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Twitter Acquires Geolocation Service Mixer Labs: Plans to Enhance Its Geotagging API December 25, 2009

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geoapi_logo_dec09.jpgTwitter just announced that it has acquired Mixer Labs, the company behind GeoAPI.com. GeoAPI is a service that allows developers to easily add geolocation data to their apps. Twitter just launched its own geotagging API a few weeks ago. Even though a number of mobile and desktop Twitter apps like Seesmic Web and Birdfeed support Twitter’s geotagging API, only a very small number of users are currently making use of this feature.

According to Twitter founder Ev Williams, the company “will be looking at how to integrate the work Mixer Labs has done with the Twitter API in useful ways that give developers behind geo-enabled apps like Birdfeed, Seesmic Web, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twidroid, Twittelator Pro and other powerful new possibilities.”

geo_api.jpgIt’s important to note that the Mixer Labs GeoAPI is not tied to Twitter. GeoAPI offers tools like a reverse geocoder that can take GPS coordinates and turn them into human readable information and a service that can find media files and status updates related to a specific place on Flickr, Twitter or YouTube. Mixer Labs also offers an iPhone SDK. Judging from Twitter’s announcement, the GeoAPI will continue to work while Twitter figures out how to best integrate its current geotagging API with Mixer Labs’ GeoAPI.

via Twitter Acquires Geolocation Service Mixer Labs: Plans to Enhance Its Geotagging API.

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GoWalla Worth Nearly $30 Million After Financing. Time To Make Your Move, Facebook. December 14, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Mobile & Gadgets.
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Austin, Texas based mobile social network GoWalla’s pre-money valuation in their recent financing was $20 million, we’ve confirmed from multiple sources. The company raised $8.4 million in that round, making their post-money valuation $28.4 million.

That’s not bad for a service that launched just months ago and has 50,000 users. Part of GoWalla’s valuation is based on their PackRat Facebook application that still brings in “single digit millions” in revenue. But it’s clear that Greylock, Shasta and the other investors in that round are focused on GoWalla’s mobile strategy.

Silicon Valley based competitor foursquare has just over 150,000 users, and has raised just $1.35 million in funding. Their products are similar – users “check in” to places they visit. Friends can see where they are, and vice versa.

This clearly seems to be a winning model. Mobile social networks have been evolving briskly over the last couple of years, and the location based check in model seems to be what people want. Both services are expanding quickly, and passionate users chirp constantly about the services.

Facebook and MySpace continue to sit on the sidelines and take a wait and see approach. That’s probably fine for Facebook (here’s why). But MySpace doesn’t have the luxury of waiting. One strong strategic move they could make immediately is to jump headfirst into this space, damn the privacy issues. MySpace may even want to do this under a separate brand. But whatever – getting their bands and artists to use the feature will lure in lots of others. This is a wide open space. The model that users want seems to be set. It’s time to move.

Here’s GoWalla in action:

via GoWalla Worth Nearly $30 Million After Financing. Time To Make Your Move, Facebook..

Indoor Navigation, The new gold rush? | BDNooZ November 9, 2009

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[…] 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…” […]

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. […]

via Indoor Navigation, The new gold rush? | BDNooZ.

Pricing Strategies for Location Based Apps November 4, 2009

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INTERVIEW: Mobile app stores are proving to be extremely valuable channels for getting products to market – whether you’re a big name navigation brand or an unheard of independent with a cool new location-enabled application. But a key element to maximising revenue opportunities is adopting the correct pricing strategy. GPS Business News spoke to Peter Farago, vice president, marketing, for Flurry Analytics, the mobile applications development services provider, about factors that determine pricing strategy. The number of navigation and location-aware applications added to the iPhone App Store just keeps on growing. At the latest count there were over 3,000 location apps on offer. Throw in Google’s Android Market, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry App World and the app stores of Microsoft, Nokia and Palm, and the range of applications becomes even larger.

