It's all about location for these LBS conferences. Osman Iqbal, the European Director of TheWhereBusiness obviously knows this. The Dutch say that if you only visit Amsterdam once in your life, make sure you visit on April 30. Why April 30? It's Queen’s Day, the annual Dutch national holiday in honour of the late Queen Juliana’s birthday.
So me and another million visitors descended on Amsterdam following the LBS conference in what is without a doubt the world's largest street party. See me using Google Maps in the lower left corner?
In fairness to Osman, the LBS conference ended just as the Queen’s Day festivities started. Around midnight I ventured out into the Jordaan and Nieuwmarkt areas to witness the jovial partying, overflowing pubs and street discos. I travelled with a Rio-style drum band for a good hour before turning in. The throngs were all decked in the national color - orange. It's hard to be an angry drunk when you are dressed head to toe in orange, right? (Careful, I went to the University of Virginia.)
You ask, learn anything new at the conference? Yes. Three questions were answered:
1. Gartner: How big is the LBS market?
2. Google: How do you find a Starbucks?
3. Qualcomm: How do you catch a really big fish?
1. BIG MARKET. With luminaries from Gartner, Intel, Google, Qualcomm and Yahoo! gracing the stage, I expected more fistcuffery. The Europeans are so polite, but these were mostly Americans travelling across the pond to shell their LBS wares and visions. Still, despite jetlag and bone-crushing new business models and freemium threats, everyone behaved. Annette Zimmerman, senior analyst from Gartner, a super class act, started us off with the facts and a quote: "Gartner sees LBS as one of the most disruptive technologies in the next five to ten years." Great. So how big is the LBS market? Annette says that in 2010, LBS revenues worldwide will top $1.5B, but in four years, the LBS market will grow to over $8B in revenues. That's enough to make you don an orange cowboy hat and head to Amstel.
2. Locating Latte. Ed Parsons, Google's Geospatial Technologist, delivered such a professional and engaging presentation that the audience put down the breakfast tomatoes and threw nary a rotten fruit. Pity. I was hoping for it, just to see Ed put on his Google Goggles. He told us why LBS is happening now: 1) data plans are ubiquitious, 2) browsers are webkits not WAPs, and 3) devices are smart. But it's also happening because his team is sniffing out networks and building better base maps, and yes he's got the carriers scrambling over their walled gardens to open up. As an aggregator for location data from these carriers, I secretly thank him. Then he showed a picture of Ed Schmidt and Steve Jobs having coffee outside a Palo Alto coffeeshop.
Ed: "Check out my Google maps (holds up Android). You know how you can find the nearest Starbucks?"
Steve: "Walk to the nearest corner."
So while technology can solve everything, and location makes that solving "present," some activities like lifting a foot and glancing away from the tiny screen can improve productivity. Since Google is now investing in wind farms, I liked Ed Parsons even more. I wonder if he has a blog.
3. The One That Never Gets Away. John Kavulich, the head of Qualcomm's Location Products and Services, is also a class act. His presentation didn't have the sexy demos and imagery courtesy of Google's media team behind Ed Parsons, but John sure did have the stage presence. And he knows how to land a chinook salmon. John served as the adult supervision in the room, and why not, Qualcomm is booking over $10B a year from this mobile party. "Location adds relevance," says John, "so now silos of service have been created both inside and outside the operator networks to provide end-to-end connectivity." He cited Nokia, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Skyhook, Palm and Yahoo!, to name just a few.
John, that's a big fish, but then, any fisherman knows it's all about location. John emphasized three points in his closing remarks:
1. A-GPS is now widely accepted on a global scale
2. Location-aware devices enhance much more than just navigation
3. Aggregation is needed for enabling the market
On his last note, John said: "without location aggregators like LOC-AID, this location mass market adoption won't take off." Thank you for the plug, John. For that, I did not post the picture of you with the little fish.