Repeat after me: Location, location, location

© Flickr/CC-licence/Bruce Stokes

© Flickr/CC-licence/Bruce Stokes

  • Indoor location services, GPS and advertising driving LBS growth
  • HERE beats Google and Apple in platform tests
  • Google’s Eddystone favourite in beacon race
  • Telemetry broadcast driving beacon innovation

Interest in mobile location-based services (LBS) is increasing, says a new report from Strategy Analytics. It cites rising momentum behind indoor LBS, mobile advertising and the growing penetration of GPS on entry-tier handsets as the factors that will ensure future growth in mobile LBS.

It says that increasing activity around indoor maps, and indoor positioning technology via Bluetooth beacons or WiFi, will enable the rise of indoor LBS, including proximity-based advertising on mobile devices. Also, rising GPS and WiFi penetration in entry-tier handsets will open up high-accuracy LBS, such as in-vehicle and pedestrian navigation, and location sharing, to a significant population of mobile users in emerging markets.

“In addition to the continued adoption of mobile LBS in rising mobile data markets, venue owners and brands continue to test the capabilities of mobile devices to deliver enhanced customer experiences and engagement,” said Nitesh Patel, Director of Wireless Media Strategies at Strategy Analytics. “We see the increasing activity around indoor location and mobile marketing by brands, retailers, and owners of complex venues as a clear signal that indoor LBS and location-enhanced marketing will drive the next wave of growth in the mobile LBS sector.”

The report also identifies digital map provider HERE, which Nokia has recently announced will be sold to Audi, BMW Group and Daimler, came top in Strategy Analytics’ location platform benchmark study. It was followed by Google in second place, TomTom third and Apple fourth.

“HERE’s opportunity for growth has improved significantly since it has launched its branded app on both iOS and Android platforms, which will be good news for its future owners,” said David Kerr, SVP at Strategy Analytics. “Furthermore, the strength of HERE’s location platform is validated by major licensees, including Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung and Yahoo among others.”

He adds that Google remains the leader in business-to-consumer LBS applications, as it benefits from preloading on most Android handsets, and is the most widely used map, navigation and local search app. Apple, meanwhile, remains in catch-up mode.

Improving location services with beacons

In a separate report, ABI Research has forecast Google’s Eddystone to become the dominant standard in the Bluetooth low energy (BLE) Beacon industry by 2020. This is due in part to Google getting specialist OEMs involved in the development stage, such as Estimote, Bluvision, Radius Networks, Onyx and Kontakt. As a result, Eddystone beacons are already deployed with a large network of vendors promoting the standard.

“Broadcasting a UUID is old news but it provides continuity for those that are looking to develop their own app and have been considering Apple’s iBeacon,” said Principal Analyst Patrick Connolly. “What also makes Eddystone much more powerful than its predecessor, URIBeacon, is that success is not reliant on adoption of the Physical Web in the near term.

He adds that the telemetry broadcast type (TLM) is really where the innovation is in Eddystone, supporting transmission of telemetry and sensor data, which is key for IoT and smart cities, connected home, and industrial and enterprise applications. However, the battle for beacon supremacy is far from over, although ABI Research believes the current Eddystone feature set will become commonplace over the next three years.

“There are few verticals where there is a case to use iBeacon over Eddystone at the moment,” added Connolly. “Eddystone is currently supported in Chrome browser on iOS. Apple could look to support deeper iOS engagement with Eddystone and the Physical Web, but is far more likely to respond with similar updates to its own standard. In the meantime it can go on the defensive and try to limit or it can look to evolve the standard in areas such as accuracy, range and hybridization.”

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