, customer acquisition and retention are essential to sustainable growth. Customers of B2B or B2C wireless services have more choices then ever about when, where and from whom to buy location-enhanced services. Keeping them satisfied and coming back is paramount - and an ongoing challenge. Location-based services offer mobile operators an excellent opportunity to deliver value-added information that is integrated with that of customers and suppliers, creating a positive business experience. The result is a suite of rich, highly integrated, and personalized location-enhanced services that can be accessed via wireless devices.
Customers want the provision of location-based service to be automatic - they want carriers and wireless portals to take care of integrating a variety of Internet and enterprise information services with a customer's preferences, enabling a user to focus on informed decision making. For example, a real-time traffic application at one end may automatically access multiple information sources at other companies' servers, across the Internet on dozens of Web sites, on other servers within the organization - and integrate the information. A customer checking on the availability of a hotel in a given city might access geocoding services that identify the location of the customer and nearest hotels, and would cull data from real-time travel services to check availability and book a room and from a driving directions service to route the customer to the hotel.
For wireless location-enhanced services to be effective, they must be integrated with front-office and back-office applications. By integrating enterprise information with customer information, carriers obtain comprehensive business intelligence, and value builds exponentially. Mobile operators become better positioned to use real customer information to determine wireless service expansion, improve service delivery, and determine load demands. On the customer end, by automating information integration and interpretation, the customer is able to deal with a much richer set of location-enhanced information for better decision-making. With the introduction of event-driven e-Business, wireless carriers and portals can send fresh information as it becomes available or as users roam into a new location, rather than waiting for customers to check in with the service. Customers, mobile operators, and partners can react immediately to the changed location of a handset user by delivering personalized services for his or her new roaming region.
Enhancing mobile applications with location-based services
Although location-based services can offer tremendous benefits for users in a fixed environment (for example, tracking the location of your company's fleet), the biggest appeal of location-based services is as a key enabler for mobile applications. The Strategis Group predicts that by 2005, the amount spent on mobile location-based services will exceed $9.75 billion per year. Although significant safety benefits and business opportunities will result from the FCC's E911 mandate (see below for more on this), the technology that is needed for location-based services to benefit businesses is here today.
Deploying location-aware mobile applications can help your business in a number of ways. First, location-awareness can significantly improve the utility of mobile applications. Mobile devices (excluding laptops), by their very nature have to be small enough to comfortably fit in pockets and purses. The downside to the small form factor is that the display is considerably smaller and input much more difficult. By carefully choosing what content makes the most sense to display and personalizing the content whenever possible, you can improve the application considerably. Moreover, leveraging the power of location, you can provide your users with easy access to relevant and timely information. This can lead to improved productivity, greater sales, and happy customers and partners.
Location-based services can enhance a range of mobile applications across industries and job functions. Some examples of mobile location-based applications include:
What is unique about wireless location-based services?
- Sales force/marketing automation
- Field service
- AVL/Fleet management
- Consumer travel services
- Wireless call center tracking
- Location-based billing
Wireless carriers recognize that a new class of mobile services can now be location-enabled as a way to enhance and differentiate offerings. In many cases, wireless portals are aggregating Internet content and delivering it through mobile devices after it is filtered, through formats such as WML, C-HTML and VoiceXML. However, the unique state of being mobile presents special opportunities and challenges, including:
- Wireless devices will continually transmit the location of device, enabling direction finding, mapping, friend finder, and related information services.
- Location capability enables powerful and compelling services that previously did not exist for mobile users (for example, "dial 911!", "where am I?", "how far to…?", "how do I get to…?", "what is the current traffic situation on route….?").
- With "location-aware" devices it is now possible to "push" syndicated, and personalized information to wireless user (for example, local weather, local news, local traffic, advertising)
- Location capability also enables mobile operators and end users to answer the following questions:
- What is the physical location of a current call, for billing purposes? How can I implement a location-based tariff (for example, to discourage casual downtown during normal business hours)?
- Where exactly are calls dropping off and what can carriers do about it?
- What does it cost me if signal strength is poor in this area? Who lives here?
- Self service: what is the signal strength where I live, work, travel?
- Location capability poses mobile operators with the challenge of responsibly handling customers' personal privacy.