Thursday, 3 May 2007

GPS on a SIM Card, LBS still won't fly

A UK company called Blue Sky Positioning have launched an A-GPS SIM, basically a SIM card with a GPS chip and antenna built in.

The pitch is that this provides GPS level accuracy for positioning for any GSM phone. No need to have the Nokia N95 or BlackBerry 8800. Stick this SIM in your old 6310 and you can be tracked accurately.

Open the floodgates you'd think. The naysayers of LBS (Location Based Services) complain about the accuracy of cell based positioning systems. With this kind of accuracy everything is possible, targetted advertising, traffic-flow control, emergency scenario management.

Unfortunately the mobile operators have yet to make this fly commercially. Their refusal to give up transaction based charging for location based services is forever going to stifle this market.

Basically, they charge for each location request. It is possible to live with this for what's known as an 'active' request, eg where is my nearest pub, cashpoint, taxi, etc. Generally there is a transaction charge in which this can be incorporated.

When it comes to passive services however it's a different story. Paying for every poll makes it prohibitively expensive to track something at anything like a reasonable frequency.

Maybe the trigger will be commercialising social networking services like Twitter. You can know who's near you and what's going on in their world so you can join in. Maybe it will be governmental requirements for lone-worker protection that force this.

Whatever it is, I hope it happens soon. At the moment LBS is just a interesting technology and it could be so much more.

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