With such an abundance of choice facing the consumer it’s vital that developers select the right pricing strategy for their products. For apps this generally requires a few basic decisions: apps can either be given away for free, with revenue generated through ads, or be paid for. Brand strength is seen as a key factor in going down the paid for route, while less-recognizable brands frequently go to market with free trials to entice consumers to try-and-buy.

Peter Farago, vice president, marketing for Flurry, said much of the learning in the market has centered on whether ad-supported apps earn more revenue than paid apps, what price to charge and when to drop price. He said navigation applications tend to remain on a consumer’s handset for a long period of time. Unlike “gimmick” apps, they are perceived as having sustainable value and therefore consistently revisited over time – making them better suited to subscription. “If it were me and I were a product manager, I would charge for a navigation app,” he said.

Flurry recently analysed over 2,000 applications for usage and frequency of use over a 90-day period, breaking them down into 19 categories. The findings showed that user retention for navigation apps is 73% after 30 days, but falls to 30% after 90 days (the average for all apps is 25%). Overall, the average navigation app is used six times per week.

Farago compares navigation apps to a valuable tool – like a hammer – that you really need but don’t use very often. “You’re going to hang on to it but not use it very often. That averages out in giving you decent repeat useage but the frequency of use doesn’t help you build a total sustainable audience that you can advertise against,” he said. […]

He said broadly speaking developers need to give consumers the minimum amount possible to get them to maximum happiness – and then take it away. “The way I think of it is have enough of a ‘wow’ factor right away in the first 30 to 60 seconds of the experience, but at the same time hold back on a couple of other very interesting things that the consumer would want,” he said. “If you have four killer features, you need to give them the one that really sets the hook and use the other three as a promise to reel them in.”

Although it varies from product to product, the overall conversion rate for apps is between 2-10%. The rate shows there are many who try but don’t buy apps – and also reflects the vast choice consumers have. The App Store has over 75,000 apps and the Android Market has over 20,000. “At end of day, consumers only have so much capacity or interest to use a certain number of applications,” said Farago.[…]

appstore

http://www.gpsbusinessnews.com/Pricing-That-s-Apt-What-s-the-Best-Pricing-Strategy-For-Location-Based-Mobile-Apps_a1806.html

How Local Businesses Can Benefit From Mobile Social Networks? October 26, 2009

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Local Businesses Can Benefit From Mobile Social Networks
The nearly mainstream social web is now evolving and graduating to mobile devices.  This emerging space of mobile-based social networks are empowering customers to find the best venues and prices, and offering savvy companies unique ways to cater to this new medium.  Yet, despite the emergence of applications like FourSquare, Yelp, and recently launched GoWalla, there are risks as customers talk directly to each other and opportunities for businesses who harness the tools.  Local businesses should approach the mobile social networking space by first listening to their customers, responding to commenters, provide special offers to advocates, and prepare for pricing to be impacted.

Mobile Social Network Offers Discounts Based On Location
Using FourSquare, a location based social network, I ‘checked in’ to the movie theatre indicator to my friends my location.  Immediately after the application identified my approximate location it offered a ’special nearby’ which I clicked.  The Savvy Cellar Wine Bar offered me 50% off a wine flight to a store 2 blocks away. […]

Catering To “Top” Customers Spur Word Of Mouth
The opportunities aren’t just focused on location based, but also provide opportunity for developing an unpaid army of advocates.  Take for example Foursquare’s point system, those who ‘check in’ the most to a location can become the ‘mayor’ of their particular store, indicating they’re the top customer.  Some savvy restaurants provide free drinks or other services to the mayor, who will continue to spread their affinity for a restaurant using social networks.   […]

Empowered Customers Check Prices In Real Time –Impacting Buying Behavior
Even if you don’t have a physical store, but offer a consumer good, consider RedLaser, which is a real-time bar code scanner that allows any phone to scan UPC codes and find them cheaper online.  […]

Innovative Market Dependent On Adoption
Despite the innovation, location based marketing and advertising has its limitations as it’s dependent on:

  • total number of consumers with mobile devices,
  • adoption of mobile social networks,
  • and their desire to find location-based offers.

