An Open Business Model for Location Based Services and Wireless Data
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An Open Business Model for Location Based Services and Wireless Data

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! Jonathan Spinney, Industry Manager, Location-Based Services at ESRI spoke to me recently about what ESRI offers to the location based service and wireless market.

Innovation is key in this fast paced industry segment, as far as ESRI is concerned. “The main difference [between ESRI and other vendors] is we're all about supporting talent and creativity, whether that comes internally within the operator, or whether that's third party external, we don't care where it is, as long as it's there,” claimed Spinney. “They have technology, it will help them accomplish that and get to that point. Our stuff is not that important, it's a small piece of the overall application.”

Read what Spinney has to say in this week's Industry News.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Appointments, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at Managing Editor

Best wishes,
Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

An Open Business Model for Location Based Services and Wireless Data

By Susan Smith

Jonathan Spinney, Industry Manager, Location-Based Services at ESRI spoke to me recently about what ESRI offers to the location based service and wireless market.

Innovation is key in this fast paced industry segment, as far as ESRI is concerned. ESRI has built an ecosystem of developer talents where developers focus not just on application types but also industry types. The company has a “portfolio” of talent that covers a wide gamut of different consumer and enterprise type applications. They can encourage operators to explore a business model, where they can work with that ecosystem to reach both new users existing users. This business model extends to other areas of the company as well and appears to be the underlying basis for the ESRI Developer Network that we talked about in this newsletter in February of this year.

“The main difference [between ESRI and other vendors] is we're all about supporting talent and creativity, whether that comes internally within the operator, or whether that's third party external, we don't care where it is, as long as it's there,” claimed Spinney. “They have technology, it will help them accomplish that and get to that point. Our stuff is not that important, it's a small piece of the overall application.”

The platforms for performing LBS are all similar and not that sophisticated, said Spinney, as they make routes, maps, they do geocodes, they reverse geocode, they “find the nearest.” The difference is in “how they are deployed, who they support and the business model around that,” Spinney explained.

The various business models for LBS are what our discussion was mostly about. These business models have much to do with the carriers and what they do, according to Spinney. This is typical not only of LBS, but of wireless data in general. For the carriers that have offered voice and other value added services for quite some time, transitioning to a data world was a challenge. None of the carriers have adopted a universal way of offering up those data services. Location based service means one data service, Spinney noted.

During the late 90s through 2001, carriers would acquire some location infrastructure produced by wireless infrastructure vendors such as Nokia, Nortel or Siemens in order to location-enable their network and enable them to extract location from a network and expose it to an application. “In those days an application was typically an in-house application, which meant they had to bring in other piece parts as well as some geospatial component,” Spinney said. “They would bring all these together, build an application and brand them, then deploy them into the marketplace and sell them themselves. So it was a 100% controlled offering by the operator.”

Trends followed where some vendors saw that in addition to offering what they do best, they could take advantage of the different pieces in the value chain such as location determining technology, gateway infrastructure and middleware for brokering, GIS etc. That idea was to simplify that value chain a little bit and add some market ready white labeled applications that anyone - the operator or contact provider - could brand.

Three years ago, Nextel opened up location access to their network. They published an SDK with free download for developers and they built an application that ran on the Nextel network. “I think there are about sixty of those solutions out there today,” said Spinney. Instead of bringing in a lot of infrastructure, building applications and branding it themselves, Nextel opened up a collaborative environment for developers to consume core network resources and build applications with tools that they acquired on their own. They used a variety of systems, including IT and CRM systems, and geospatial software to process location. “Clearly they are the leader in the U.S. They've adopted an open business model and we support that network of third party developers who have in some cases gone to market themselves with their own direct sales force or they go back and partner with Nextel and Nextel acts as a channel. Or they partner with ESRI and ESRI acts as a channel. Or they do all three.”

This model obviously encourages open development activity, and nurtures an ecosystem where “everybody can play in the sandbox,” said Spinney. “The other model is a little bit more closed. I would argue that, by far, Nextel shares in the most success for LBS on a global scale. They're more successful than any other operator I've encountered, I think because of the business model. I haven't seen operator yet get return on their investment using the other business models I mentioned, and that includes our customers over in Europe. There may be a lot of reasons for that, such as marketing, or maybe there's just no awareness built around it. They are not technology reasons because one platform is the same as the next, whether it be gateways or geospatial servers, etc.”

