#neuland is where you are

This month I was given the opportunity to speak at Webmontag Frankfurt.
Webmontag is a monthly event that brings together a group of about 200 people interested in web and technology related topics. The guest have various backgrounds. They are developers, founders, entrepreneurs, venture capitalist, researchers, web pioneers, bloggers, podcasters, designers, and others.

My talk was about how location is embedded into everyday activities of a smart phone user and what that all means in the light of the recent NSA and Prism related news. I was given the last 15 minutes of an already packed and very interesting agenda, so I decided to keep things a little lighter and entertaining.

Here are the slides, with an English transcript. The original talk was in German and you can watch the video at the very end of this post or follow the link now over to Vimeo.

#neuland is where you are.

[Neuland, German for “virgin territory,” is a term used by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to describe the current state of the Internet during a joint press conference with President Barack Obama in Berlin on June 19th, 2013. During the address, Chancellor Merkel was asked to comment on the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance scandal. Chancellor Merkel’s remark was instantly met by derisive comments on Twitter, with many German Internet users ridiculing her use of the term “neuland” as being out of touch with the progress that has been made in the field. Source: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/neuland%5D

Hello, my name is Philip Hubertus …

Continue reading #neuland is where you are

Good questions on geocoding, navigation, and the future of location. Here is my view point.

I was recently asked a few very good questions. I enjoyed thinking about them further and so I wrote up some answers. I take this an opportunity to revive this blog. Let me know your thoughts on the questions and my answers. I’m happy to exchange view points.

Full disclosure. I work for Nokia Location & Commerce, but these are my personal views and thoughts which do not necessarily reflect Nokia’s views.

Here we go:

What do you do in your job as a Product Manager for Geocoding?

My role as a Product Manager is about communicating and providing context. I’m helping to define our product vision and mission, focus areas, and again context to make sure that as a team we work towards a common goal. And of course that includes grasping and then translating user and business needs into product stories so our team can build and improve the product against these. But it goes the other way around too when I’m explaining the value and benefits of technical product features to the user and business audience. I also look at the business side of the product. What are the revenues we help to create with our product? What is the usage and value of features? What do my colleagues in Sales need to sign up customers? What do we need to do to increase the bottom line?

What is geocoding, and why it is so important for navigation devices?

Very basically geocoding is the translation between how people describe an address and how spatial systems – like a navigation device – stores and works with an address location.
Let me give an example. My office address is “Am Kronberger Hang 8 in Schwalbach, Germany” which spatial is at “latitude: 50.1618996; longitude: 8.5334997”.

Let’s go a bit deeper now. There are two ways of geocoding.

First, geocoding allows users to find an address.
It is the equivalent of searching for a road name in the street index that is printed on the back of a paper map, then remembering the quadrant’s code, turning the map and pointing your finger at it. Compared to a paper map, a geocoding software has a much larger, if not gigantic global index, is much faster, more precise, and often supports multiple languages. Plus, there is a lot of additional information and data a good geocoding software provides. This is especially of value to enterprise users who are using geocoding to make smarter decisions and optimize their processes.

Then, geocoding also works the other way around, which is called reverse geocoding.  This is used to answer the popular questions “Where am I?”, “What’s here?”, or even “Dude, where is my car?”. Here, a user resolves the latitude and longitude from a GPS/location sensor into an address.

Why is all this important for navigation devices? Because they operate on spatial data but people don’t. People are used to textual addresses not a location’s spatial latitude and longitude. So that translation is needed. And a piece of geocoding software is the first thing that kicks in on a navigation device when looking for directions.

Geocoding not only happens on navigation devices. We’re running our Geocoder software as a service in multiple data centers around the globe. The Geocoder service has global, fresh coverage based on our continuously updated automotive-grade map data. It is an essential building block of our Where Platform. Geocoder works seamlessly with the other Nokia location services like Places, Maps, Positioning, Directions, and Traffic. The Geocoder API is robust and offers high availability, performance and scalability and it’s in use by 300+ customers including Bing and Yahoo!.

And apart from the consumers being able to find addresses or locate themselves around the globe on the web and in apps, I’m really excited about the value of the smart things businesses can do with geocoded information; like analyzing the size of markets, geo-marketing, tracking and optimizing the efficiency of vehicles, workforce, or other assets.

You must use navigation and location a lot in your daily life given what you do.  Which devices and applications do you tend to use most, which are your favorites and why?

I’m sure it’s not a surprise I use and love my Nokia Lumia 800. I use the Nokia Drive app for my daily commute to avoid traffic. It has this great new commute feature that watches the traffic situation for me and helps me pick the right time and route to go. Being a “spirited driver” I often run the Trapster app in the background for driving safety. I’m using Foursquare daily to “share my Where” and facilitate serendipity. And I’m tracking my running with the Nike+ Running app. Another favorite of mine is the Navigon app, specifically when used on the large screen of an iPad. I can also recommend Navigon’s PNDs. I bought one for my mum recently.