Key Takeaways For Local Businesses:
Local businesses should approach these mobile social networks in a four part strategy –not simply reacting without a plan.  Companies should approach this space by:

  • Listening In For Free Research. Local businesses should immediatly montior their brands on mobile social networks like Yelp and FourSquare.  Use this information as free research: find out the perception of customers opinions both good –and bad to learn about their market.
  • Responding To Reviewers. Use negative information as a way to improve products and services and let your community know you’re listening to their feedback.  Although there are always two-sides to any complaint use these same tools to respond to customers in public, but be sure to abide by the terms of service.
  • Rewarding Top Customers.  Customers that frequently patron your store and tell others on these mobile social networks should be rewarded.  Build both in person and online relationships with them so they’ll continue to advertise and market on your behalf.  Free drinks anyone?
  • Preparing for pricing impacts and positioning.  With disruptive tools like RedLaser appearing, customers can quickly find pricing of products and find them at nearby retailers.  Retailers like CVS, Walmart, Target, BestBuy, Safeway should take heed as consumers continue to become empowered through instant information.  Companies will need to respond by:  making product pricing more competitive, or offering other deals such as bundling, speed, time, or other value-based offerings.

via How Local Businesses Can Benefit From Mobile Social Networks « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing.

Why won’t location-based networks grow? October 25, 2009

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There is an interesting article about location-based networks and why they currently not have reached the critical mass at : Why won’t location-based networks grow? | VentureBeat.

Some parts could also found here:

[…] We decided to try out several of these apps ourselves and talk to the companies and several industry experts to find out. And what we found out is that there seem to be four factors holding these networks back: users are hesitant to join unless their friends are already on board, businesses won’t join up without a critical mass of users, many phones still can’t handle the necessary technology, and there are privacy and behavioral concerns.

Users are slow to join up

I installed Loopt on my iPhone when it was launced more than a year ago. I stopped using it soon after, since none of my Facebook friends or Gmail contacts were on it. Now it has more than a million users, so last week I installed it again — along with several other apps — but I didn’t have much luck this time either. The closest I came to a successful experience was with Foursquare, where I was able to find a few friends — most of whom haven’t yet responded to my invites. I’m inclined to think it’s not because they don’t like me but because they signed up for the service and never checked in again.[…]

I see three effective strategies in play to tackle the critical mass and chicken and egg problem:

Strategy 1: Build apps that can offer value on their own (stand alone) so that they don’t face chicken and egg problem in the first place. Aloqa, Geodelic, and Where are taking this tack. As Lacy said, social is secondary to location in their app. These applications should be able to draw in an audience purely on the basis of their location data. Once they get wider audience, they can focus more on the social element to make those apps more addictive.

Strategy 2: Introduce virality and game mechanics so that friends can multiply quicker. Though the idea of a stand alone app is appealing, it can also be severely limiting. Foursquare, Going, Gowalla are doing a good job of not only starting with a home page that provides value even without friends (so can act as a “stand alone” app), but also of using virality of social connections. Foursquare, in particular, goes even further by offering engaging gaming mechanics. I think they have a brilliant strategy, and are the company to watch in the space.whrrl1

Strategy 3: Provide apps on several platforms and carriers etc. to widen the reach and pull in more users. Foursquare and a few others lack platform access: they are available only on limited phones. If an app is available only on the iPhone, what is the likelihood that you’ll find your friends on that network? As I’ll explain in a moment, Loopt has a lead here because they invest significant time to make sure their solution is available on several platforms. In addition they already have partnerships with Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, which puts them at a scale advantage. Further scale and network effects can be leveraged by partnering up with players such as Facebook, MySpace, or mobile operators, who have a huge existing base of users, each of whom already has a large address book that will get more location-aware with time. Google’s location-aware mobile app Google Latitude is the elephant in the room here. It has the advantage of Google’s large user base and brand name but doesn’t seem to be focusing so much on social aspects. Instead, it seems poised to commoditize on “Who is nearby” and location technology. And that brings us to the question of what business models are most likely to drive success. (more…)

