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Pocket GPS at CTIA Wireless 2009 | Qualcomm Interview

Qualcomm CTIA Qualcomm is currently exhibiting at the CTIA Wireless 2009 Show in Las Vegas. Based in San Diego, Qualcomm is a FORTUNE 500 company, has over 15,000 employees. It boasted over $10 billion in revenue in 2008 and is one of the biggest players in attendance.

The company plays a central role in the growth of 3G and next-generation wireless around the world. They count more than 145 telecommunications equipment manufacturers as customers worldwide. Qualcomm has pioneered GPS/A-GPS in handsets since 2001 by providing this functionality as an integrated feature in the wireless modem. At CTIA they are showcasing their Snapdragon mobile computing platform prototype, Wistron’s PBook, complete with A-GPS, for the first time in the U.S.

In conjunction with the show, we interviewed Qualcomm's Director of Product Management, Leslie Presutti.

Leslie PresuttiLeslie holds responsibility for managing Qualcomm's multimedia support with an emphasis on audio and position location. Her role includes identifying new opportunities, growing business, and formulating product strategy for many of QCT’s multimedia capabilities, such as gpsOne® position-location technology. She has been at Qualcomm for nearly ten years.

Q: Leslie, how do you see the future for GPS technologies in relation to wireless?
A: Already, location technologies have become a major enabler for a wide variety of services offered in the consumer electronics market. GPS technologies are used in a variety of electronic devices today, from the “traditional” personal navigation devices (PNDs),handsets, laptops, portable computers (Netbooks, MID/MCD/PCDs, etc.), to cameras, camcorders, watches, and other consumer electronics devices.

In the wireless industry, the ability to use location services with wireless connectivity to provide a lot of the real-time information such as friend finding, real-time traffic information, activity hotspots, points of interest (POI), family tracking, asset tracking, have represented a very compelling proposition. With real-time information, people are able to track where social hotspots are, find traffic congestion and alternate their routes accordingly, tap into information on schedules/timetables for public transportation and find the greatest bargain on products or services within a particular area. The ubiquity of location will make it easy to deliver all kinds of applications and services for both the consumers as well as enterprise markets.

Q: How do you see wireless based GPS services developing further?
A: Location based services have already undergone a transformation to be perceived as location enhanced services. Anything and everything that people have on their handsets or electronic devices can be enhanced and made intelligent and smarter with location. Once the technology is enabled, various types of creative services can be built upon it and be brought to market by 3rd party service providers. It will continue to be an enabler for a wider variety of services and user lifestyles.

Imagine being able to have information on your location being tied into your calendar, personal information manager (PIM) and contacts database etc., so at any point in time information can be provided based on your proximity to others and on who and what is around you. Availability of basic GPS position location is not only being used for all the traditional applications such as maps, POI, navigation, etc. but is also used for emergency applications, social networking applications, gaming applications, outdoor and activity applications, mobile advertising applications and geocaching applications for example.

Some examples of this might be: “You’re at work and your phone alerts you to the fact that you need to leave to meet a friend for dinner, based on how far you are from the restaurant, or how long it is going to take to get there.

You're on your way to meet your friend, using the navigation functionality on your phone. Unfortunately the restaurant you were meeting at is fully booked but your friend has realized that their favourite restaurant is only a few blocks away. Your friend accesses the WiFi hotspot at the new restaurant to get their coordinates using Wifi and sends the new directions directly to your phone with a short text message explaining the change in venue. Once you receive the text you click on the new directions and input that into your navigation app and your device automatically changes your GPS coordinates and plans your new route in real time.

So driving towards the restaurant you understand that road you're driving along on has experienced congestion from an accident a few miles ahead. The location application you’re using offers realtime statistics on congestion and therefore re-routes you to through alternate streets, which eventually bring you to your location more quickly than if you had stayed on the recently congested highway.

Now you've arrived at your location but you have to park a block away due to the time. After getting out of your car you begin to walk down the street, using your GPS enabled phone for pedestrian navigation which maps the street views and buildings on the street making it easier for you to recognize that you’re in the right spot. You could also be using the same application to find places where you have ended up parking your car.

Finally you have arrived at the restaurant for dinner and are waiting outside for several more people to arrive. Seeing an interesting store within the vicinity you want to find out if it carries certain electronics items you have been yearning to buy. You search and make a comparison of the prices for the items in other stores closeby. Once you determine that right store, you place an order from your phone to hold that item for pickup till after you have completed your dinner. The store can even send you additional pictures of theitem and directions to you phone on how to walk or get there.