“At ESRI we really try to embrace a business model where operators are open to working with the third party developer community and we directly support that developer community,” Spinney reiterated. “You could have a strategy where you go and deploy GIS infrastructure into the operator and then the operator may not build and brand their own internally, but they expose that GIS as their own platform for third party developers to access--which is a pretty interesting business model.”

“We've done one of those implementations in Sweden, where there are about a dozen third party developers that access that centralized and standardized geospatial server,” he continued. “But I don't necessarily see the benefits of doing that for an operator, unless they want all the maps on all their applications to look the same.”

This solution made a lot of sense from the standpoint of trying to standardize. Three operators throughout the Nordic region had merged, creating a chaotic situation where different applications were using different map data sources, different APIs and different geospatial servers. “The customer wanted to get together and find out what was going on across all three of these networks,” said Spinney. The standard itself is OpenLS which is just an XML API. The whole purpose of the API is to have interoperability between the vendors who support that standard. “So if you publish an OpenLS API and you decided to support an OpenLS platform behind your firewall, then you're going to mandate that all your developers write to that platform via that APIs, there's no reason why it couldn't point to any platform that supported OpenLS. Why in the world would an operator buy six different competing platforms that all happen to support OpenLS? It makes no sense.”

What could make sense, according to Spinney, is hosted services. Example: you had six competing geospatial platforms that support the OpenLS standard and they were all hosted platforms. This doesn't exist today, but if it did, you could have a developer portal on the operator site and developers could go there and get access to an SDK. They could program against the OpenLS interfaces and then they could make a decision as to where they want to point their map calls.

The operator would not care where it went as the map would look the same, the API would be same, the route would be the same.

Reaching a large number of subscribers (35 million) requires broadening your channel, which developers are able to do. “They are the ones with the creativity, they are going to build all the applications,” claimed Spinney. “They will think of things that you never thought of. GIS companies aren't the ones thinking of the applications--they're just developing the enabling technology, and the amazing ideas come out of the community. The same thing is happening in the location space.”

In a recent article in Wireless Week, the wireless data problem and the “walled garden” is addressed. Operators have maintained a walled garden approach which directs consumers to content selected and organized by the operator, and presumably protects the subscribers from viruses and other predatory influences. If all the content is purchased through the walled garden and billed through the carrier billing system, then the operator is guaranteed its share of the revenue split. Verizon is such a company.

On the other hand, Spinney said that developers complain about the walled garden approach because they can't get into it. The approach stifles innovation and keeps new content out of the marketplace. Sprint offers a more open approach with SDKs and enabling technologies, and access to more off portal content, so developers can use them to create innovative applications and deliver them through multiple channels. However, even Sprint keeps close tabs on its sanctioned content which is at the top deck. And regardless of which model is used, it appears that using a carrier billing system is preferred so that operators can retrieve their cut of the revenue.

More on 3D Data Integration

In last week's GISWeekly, I wrote about Dr. Dipl-Ing Sisi Zlatanova, GIS technology director of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, who gave a presentation at the BE Research Seminar on the framework for emergency management that they are implementing in the Netherlands.

Dr. Zlatanova informed me that she has a book now in production entitled 3D Large-scale Data Integration: Challenges and Opportunities (eds. Zlatanova and Prosperi, CRCpress), expected to be available in September, 2005. The topic was the subject of last year's research seminar.

This year, she said they plan to work on a book that will cover “Technology for homeland security and emergency response, “ which was the topic of this year's research seminar.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ Editor's Note: Unless otherwise noted, the material in the following sections is generally taken from press releases and does not reflect the beliefs or opinions of this publication.


European Space Imaging announced that the company has started the distribution of imagery from the new IRS-RESOURCESAT-1 satellite to customers in Europe and North Africa. RESOURCESAT-1 collects imagery at resolutions ranging from 5 to 60 meter which complements European Space Imaging's product suite of very high resolution IKONOS imagery of up to 80 cm resolution.

