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Mobilizer 8.9.06

LBS Adds Heavyweight Functionality To Mobile Phones
By Jessica Rivchin

Given the growing popularity of device convergence, it's no surprise that a number of manufacturers and carriers are busily searching for the best way to combine numerous capabilities without detracting from the overall functionality of a device. Call them mobile mad scientists, if you will. Embedding location-based services (LBS) in mobile phones has emerged as a promising trend, and Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel are a few of the major names that have staked claim to the mobile GPS market. Another company aiming to enter this space is GloNav, a small California-based semiconductor company and GPS developer that claims to have assembled a “dream team” of experts to develop a GPS chip that could be embedded in phones across the industry.

“We'll be offering a complete semiconductor solution in a single package,” explains Kevin Strong, executive VP of marketing for GloNav. Strong adds that the need for LBS in mobile phones was prompted by a series of government mandates—such as the FCC's Enhanced 911 (e911) program, which requires that all new cell phones contain LBS in order to pinpoint the location (up to 160 feet) of a 911 caller.

GloNav, which acquired the GPS technology product line and associated team from CEVA in late June, is poised to enter a space previously dominated by SiRF Technology. Still, Strong isn't worried. “Yes, there are already companies offering similar things, but we have an advantage because we're not starting from scratch—we're using a proven technology.”

GloNav also hopes to stay ahead of the competition by improving on the existing GPS issue of power consumption. “When GPS is embedded in a phone, in order for those applications to be effective, the GPS needs to be turned on periodically,” says Strong. “So, even when your phone is in standby mode, the GPS is going to be consuming power from time to time.” Many GPS solutions, such as those placed in automobiles, were not tailored well for power consumption, he adds. “Generally, you want to impact [a phone's] battery life by less than 10 percent.”

Mobile phones with LBS-capabilities have obvious benefits for the enterprise, insofar as that business travelers will have less trouble locating hotels, restaurants and office buildings while working on the road. But, says Strong, there will also be significant benefits for telematics, as well as fleet tracking. “Having all phones equipped with LBS would lower the costs of tracking features. Right now, [these services] are only used in larger trucks, and maybe now it can be used in the smaller, local delivery vehicle. Every point on the vertical chain will benefit.”

GloNav expects to ship more than five million wireless handset and mobile device applications—and announce additional GPS semiconductor solution products—by the end of 2006. “LBS is an emerging location area for mobile phones, and the market will grow over the next few years,” says Strong.

*To learn more about the uses, developments and current deployments of location-based technologies, be sure to check out the September issue of Mobile Enterprise magazine, available online Sept. 1.