Details on Twitter’s Imminent Geolocation Launch | Smarterware September 26, 2009

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Twitter’s new geolocation support was supposed to launch for developers at today’s Twitter Conference in LA (which I’m attending), but it wasn’t quite ready yet. Still, Twitter’s platform lead Ryan Sarver announced several details about how it will work, at least initially, in a developer session. In quickly-jotted bullet points:

  • Twitter will soon be able to store location data–that is, latitude and longitude coordinates–on a per-tweet basis, and for your user profile.
  • Including location information in your tweets will be opt-in only. You will have to visit your Twitter account’s settings page on the web site to allow Twitter to store that data. It will not be enabled by default. Even if your Twitter client sends lat/log points along with your status update, if you didn’t explicitly opt into including that information, Twitter will drop it at the point of entry and it will not be stored or published.
  • Users won’t see any new features on the Twitter web site when geo launches except for the settings page where you opt in. Twitter is giving API developers a head start to display and transmit geo data in tweets in their apps first.
  • In practice, expect to see your Twitter client include a checkbox below the posting area labeled something like “include my location with this tweet.” If you check the box when you send a tweet but you haven’t given Twitter permission to store your location data, you’ll have to visit your settings page on the web site to do so.
  • Interesting: Twitter will scrub geo-data stored in tweets more than 14 days old to avoid subpoenas about a user’s location. They will outright delete the location information from their database, not just anonymize it.

  • While Twitter usually encourages application developers to cache data, in the case of geo, they recommend apps don’t keep historical location data so that developers don’t become a subpoena target, either. They also recommend “fuzzing” location and time data, so that instead of knowing that Joe Smith was at 8th avenue and 15th street at 2:11PM Eastern time on March 7, 2008, you only show that Joe was in Brooklyn on that day.
  • The geodata-scrubbing isn’t a permanent solution. Twitter is looking into ways to store this data in a “safe” way in the future, so Twitter won’t always scrub +14-day-old data, just at first.
  • Besides just using the free-form text field in the location field already available in your profile, there will be no way to tell Twitter you’re in a broad area, say, a city or neighborhood like San Diego. They will only take and store lat/long coordinates. On the front end, they may only display a broad area name, like a city or a neighborhood instead of a specific point, but they will store the specific lat/long coordinates.
  • Right now, Twitter does support some light geolocation functionality based on the “anything goes” location field in profiles. Try a search for happy hour near:11215 -RT to see tweets (minus retweets) about happy hour in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
  • Two interesting location-based Twitter apps available now: Happn.in, and Trendsmap.

This is pretty exciting stuff, if still nascent.

via Details on Twitter’s Imminent Geolocation Launch | Smarterware.

Location-Based Mobile Social Network Centrl Integrates Web App, Adds First Real-Time Location-Based Messaging System September 14, 2009

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“Location” has been one of the most frequently used buzzwords in the web industry recently, with i.e. Twitter, Facebook and Google having substantially stepped up efforts in that area in the last few months. TechCrunch has always been particularly bullish about location-based mobile social networks, with Loopt, Brightkite or, most recently, Foursquare among the big names.

But there are more location-based social networks out there, and one of them, Centrl, is now intending to further bridge the gap between mobile phone users and the web at large (a move we called for last year). The service, which has been available on the iPhone [iTunes link], Android, BlackBerry [JAD file] and Nokia since May 2008, extended its offering with a web app a few days ago. The service runs within major social networks and lets you login from your existing accounts (on Facebook, MySpace, iGoogle, Friendster, Ning, Hi5, bebo, Orkut, iTimes, or Sonico) on any platform and device, which means there’s no need to register. (It’s free to use in all variations, too).

iPhone and Facebook versions (click to enlarge):
centrl_iphone_app
centrl_facebook

Centrl’s new web application basically does all what the mobile version does: broadcast your own location to your friends, help users find coupons, restaurants, bars, gas stations, general points of interest, real estate, or events near you by pulling information from Yelp, Citysearch, Wikipedia and other sites (Centrl calls these sites “layers”). The web app is completely integrated into Centrl’s social network versions and mobile phone apps.

