Passive Tracking Creates Potential Privacy Nightmare

On a MMA panel about mobile ad agencies, the statement was made that the top things carriers could do to facilitate mobile advertising would be the following:

  • More aggressive data plans, including flat rate plans (which now exist)
  • Open up their billing and user data to ad targeting (Sprint has done this to a degree)

This second suggestion raises important and contentious privacy issues, which were picked up in a later mobile social networkingComo todos los casino online que son de alto nivel, Casino Del Rio tambien utiliza el software de Playtech para el desarrollo de juegos de casino online, y brinda atencion personalizada las 24 horas alos jugadores en casino online durante todo el año. panel. With GPS and related “passive” or automated tracking that a number of mobile social networks have proposed (e.g., Whrrl), simple and transparent privacy rules are strongly implicated -- or these companies will face a PR nightmare and potential regulation.

Nuance OVS - Promises Voice Search for iPhone in August

No pricing is available but Steve Chambers, president of the Nuance Mobile business unit has demonstrated Open vSearch (or OVS) speech-enabling Web search on the iPhone. A demo can be seen here. While it is not substantially different from the offerings of Vlingo, V-ENABLE or Microsoft Live Search in terms of using speech input and distributed speech processing (DSP) to recognize utterances and populate a search box, it is no coincidence that the announcement coincides with Apple's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) here in San Francisco.

It was at WWDC yesterday that Steve Jobs announced the new, 3G-compliant, less expensive iPhone and began enticing Apple's true believers with the capabilities of a faster data link, longer battery life, GPS and a larger user base (thanks to the lower price). We expect to see some formidable new speech-enabled multimodal applications for the new generation of iPhones. It's impact far exceeds the share of the mobile subscriber base.
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P.S. from Greg: I've been using the Microsoft Live Search application with voice much more recently and have become very pleased with the performance. Voice/speech of course addresses many of the shortcomings of keypad entry on mobile phones, although it's imperfect. It also helps drive consumer search volume as well because of the reduced "friction."

Local Matters and Apptus Bolster Canoe411 for Qubecor MediaPages

In a joint press release from Denver, CO, and Lund Sweden, IYP and enhanced 411 aficionado Local Matters and e-Commerce specialist Apptus announced that they have worked together to bring new content and capabilities to www.Canoe411.ca, an Internet Yellow Pages and local search engine operated by Quebecor MediaPages.

A "beta" version of the site has been operating since April. As it moves out of beta status, it becomes the official online directory for the Canoe.ca network, which reportedly attracts 8.8 million unique visitors each month. The combination of technologies from Local Matters and Apptus is to provide mechanisms for local merchants to target advertising to local buyers. MediaPages published printed directories in 20 or so smaller communities in Canada, but will grow its business by expanding into Montreal and Quebec City. Integration with Canoe411.ca will give the MediaPages sales force more opportunities to sell products and services that rely on targeted search-based marketing through the Canoe411 Web site.

T-Mobile Invests $6 Million in DeCarta for LBS Insurance

T-Mobile's venture arm has invested in geo-software provider DeCarta:

Location-based services are experiencing rapid adoption as consumers are using new applications that take advantage of location-enabled handsets. Location and mapping services have become a central ingredient in most mobile Internet platforms. deCarta's geospatial software platform gives mobile LBS application developers and mobile operators the ability to quickly build and deploy applications that integrate a wide variety of map and data sources to provide complex local search, navigation, mapping, social networking and spatial search functions.

deCarta's technology is ideal for the full continuum of mobile LBS solutions including off-board, server-based applications offered by mobile operators through to "connected navigation" -- the ability to integrate personal navigation devices and smartphones through real-time two-way mobile connectivity to a variety of dynamic data sources and local search services.

DeCarta clients have included Ask.com, AT&T, Google, Hotels.com, Maps.com, Qualcomm, Sprint Nextel, Sage-Quest, Verizon, Yahoo!, Zillow.com. T-Mobile also recently invested in Whrrl.

Previously, personal navigation device maker Tom Tom acquired TeleAtlas, while Nokia acquired Navteq.

Carriers see mapping and related data services as strategic in the segment, so I would imagine there will be other such investments, leading ultimately to acquisitions.

Adidas 'Brotherhood' SMS Case Study

I'm at the MMA conference in New York. Adidas presented an interesting case study involving mobile marketing. Without going into too many details, the company integrated TV and SMS. The tag at the end of the TV commercial ("The Brotherhood") was an SMS call to action. What was significant is that this was the first time that Adidas did a TV campaign without a URL at the end. Yet the company said that users/viewers went to the Adidas site regardless (the brand triggered a navigational search).

People who sent in texts received phone calls from basketball players involved in the campaign, as well as a follow-up text. This voice/text "engagement" continued for approximately a month with calls from different players happening every several days. These voice messages are like personalized radio spots.

Because the kids had effectively "opted-in" by responding to the TV ads, these follow-up calls did not appear as spam.

In the campaign, Adidas also used text with outdoor and print, as well as TV. It used different codes for out of home, TV and print enabling all these different media to be separately tracked.

The SMS component of the campaign was extremely successful with the target demographic: young men who are heavy text messaging users. This isn't mobile "advertising" but will be increasingly common in traditional media campaigns both as a way to extend the campaigns and to "personalize" them. One of the interesting issues "going forward" will be when to emphasize mobile and when to emphasize the desktop Internet and how to most effectively integrate both.

The repeated theme was integration: "don't use mobile as a stand-alone device" or channel.

