Vishy Poosala, Head of Bell Labs India showcased a few products in the location based segment at EmTech India. For tracking traffic, they developed Teleport, a patent pending high tech, low cost solution that uses bluetooth for tracking traffic. The box (hardware) costs around $150-200 each. They deploy the sensor which tracks cars with people who have left their bluetooth on, and based on where the same device is tracked next, one can determine speed of traffic, and track clusters of traffic.
Poosala said that one can cover Mumbai with around 500 sensors, and use it for traffic alerts; one can also add more sensors for temerature, pollution and value added location based services. One can also proactively deliver content based on locations.
Geopepper: Geographic Messaging Services
Bell Labs has come up with a concept of GMS – geographic messaging services, where the delivery of the message depends on the location. Using Geopepper, a user can leave a message in a particular location for his friends, and when they are in that geographic area, they’ll will receive the message. For example, I can leave a message for a friend of mine in Khan Market to try out the desserts at Big Chill, and the message will be delivered the next time my friend visits Khan Market. Now this can be a marketing message as well.
Mango: Mobile Content Solution
Mango is a low cast, scalable solution for mobile content, to allow college kids with a hunger for content to upload photos, download clips etc. They don’t need to be on the operator network. This is again near field communications based, and can be deployed by telecom operators. Consumers will not need a data plan, and it solves a problem for the operators because, according to Poosala, the networks will not be able to support simultaneous multimedia content downloads.
We think that Teleport can be limited or inaccurate because it depends on the number of bluetooth connections that are active in a particular area. The traffic congestion can appear to be more if more devices are left on by communters, and less or none if no one at a junction has their bluetooth on. Telecom operator data is perhaps more accurate because it tracks the number of mobile phones operational in a particular area – though that has its own issues – the trianguation may not be very accurate. At the same time, some of these features can also be incorporated in Google Latitude.
We find Geopepper quite an interesting application, but there’s no reason why such a product should only be bluetooth based – this is also a service that the telecom operators launch on their network. Bluetooth for marketing hasn’t really taken off, and there’s nothing to indicate that it will. It can be used for free promotional content, but the issue for Mango is that of mass infrastructure deployment, and then consumer education.