An interesting article in Electronics Weekly reports on the findings of a DTI sponsored study visit to Japan looking at the uptake of Location Based Services (LBS). The headline is that less than 10% of the users of advanced LBS capable phones on the KDDI network actually make any use of the available services.
This would seem to agree with my perception of the market in the UK, if anything perhaps here it is even less than 10%. In this particular case we may be seeing the effect of a particular technology limitation, KDDI use A-GPS on their phones so get high location accuracy but first fix may take more than a minute – Japanese teenagers it appears are at least as impatient as those in the UK!
My guess however is that the problem lies at least as much with the applications that make use of this technology as with the technology itself. In the UK as in Japan I believe, a user must make an explicit decision to use an LBS type function, e.g. find me the closest ATM. Using the best designed WAP interface that will take at least 2-3 mins including time for the user to connect to a portal, the network locating the users phone, the backend GIS analysis and the presentation of results. Time to ask somebody 30 seconds !!
I have argued before to anyone who will listen that for LBS to work the whole service must be transparent to the user, as soon as you switch on your phone in the background various analysis can be taking place so that the most common requests are pre-calculated, and instantly available as contextual information.
When you are roaming the phone and various networks are working to transfer you to the provider with the strongest signal at any point in time, a process invisible to you other than the operator logo changing on the phones screen – this is how LBS should work !!
Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.