One of the hottest topics around the future of mobile mapping services is indoor location positioning and indoor positioning systems.  Once this new technology becomes widely adopted what do you think will be the main usage applications for it?

The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is of course displaying indoor maps and enabling navigation. So let’s say you’re in unfamiliar territory visiting friends at their new house. You don’t want to come with empty hands so you’re looking to buy some fresh flowers nearby them. You search and there is a florist in a gigantic mall not far away. What you want is to be guided to a parking row near the best entrance of the mall and then as you walk in, to be seamlessly guided inside the building to the store. Now you can slightly tweak that scenario at will, e.g. with a gate at the airport, booth at the show, rest room at the stadium, the Van Gogh at the museum, or the power tools section inside the home improvement store. It’ll still be a “portable and connected device – last mile indoor guidance” use case.

And then I see other great ways to use indoor location positioning.
For example in mobile payment solutions where location can be used for customer loyalty programs and better fraud protection mechanisms. Upon entering a store you can get relevant offers and when you’re ready to pay, that transaction’s location is checked against your actual location. This is a big, valuable, and exciting market. You want to see what Square and LevelUp are doing already.
With the global trend towards huge urban metropolises here is a use case for that: Public transportation, especially when this is underground. Again, think mobile payment based on where you enter and exit a station, so no paper tickets or swipe cards, and no more turnstiles. Plus up to date departure times, always the best connection, and never be lost in those long corridors. Doesn’t that sound good?
On the fun side I see virtual games in actual locations. Museums, parks, and resorts can create whole new engaging experiences.

The market is ever-changing, and there are plenty of challenges facing the traditional in-car navigation brands especially with high adoption rates for smart navigation. Do you think navigation devices have a future or will they soon be replaced by navigation apps on mobile phones?

I’m pretty sure there will always be demand for navigation devices, in-dash navigation and smartphone navigation apps. Each of these has their own advantages and limitations and ultimately it’s up to the consumers to decide what they prefer. Nokia offers data products and location platform service for each of these.

Yes, the trend towards using navigation on smartphones is growing, especially as navigation is already included on many smartphones today. And then there is a wide choice of apps to download. But I also see some interesting benefits that are not fully leveraged yet, e.g. as smartphones already come with a data connection this allows users to get fresher and more detailed data. I’m not talking map data here. Nokia was one of the first to store map data offline on the phones, so that you can navigate even if the connection drops and save on data usage fees. I’m talking about dynamic data e.g. traffic, gas prices, parking availability, detailed places information like reviews and pictures, and relevant local offers. Also for some people one device is already more than enough. So they don’t want to carry a separate navigation device and learn how to use it if they can get navigation on their smart phone with a user interface they already know. But again, consumers will decide and as devices and cars become more connected; some of today’s advantages of navigation on smart phones will not be unique tomorrow.

The key for the traditional navigation device brands is to acknowledge this and think about what markets and needs they can focus on to outperform smartphones and in-dash navigation. This may also include thinking about new markets. Look at Garmin. They are big in the great outdoors market too and historically they’ve come from marine and aviation. Navigation and location isn’t only about driving cars.

What are your own predictions for Location over the next couple of years?

Location will become ubiquitously ingrained into a lot of what we do as consumers and businesses. The adoption of GPS and location sensors in devices will grow further, not only phones but also things like cameras, watches, or luggage. Apps and services using location will transform quite a few industries. Personally I see mobile payments as the one that is going to be the most exciting with lots of opportunity. Health care and well-being is another area that has a lot of potential for connected location sensors and using that data. And it’s a growing industry. And there are great possibilities in inventory and supply chain monitoring and management.

The following three mega-trends will push innovation around using location: 1. The Internet of Things; 2. Mega Cities; and 3. Multi-modal Mobility.
These three trends can nicely tango. Let look at a few examples. Location sensors and connections to the Internet will be embedded in a lot more things. These things can then share data which can be used to optimize processes automatically or influence decisions. Of course this will be in cars but also motorbikes, bicycles, buses, trains, trucks, and anything else that moves people or goods. There it will not only help people find the best route, but also manage and avoid traffic, and support them make smarter decisions around which mode of transportation to use at any given time. This will have great benefits especially in and round Mega Cities with good public transport networks. And it will enable new usage-based vehicle insurance models, reduce emissions, and help improve safety.

Social Location: Is Google Latitude the GPS Revolution’s Killer App?

