Location-based services, where web content and wireless applications are served up to users on the basis of their precise geographical position, has consistently been touted as one of the potential ‘killer apps’ of third-generation (3G) mobile networks.
But there have been murmurs of discontent recently about the time it is taking to develop the underlying technologies. Some critics are now warning that 3G operators are about to lose this key plank in their 3G strategies. The growing tension has been underlined by a public spat between telecoms analyst group BWCS and Cambridge Positioning Systems, the VC-backed UK developer of tracking technology. CPS has developed its systems using so-called ‘enhanced observed time difference’, or E-OTD, techniques.
BWCS issued a report in October 2002 decrying E-OTD’s performance – US trials discovered errors of up to 200 metres, it claimed – and alleging that “no one can say why it isn’t working”. But Cambridge Positioning Systems responded with a lengthy rebuttal, saying in a prepared statement that the technology was accurate and reliable.
Whatever the truth of the situation, there are other location-based services technologies in addition to EOTD. These, however, may be less accurate or less easy to use. All this is worrying for the mobile industry, which is already struggling to complete the build out and launch of 3G networks and devices.
* See the following features, ‘Superman’s biggest challenge’ and ‘The case against 3G’, for more details.