The distribution of RESOURCESAT-1 imagery by European Space Imaging is made possible through an agreement with Euromap of Neustrelitz, Germany. Euromap is the company responsible for the reception and distribution of imagery from the Indian Remote Sensing programme in Europe. The company started systematic reception and processing of RESOURCESAT-1 imagery over Europe in March of this year and has collected IRS-1C and 1D data since 1996.

Pictometry International Corp., a digital, aerial oblique imagery provider, announced that it has signed a five-year agreement with Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, WA. Under terms of the agreement, Pictometry will license existing and new nationwide aerial images to Microsoft to be incorporated into MSN Virtual Earth and other MapPoint product offerings.

Brazilian GSM operator Oi consolidated its position at the forefront of mobile innovation in Latin America with the announcement of plans to rollout a new generation of high accuracy location based services in partnership with CPS.


ObjectFX Corporation announced that it was selected by the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc.(TM) (OGC) and its sponsors to participate in the OGC Web Services Phase 3 (OWS-3) Interoperability Initiative. The initiative is designed to advance OGC Web Services, the set of OpenGIS(R) specifications for the emerging "Spatial Web." Under the agreement, ObjectFX will create an OGC compliant Web Feature Portrayal Service using the company's 2525B Compliant Military Symbology Rendering System.

A team led by Boeing submitted a proposal for the program definition and risk reduction phase of the next-generation geostationary weather and environmental system known as GOES-R.

GOES-R, which is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) program, will be an end-to-end system providing uninterrupted, high-quality environmental data to government and commercial users. The GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) family is the backbone of U.S. weather forecasting, environmental remote sensing and climate prediction. GOES spacecraft help meteorologists observe and predict local weather events, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, fog, flash floods and other severe weather. GOES observations also have proven helpful in monitoring dust storms, volcanic eruptions and forest fires.

Avenza Systems Inc., producers of MAPublisher cartographic software and MAPdataUSA and MAPdataWorld GIS data products, announced that it will support HarrysMaps of Switzerland and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) project to remap the city of Nairobi, Kenya.

MapInfo Corporation, a global provider of location intelligence solutions, announced the launch of the 2005 National Survey of Local Shopping Patterns (NSLSP), the leading country-wide survey of shopping destination preferences based on the responses of more than six million households throughout Great Britain. Over a million new records are added to the survey program annually.

Also MapInfo Corporation announced that it has met the industry-optimized criteria in IBM's PartnerWorld Industry Networks. As a result, MapInfo can help insurance customers develop application "portlets" for improved decision-making across the entire organization. Built on the WebSphere portal server and the MapInfo Envinsa(TM) location intelligence platform, the portlets enable insurance carriers to improve risk analysis, enhance underwriting practices and increase profitability.

Tele Atlas and ESRI will present five U.S. and Canadian educators with scholarships to attend the 2005 ESRI Education User Conference (EdUC). Tele Atlas will provide recipients with $400 toward travel costs, and ESRI will provide complimentary admission to the conference in San Diego, California, July 23-26, 2005.

Ordnance Survey announced the first nationwide agreement for the supply of high-quality digital aerial photography from its OS MasterMap Imagery Layer.

The national mapping agency will supply data to the Forestry Commission to help with the development and promotion of sustainable forest management across Britain.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced the release of new public web pages that show the probability of earthquake shaking in the next 24 hours in California. These maps graphically illustrate the change in earthquake probability during aftershock and possible foreshock sequences.

The maps are not intended to be used to predict an upcoming earthquake; however, based on previous earthquake sequences, an increase in probability will be seen before about half of California's larger earthquakes. The maps are updated at least once an hour.


MapInfo Corporation announced that Bluecom Group Ltd, a UK bespoke solutions provider to companies with mobile workforces and a subsidiary of Citylink Group Ltd, has selected MapInfo technology to underpin the development of SmartACCESS, a new web-enabled vehicle tracking and telematics solution.


