Indoor navigation — and services that map and understand our mobility patterns - lay the ground work for a slew of exciting new location services that combine advertising, marketing, couponing and analytics to deliver people offers they truly can’t refuse. What is the role of mobile operators? Where are the growth opportunities? These are just a few of the questions I explore with Phyllis Reuther, manager of the advanced analytics lab run by the major U.S. mobile operator Sprint.
So, why is indoor navigation enabled by micro-sensor wireless networks moving up the agenda at Sprint (and elsewhere across the emerging business ecosystem)? According to Phyllis, the drivers are the services (and benefits) they deliver us and the companies that want to connect with us.
As consumers, we can look forward to more personal and accurate navigation services that don’t just lead us to the entrance of a 30-acre mega shopping mall, for example. Instead, these advanced services will be able to guide us through the mall to the shop or doctor’s office we seek. In addition to significantly cutting the time we spend looking for (and not finding) businesses we want, these services will help us plan our overall daily routines better.
At the other end of the spectrum, brands and retailers also stand to gain from knowing more about our mobility patterns. One scenario these sensor networks can enable: Brands could deliver us a coupon for milk exactly when we are in the dairy products aisle and seriously considering a purchase.
However, Phyllis reminds us it’s not just about offering consumers the right discount at the right time/place. It’s also about delivering enhanced customer service. Stores, she says, will be able to interact directly – and more effectively – with customers because their mobile phone is now “a mobile information desk.” People can ask questions, query about items and better navigate the space nearby. The exchange feeds into CRM systems and programs to potentially boost customer loyalty.
Phyllis tells us that Sprint is also eying opportunities in the healthcare and public safety sectors. Knowing where crowd build-up occurs (via a finer-grain sensor network) can help security officials allocate resources to the right location, for example. The same network data can help save lives. As Phyllis puts it: “In the case of emergencies, you want to know where the first responders are, and you want to be able to provide first responders with the ability to go directly to a trouble spot and save the time of trying to figure out where in a seven-storey building someone might be located.”
In the healthcare sector Sprint is currently working on a project focussed on detecting understanding personal mobility patterns. People who experience psychotic or depressed episodes, for example, typically develop erratic or compressed mobility patterns. “We’re looking at how people could opt in to a service that would monitor them and alert a caregiver when that person’s mobility patterns change,” Phyllis explains. “We are just starting to push the boundaries on what’s possible out there.”
Major micro-navigation opportunities
Why the heightened interest in micro-navigation and micro-sensor networks? In Phyllis’ view, it’s a logical next step in location services. Macro-navigation apps and solutions (such as Google Maps and MapQuest) have done a brilliant job of getting us to our final destinations. Now companies are lining up to claim their turf in a business ecosystem that exists to navigate us directly to the door step of our final destination, delivering us advice, assistance, information, perks and coupons every step of the way.
Sensing a business opportunity, companies, app developers and advertisers are looking to extend their reach directly inside buildings (businesses, malls, hospitals, schools). However, to make it all work there needs to be a fine-grain sensor network.
We aren’t there yet, but Phyllis discusses the progress and models that will define this new market. allowing the delivery of real-time, spatial, temporal services that can be used by business and – ultimately – for social good.
Sure, indoor navigation paves the way for effective proximity marketing. But don’t just think about spatial temporal campaigns that tell you want is on offer at the aisle level in a store. Phyllis outlines exciting opportunities around public safety, emergency response and personal mobile-enabled healthcare. What are the technology hurdles and where are the growth opportunities? You can get the inside track on this by listening to the interview.
Editor’s note: Phyllis is also speaking this week at LocNav USA (San Diego), a mega-event that brings together the well-established Navigation USA Conference (now in its 7th year) with the highly successful Location Business Summit. MobileGroove is proud to be a media partner and has produced and posted this podcast exclusively for Helen Raff and Naomi Hands over at TheWhereBusiness (you rock!), where the organizers have launched a microsite to showcase this audio interview and cement our future collaboration. My personal thanks also to Phyllis for the invigorating interview (!), and all the great exchanges since we connected at MCN so many years ago