After a wonderful evening you begin to drive home. Again another reminder pops up, based on a PIM reminder that you need to pick up some groceries. The LBS enabled device realizes that there is a store only a few feet away - the distance you asked for a reminder - and that it has the groceries you need, possibly even at a lower price with a coupon that your device sends your way.

Realizing that it is still abit early in the evening, you decide to skip the groceries for now and see what your friends are up to. You pull up your friend/child finder option and notice that three of your friends are at your favourite nightclub while two others are at a coffee shop about 10 miles away. You decide you’d rather have a cup of coffee so you click on their location and immediately a new GPS map pops up – you’re on your way, again avoiding traffic using the realtime congestion statistics.”

In the example above, the location based services using precise location technology are able to do a number of different things assisting the user in their daily activities/routine, thereby improving overall productivity and allowing for peace of mind – from reminders to navigation (auto and pedestrian), finding friends, mobile advertising, shopping, and finding out relevant information on particular POI.

But this is not just a consumer play, enterprises have been able to use the location determination capabilities to assist in improving productivity, reducing costs and increasing revenues through applications such as field tracking, sales force and mobile resource management.

Q: How does your company address the public's privacy concerns surrounding GPS?
A: Qualcomm provides GPS chipset technology to all handset vendors and works closely with all the players in the location value chain (handset OEMs, operators, app providers and server vendors) and industry consortiums/bodies to make sure that the location architecture is well designed, implemented, and deployed, taking privacy issues and concerns into account.

Although public privacy concerns were an issue during the early stages of rollout, a variety of checks and bounds have now been enabled at various levels to take into account the privacy concerns of users. At the operating system level, OS vendors have implemented secure authentication mechanisms to ensure that a user’s privacy is protected and at the application level, application vendors have implemented various levels of security to make sure that users’ preferences are always taken into consideration when sharing the location information.

Many infrastructure vendors are also implementing privacy platforms on servers to ensure that an end-to-end system is in place to meet and exceed the privacy concerns of individuals and lawmakers. Many operators worldwide have also used the various levels of security indicated above to launch emergency services as well as friend-finder and family-finder applications.

Q: With location based applications appearing for free or at low prices in places like the iPhone app store, how do you think this will affect your company/the LBS market?
A: Location services being offered for free or at a very low price (subsidised or bundled with other services) are definitely an incentive for more subscribers to try out and explore their value and on how they can enhance their lifestyles. Application vendors are competing with one another to offer a variety of consumer applications and features that in turn benefit the user. We have seen lots of new and innovative applications come onto the market as a result of the apps store dynamics.

Apple iTunes for example has more than 17,000 applications, of which more than 700 use some form of location technology. Similarly the Android Marketplace has seen a lot of creative location applications being launched on the G-1 phone. Devices which have new capabilities such as sensors (i.e., accelerometers, compass) are also spurring application developers to combine them with location technologies to develop location applications with better UI (user interface) and features.

With this major push from the various OEMs, OS vendors, developers, and strong interest from the operator community to monetize location services or use them as a way to offer better differentiated services, the situation bodes well for Qualcomm. Qualcomm offers an integrated GPS solution into our chipset solutions, all the OEMs need to do to enable GPS is add just a few discrete components such as antennas, filters, resistors/capacitors and expose the software. The integrated GPS and wireless chipset offerings make it very easy for an OEM to enable GPS and to do so in a cost-effective and space efficient means for phones of many form factors.

Q:How do you see the future of location aware advertising?
A: Tailoring an individual’s exact location and preferences is the key driver for location based advertising. As mobile advertising matures, the ability of your phone to provide your exact location helps companies to hone in on the subscribers with a crisp, relevant and timely message, thereby improving their conversion rate. Industry analysts also expect that over time location based advertising could be one of the key drivers for the subsidisation of a variety of other premium location enhanced applications.

Q:How many years do you think it will be before ALL new mobile devices will carry GPS and LBS technology?
A:Today more than 50% of all smartphones are already being designed with GPS technology and in reviewing the market claims in the industry the following is what is being touted:
  • Handsets are expected to make up a significant percentage of GPS devices by 2011 timeframe - ~600M GPS enabled handsets by 2011 out of a total of 1.5B handsets to be shipped (source: ABI, InStat)
  • For 3G/3.5G, approximately 40% of all handsets to be shipped in 2011 are expected to be GPS enabled (source: IMS, InStat)
In addition, OS platforms such as Android, Apple OS, Blackberry, Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile, have all made location technologies a core part of their OS offerings. This is great news for the industry and for the mass adoption of LBS-based services.


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