Video vs. TV on Mobile Phones

I remain quite skeptical of the potential for mobile TV in the form of an "upsell" to subscribers. Video on mobile devices is a different matter however. People are watching video to varying degrees and will do so in increasing numbers over time.

In the US the iPhone leads the way; almost 40% of current owners watch video. Then again the device is intended as a video iPod. Other phones, such as LG, Samsung and HTC devices will catch up, not to mention the Blackberry Bold and the forthcoming "Thunder." But improved user experiences and video quality won't necessarily translate into mobile TV subscriptions.

Now SlingMedia has adapted the Slingbox for the iPhone so that one can watch one's home TV on the device. It's not going to be available to the public for awhile. But it offers a glimpse into what may become a very popular app for the Apple device as people access their home programming on the phone.

However, paying for a mobile TV service (such as AT&T's MediaFLO) is still a pipe dream for US carriers.

Touch Screens Everywhere

I'm in New York for the MMA conference this week and I flew from San Francisco for the first time on Virgin America. There's less leg room in coach than on jetBlue but the airline does have an impressive touch-screen entertainment system called "Red."

Red is an on-demand content portal of sorts that also is the way that you order food on the plane. It supports live chat between seats, gaming, shopping (coming soon) and email/text messaging (coming soon). The typing is on a small keyboard that is on the back of a remote control that pulls out of the seat armrest. It's quite a bit more advanced than anything comparable on other carriers. And, most other things being relatively equal, it may be a tie-breaker in terms of which airline to fly.

Though this isn't supported (yet), there could easily be a way to tie Red to the Internet so that frequent fliers could personalize their content online and then retrieve it onboard. This would be a great piece of Virgin's loyalty program and could be relatively easily engineered.

After I landed in New York I was in a cab with a touch-screen kiosk in the back seat. Though the user experience was quite poor, it offered maps, things to do and so on. It also took my credit card.

Every new mobile device, owing to the influence of the iPhone, is a touch screen device. But, as these examples above illustrate, IP-connected touch-screen devices will move beyond "mobile" and proliferate in the next 5-10 years. This will create very interesting opportunities and scenarios for users, content producers and advertisers.

Mobile Heatmaps for Urban Hotspots

Citysense is an application that offers heatmaps in "real time" for various entertainment venues and restaurants (right now only in SF). It's available for Blackberry and iPhone 2.0. By tracking mobile phones it shows where people are and generally what they're doing.

The company intends to use GPS tracking (like Whrrl) to build user profiles and start to make recommendations:

When you use Citysense, the application learns about the kinds of places you like to go from GPS – without ever sharing that information. In its next release, Citysense will not only tell you where everyone is right now, but where everyone like YOU is right now. The application will compare your history and preferences with those of other users, and show you where you're most likely to find people with similar tastes at that moment. So each person's nightlife map will look a little different, and will display a unique top hotspot list. Cool, huh? That's why we save your location when you use Citysense: to remember what you like. Of course, you don't have to keep a personalized nightlife profile.

This is a fun and provocative entertainment discovery tool, which has Twitter-like potential. Is it a business? That's a question. The company that produced Citysense is called Sense Networks.

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All sorts of interesting data -- and potential uses, such as Citysense -- are going to come from all the movement and activity tracking (in the aggregate) out there. There are privacy issues to be sure, but it's not unlike search behavior or clickstream behavior on the Web applied to the real world.

iPhone PR: Money Can't Buy That Kind of Publicity

One of the things that put Skyhook Wireless on the map from a PR perspective was Apple CEO Steve Jobs' mention of the company on stage earlier this year, discussing the iPhone SDK. Money can't buy that kind of publicity, to paraphrase Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan.

Also in that camp today is Loopt, the mobile social network and friend finder. The company's CEO Sam Altman did an iPhone demo on stage in San Francisco. We'll see if Whrrl gets a mention as well.

A range of apps, from SEGA, to eBay, Loopt, AP and TypePad have shared the stage so far . . .

Jobs: 98% of iPhone users are doing mobile browsing (of the Internet). He confirms the 3G iPhone. Says iPhone 3G is faster than other 3G phones, cites Nokia and Palm. Jobs says "3G speeds approach WiFi."

He also confirms the price cut and GPS (combined with WiFi and cell tower triangulation). There's also extended battery life beyond iPhone 1.0. Jobs touts location-based services and content on iPhone 2.0.

Jobs says they're will be distribution in 70 countries around the globe for iPhone 2.0.

Jobs announces the new price: $199 for 8G with a 16G model for $299. That's going to drive huge sales globally. Release date is July 11 in 22 countries.

iPhone price cut

image credit: Engadget

iPhone 3G: Game Changer Part Deux

The first iPhone changed the mobile Internet and mobile hardware forever; the new 3G GPS $199 iPhone will cause more consumer gain, competitor pain. The combination of ingredients here makes this device all but unbeatable, especially given the third party applications that nobody else currently has -- although Blackberry and Android are working on it.

In the end, it may be the apps that really make the iPhone desirable to users even more than the device itself.

But for the AT&T exclusivity, the iPhone would be the iPod of phones (meaning a brand that overshadows others). Let's see what the response is from other carriers and handset makers. Suddenly the HTC and Samsung devices (Touch Diamond, Instinct) look relatively pale by comparison.

Here's the AT&T press release just out a few minutes ago.

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UK carrier O2 makes the new iPhone "free" for "selected tariffs," meaning those in particular higher-cost plan categories.