It’s also possible for users of the web version to contribute and share content, for example by marking a certain place on a map, uploading a picture of it, adding a comment and posting a link to Twitter (mobile app users can do this, too). Centrl then automatically creates a profile page based on that information for other mobile or web app users to view and interact with.

Screenshot of the Centrl web app (click to enlarge):
centrl_web_app

Centrl’s web version also introduces location-based communication in real-time. According to CEO Murat Aktihanoglu, his service is the first to offer a “free IM on a map”-system that doesn’t rely on SMS and is completely device- and platform agnostic (as long as you’re a Centrl user). The way the messaging system works is that people accessing Centrl on a PC, for example, can see the location of people using one of the mobile apps and instantly start text-chatting with them, virtually in real-time and without fees for both sides.

Centrl has attracted 500,000 users so far. The service is based out of New York and angel-funded with $500,000.

via Location-Based Mobile Social Network Centrl Integrates Web App, Adds First Real-Time Location-Based Messaging System.

Loopt, AT&T bypass iPhone for always-on friend finder September 12, 2009

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At the end of last week, Loopt started a trial of its friend finder service for the iPhonethat integrates an always-on feature. Because the iPhone cannot run applications in the background it does limit the use of friend finder services like Loopt: once the application is closed none of your friend can see where you are.

To bypass this problem Loopt and AT&T have worked together so the location of the phone is not provided actively by the phone (when the application is open) but by the network which knows where the phone is all the time. This type of technology was already used by AT&T Familymap, the child tracking service from AT&T which can monitor children with iPhones.

A free trial of this enhanced Loopt service has begun for 1,000 test users. After this trial, the service will be available for a $3.99 monthly subscription. It will be billed by AT&T, not through the Apple App Store in the same way the wireless operator does for its navigation service developed by TeleNav.

via Loopt, AT&T bypass iPhone for always-on friend finder.

In-Stream Mobile Video Ads Now Know Where You Are September 5, 2009

Posted by pannet in Mobile & Gadgets.
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Geo-targeted mobile ads could be the most invasive technology we’ve ever seen. But of course they could also be really cool and useful. Now, location-aware ads are invading your streaming mobile video for the first time.

mDialog, a mobile video startup, announced today at Ad:Tech Chicago it has adopted Apple’s new HTTP adaptive bitrate streaming for the iPhone. The HTTP streaming technology — which we’ve covered in depth — stitches together chunks of the same video encoded at different bitrates. The primary purpose is to deliver video that adjusts to changing network strength without stopping to buffer. But a side benefit is that you can slot something else in the stream without interruption, either. And that means: mobile advertising opportunities.

mDialog is one of the first to experiment on the new platform, and so today it’s announced that it can now do in-stream geo-targeted dynamic video ad insertion using Akamai and DoubleClick. That means mid-roll video ads that know where you are. So, if you happen to be watching a video in an mDialog app on your iPhone, that app can ask Google Maps where exactly you’re located, and deliver in the middle of your stream an ad that’s targeted down to a one-quarter mile area.

We had been skeptical of mDialog’s focus on the iPhone in the past, but the flip side is the startup pushes forward these new possibilities. mDialog CEO Greg Philpott said he can envision mid-roll geo-targeting being used for attendees of a concert or sporting event, who are instructed to watch something on their phone and then get a version of an ad just for that event. Today it’s not a massive use case, but it’s definitely a sign of where things are headed.

via In-Stream Mobile Video Ads Now Know Where You Are.