There is much talk recently about the GPS Revolution. Just look at the cover of the latest issue of the WIRED magazine. Technology power houses like Google, Microsoft, Nokia, T-Mobile and large social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn are offering location aware features or sharing options. And of course there are services like Brightkite, Yahoo! Fire Eagle or Plazes that are specialized on location sharing. Let’s break down some of the most basic usage scenarios and best practice examples. And let’s take a look at what Google Latitude offers and how it might fit into the bigger picture.

Since mobile phones found their way into the pockets and hand bags of everyday people the often heard questions when taking a call is: “Where are you?” followed by “What do you do?”. These are the things that most social network services revolve around. Up to the minute status messages have created a new neural network among friends, business partners and otherwise connected crowds. Mark Zuckerberg talks about “creating efficiency within society” and I agree.
And while it is good to see that “Melina has chocolate for breakfast”, “Martin is freezing in Chicago”, or “Jeff is returning from a conference in Berlin”, theses posts are of limited relevance when either enough time has passed between when they are posted and when they are read or simply thousands of miles are between poster and reader. Add in proximity filtering and alerting options and posting like the ones above can become a whole lot more relevant and actionable. Continue reading Social Location: Is Google Latitude the GPS Revolution’s Killer App?

WIRED Magazine about the GPS Revolution

I recommend reading the article in the February issue of WIRED Magazine about 10 mobile applications that make use of GPS to offer smart and/or entertaining services. (The article is available online as well. )
This will give you a glimpse of what is on the horizon with GPS-enabled mobile applications as devices gaining more and more adoption by consumers.

The list of 10 is fairly US/Western world centric so I would not be surprised to learn more about applications that support some fairly exotic use cases. If you have interesting examples from the Middle East, Africa or Asia, please post them to the comments!

NowHere, Now what? Locate yourself and friends.

Self localization on non-GPS enabled mobile phones isn’t new. Google Maps Mobile does it, and the the US cell carriers Helio and Sprint have added services like Buddy Beacon or Loopt, which even let you locate your friends. Yet another service has launched in Germany called NowHere. I stumbled across an ad for their service on Facebook today and immediately tried it out.

NowHEre Screen

Continue reading NowHere, Now what? Locate yourself and friends.

Location Bookmarking, Can It Extend to a Mobile or Offline Channel?

When visiting a foreign city on your own you probably prepare yourself by checking out a few places in advance, don’t you? You look up where your hotel is, the places you plan to visit (or the office), surrounding restaurants, bars, shopping, ATMs etc.
At least that is what I did when I was traveling on business to Chicago just recently. I’m much more comfortable while traveling when I explore the destination a little bit in advance.

So what I did was bookmarking or “map-marking” a couple of places on an online map. Continue reading Location Bookmarking, Can It Extend to a Mobile or Offline Channel?

Is Mobile Local Search Meeting Consumers Expectations?

In the past few weeks I’ve looked at a couple of different local search services. After BMW announced last week that Google Local Search is now available from the latest BMW onboard navigation system it is about time to share some thoughts with you. I also have to admit writing this post has been fueled by a discussion about whether Yellow Pages are of any use these days or just a waste of paper. Even Seth Godin, has posted on his blog about the possibilities and opportunities of putting the “Yellow Pages in your Pocket
So besides BMW, let’s have a look at two mobile product/shop finders and how to choose a proper pub in Japan.

Continue reading Is Mobile Local Search Meeting Consumers Expectations?

Can NFC be an alternative to GPS for mobile phones?

NFC, short for Near Field Communication is a technology that enables the communication between devices over a short distance (ca. 0-8 inches), using magnetic field induction. The technology is primarily aimed at usage in mobile phones.

Now why do I think this can be alternative to GPS? Because I’m a dreamer!
So here is what I was thinking:
With NFC you can transfer location coordinates from a transponder to a phone. As it works without the need for satellite reception it is perfect for urban street canyons or indoor use like subways, shopping malls, or conference centers. Yes, because of the short range there is a downside which is the need for tagging street corners or building corridors with transponders. And yes, NFC is still in its infancy. So let’s look at a field test I was able to sneak myself in – and my experiences so far. Continue reading Can NFC be an alternative to GPS for mobile phones?

NYC Taxis Feature New Technologies

An interesting article found its way into inbox this morning. The article was written by Sean, who is blogging “From the Digital Frontier” on MediaPost.

NYC Taxi He was late the other day and took a cab to ride to work. What he encountered when he got in the cab was a small entertainment system displaying news, weather and clips.
How neat, I though … but then I took a closer look at the photo he took of the system’s screen. Continue reading NYC Taxis Feature New Technologies

The Hipster GPS

Driving on the highways these days you see the many cars glowing from the inside. This is especially freaky when driving at night. It’s the navigation devices stuck to the windscreen with their suction cups that look like little TVs when you pass them. I wonder where these people drive to. To or from work I suppose but how did they find their way just two years ago? (Maybe they telecommuted?) Continue reading The Hipster GPS