NAVTEQ earned the honor of 2005 Oracle(R) Spatial Partnership Award Winner. The Oracle Spatial Partnership Award given by Oracle is one in a series known as the Oracle Spatial Excellence Awards (OSE's). The first annual OSE's (or Ozzie's) were created by the Oracle Server Technologies Spatial organization to recognize organizations that have contributed to the advancement of mainstream enterprise solutions using geospatial technology.

Tele Atlas, a global provider of digital map data and other geographic content, and TomTom, a navigation solutions provider and a close partner of Tele Atlas, took home the highest accolades in their categories at the Telematics Update Detroit 2005 show. Tele Atlas was chosen as the Best Technology/Telematics Solution and the TomTom GO was awarded the prize for Best Navigation Product.


The Magellan® “Be There” GPS Adventure geocaching contest hosted by Thales navigation business, begins May 23, 2005 and spans across 30 cities in the United States and five in Germany.

At the website, contestants can access clues they can use with a GPS receiver to get to obscure, but easily traversed, locations where containers are hidden above ground each week. The first person to BE THERE and find the container will retrieve a document inside that is redeemable for a first-place prize.


Two additional sessions of the popular 3 day "GIS for Emergency Response" class were announced at the Texas Governor's Department of Emergency Management Annual Hurricane Conference.

The 2005 Hurricane Season officially begins June 1 and this year's season is predicted to be at least as active as 2004, which brought four major hurricanes to Florida and CAT 5 Ivan to the Caribbean and Gulf Coast.

Classes are held on campus at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi and the two remaining sessions for 2005 are June 27-29 & September 21-23. The class can also be delivered on-site by request. Call Devon Humphrey at 512.264.3246 or visit for more information.


MWH Soft, a global provider of environmental and water resources applications software, announced that Paul F. Boulos, Ph.D, President and COO of MWH Soft, has been named to the Board of Directors of the National Association of GIS-Centric Software (NAGCS). Boulos was elected by the founding members of NAGCS to guide the organization toward achieving its mission: furthering the development of GIS-centric solutions across all industries.

New Products

AmberCore(TM) Software, global provider of spatial decision support systems, announced the release of Amber iQ® 2.0. Amber iQ 2.0 is a Geographic Information System (GIS) that integrates vector and raster data to produce stunning visual outputs and valuable analysis.

ASPRS released version 1.1 of the ASPRS Lidar Data Exchange Format Standard (LAS) at its 71st Annual ASPRS Conference and Exhibition held in Baltimore, Maryland in March. This binary data exchange format is an industry standard for the exchange of lidar data between various hardware manufacturers, software developers, data providers and end users. The LAS format is primarily intended to make the exchange, manipulation, analysis, and storage of lidar data faster and easier. In addition, a standardized lidar data format helps to facilitate the processing, editing and visualization of lidar data in a wide variety of commercial and proprietary software packages. The format is a public binary file format that is a replacement for the proprietary systems or a generic ASCII file interchange system used by many companies in the past.

Autodesk, Inc. and HP announced the availability of instant printing capabilities for HP Designjet series printers with Autodesk DWF Viewer, a free, downloadable viewer for 2D and 3D design workflows, and DWF Composer software that enables users to review, mark up and revise drawings.

MapText, Inc. has announced the release of Label-Web 1.0, a high-quality text placement engine that labels web-based maps on the fly in a GeoMedia WebMap 5.2 environment.

Claritas Inc., provider of intelligent marketing information and target marketing services, announced the release of ConsumerPoint® CE, the Canadian edition of Claritas' comprehensive target marketing software system. The new product is being made available through a strategic partnership with Toronto-based Environics Analytics Group, a marketing services company that specializes in geodemographic-based segmentation.

ViziWorld LLC announced the launch of ViziMap Creator™, an online multimedia mapping product focused on satisfying people's desire to communicate with maps and photos, and to share these with one another.

A major milestone in a sixteen-year, multi-million-dollar self-funded effort by the South Carolina- based defense research and development company Ladco Defense Technologies was reached this week as the small firm announced its first globally marketable product. This product is an electronic remote sensing device named RTAPT. This sensor has been designed to be a cost-effective solution to eliminate the errors in all GPS, PPS, GIS and mapping products currently available in the defense and commercial markets. Presently the company's best information says that it will be offering two versions of this device - one version for commercial markets and one available for the defense markets.

