Carl Weinschenk spoke with Allyn Hall, the director of wireless research for In-Stat. Hall recently did a study of the location-based services (LBS) market titled "Location-Enabled Services in the Enterprise."
Weinschenk: LBS is growing in consumer uses. How different are those from the apps used in commercial settings?
Hall: They're very similar in the enterprise, except that [in enterprises] they can be built into black boxes for trucks that don't involve a cellular phone, necessarily. It's an expanding market because the costs [of the services themselves] are going down and because the costs of cell phones are going down. More and more of the cell phones have location skills in the U.S. because of the e911 directives that force cellular operators and handset manufacturers to port the technologies. Now that they are there, they might as well use it [to offer LBS] as well as e911. What's happening is that it is moving from primarily long-haul truck to more and more dispatch applications and field service and field sales.
Weinschenk: Will this market grow quickly?
Hall: Yes, [but] we aren't forecasting the kind of dynamic growth or killer applications that some have. [A Verizon Wireless executive] calls LBS a game-changing application, but we don't agree with that. It's important, and we feel it will grow, but it's an ancillary application for most situations; it's not primary.
Weinschenk: There are other platforms, such as radio frequency identification [RFID] and Wi-Fi that seem related. Do these technologies intersect in LBS applications?
Hall: LBS is the way you track at the macro level, RFID inside the warehouse. Wi-Fi is also used for asset location. There absolutely are apps where there is a combined and integrated system using all those technologies. Also there are ones where they all are separate and some one where they both are used. The market has potential for the future. That is very exciting and there will be interesting apps of all sorts. It's even got its own name, "contactless commerce." That's basically what we are talking about: deploying all, ranging from RFID to Wi-Fi and cell and even satellite. That offers a lot of different types of applications, from keeping track of expensive capital asset like railroad cars to making sure a fragile cargo is not subject to shock outside of certain levels.