Matrox Graphics Inc., manufacturer of professional graphics solutions, announced the Millennium P650 LP PCIe 64 graphics card, a low-profile Millennium P-Series product for PCI Express. The product features native PCI Express x16 support, 64 MB of graphics memory, and Matrox DualHead® for using two digital or analog monitors at a time. This announcement follows other recent Matrox releases for PCI Express, including the now-shipping Matrox QID LP PCIe and Millennium P650 PCIe 128 products.

Around the Web

Take That, Google: Bill Gates Struts Microsoft's New Search Stuff, by John Markoff, The New York Time, (registration required), May 24, 2005 - Bill Gates used his appearance at an industry conference here (Carlsbad, Calif.) Monday to offer Microsoft's response to Google's latest online offerings, incorporating satellite imagery into location-based search results and introducing a new customizable MSN "start" page.

IBM's Mattos: The Metadata Story Has Jelled, by Lisa Vaas, Eweek, May 13, 2005 - Analysts say that following the Ascential acquisition-only the latest in a string of acquisitions over the past years-IBM is well on its way to becoming the leader in the field of data integration.

But analysts and customers also say that they haven't yet heard the full metadata story. That's important, because metadata is the glue that binds it all together. As vendors seek to tie together disparate integration tools such as ETL (extraction, transformation and loading), EAI (enterprise application integration), data profiling, into one, integrated platform of integration tools, this metadata story is crucial.

Upcoming Events

GEO Brasil 2005
Date: May 30 - June 2, 2005
Place: Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil
GEOBrasil, ExpoGPS/Galileo, GEOIntelligence and GEO Oil and Gas together form the largest and most important and comprehensive set of events connected with geoinformation of Latin America. With the presence of the principal brand names, trade marks and leaders of the market, the event, workshops, courses, conferences and debates present a unique opportunity for total immersion in the principal novelties connected with geotechnologies to be found in the continent.

Kentucky-Tennessee Society of American Foresters Summer Meeting, GIS Pre-Conference
Date: June 7, 2005
Place: University of the South Sewanee, TN USA
This one-day pre-conference workshop will prepare you to make an informed decision regarding the move to GIS. You will learn the basics of how a GIS works and how it can best be used to monitor and manage natural resources.

Open Source Geospatial '05 - MUM3/EOGEO
Date: June 16 - 18, 2005
Place: University of Minnesota/Radisson Hotel Minneapolis, MN USA
Open Source Geospatial '05, an international conference addressing geospatial data technologies developed by or of relevance to the Open Source community, will be held June 16-18, 2005 in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA. The conference will bring together the MapServer, EOGEO, and OSGIS communities, but seeks to be more broadly inclusive. A committee has been working since July to design a program with elements that will interest participants from the novice to the expert. The conference strives to build on the successes and enthusiasm generated by previous, related meetings.

EcoBuild America
Date: June 20 - 23, 2005
Place: Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and Convention Center , Orlando, FL USA
Focused on the needs of the expanding green building market, the unique event combines sustainable building techniques with the technology that supports the entire process from concept, through design, construction and long-term operation. For information about exhibiting, presenting at, or attending Ecobuild America, call 1-800-996-3863, fax 1-508-790-4750 or visit

The Where 2.0 Conference
Date: June 29 - 30, 2005
Place: Westin St. Francis San Francisco, CA USA
Location-aware technologies and services--GPS, RFID, WLAN, cellular networks, and networked sensors--are driving a renaissance in business strategy and opportunity, paving the way for a growing array of capabilities around local search, mapping, mobile social applications, business analytics, asset tracking, and e-commerce. O'Neill Media, Inc. has launched Where 2.0, a forum for surveying the technological landscape surrounding location-determining technologies. Join us at Where 2.0 and learn how vendors, application developers, and consumer web companies are connecting customers, products, and enterprises in real time. Whether you're incorporating location into your business or blazing a new geospatial trail, Where 2.0 pinpoints the people and projects opening this new frontier.