April 18, 2005
Location Services Get Location Smart
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! This week I spoke with Joe Astroth, vice president of Autodesk Location Services about the division and the recently announced Autodesk LocationLogic 6.

Astroth has a long history with Autodesk. He came to the company nine years ago to start up the GIS and Mapping division which has since been renamed the Infrastructure Solutions Division (ISD). Astroth attributes a lot of Autodesk's recent
growth to new initiatives in GIS, AEC, mechanical and location based services. Read about Location Services 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

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Location Services Get Location Smart

By Susan Smith

Joe Astroth
This week I spoke with Joe Astroth, vice president of Autodesk Location Services about the division and the recently announced Autodesk LocationLogic 6.

Astroth has a long history with Autodesk. He came to the company nine years ago to start up the GIS and Mapping division which has since been renamed the Infrastructure Solutions Division (ISD). Astroth attributes a lot of Autodesk's recent
growth to new initiatives in GIS, AEC, mechanical and location based services (see our GISWeekly story on

Autodesk brings location middleware and platform to the wireless network operators who are putting together a broadband data network across the globe. “In terms of geospatial server functionality, we had a lot of that expertise from what we were doing in GIS,” claimed Astroth. “With our results last year, I think we've moved into a solid number two position behind ESRI worldwide in terms of being GIS leaders in the market.”

Astroth believes that Autodesk has set out on a different course than a lot of LBS and GIS companies who also jumped on the bandwagon of the location based service, high growth market opportunity. How Autodesk sets itself apart from the competition is twofold, according to Astroth:
1) "Just as we did with the GIS platform, we said this is a brand new computing environment - high speed wireless broadband wireless networks that will require a new platform. You can't just take an existing GIS desktop or web product and wirelessly enable it. Why not? Because those architectures are more client server in nature and client server doesn't give you the kind of performance that is required or the scalability that is required when you're talking about millions of wireless subscribers, up to 1.2 billion of them, when you are talking about delivering a solution to a Tier 1 wireless carrier like a Verizon wireless that has 43 million customers or Telecom Italian Mobile that has 26
million customers. You're going to have services out there in the market that rely on this wireless location services platform, which is going to require millions of requests and transactions happening in a very short amount of
e. This is a very different computing environment to even enterprise GIS. We built a brand new technology from the ground up and brought in some of my engineers from GIS and built a new team and architecture that would become the location platform within and be part of the wireless network of a large Tier 1 carrier. That's what sets us apart from other GIS companies who might take their GIS enterprise server or their web server and wirelessly enable it. That's okay if you just want to be a third party outside the network, but that won't cut it when a wireless carrier is looking to add a location element to its wireless network. That is key because of the other difference:

2) We rejected from the start the idea that LBS was a killer app unto itself. We rejected the idea that people would really pay that much and be that excited about finding the nearest Starbucks. LBS is not a killer app, it's a killer capability and a killer enabler. What I mean by that is, if we build a platform, that can be looked upon as truly a trusted network element to the carrier so they bring it into their network and that gives them the ability to location enable existing services as well as bring more location centric services to market.

Example-instead of looking around for some killer app, don't look any further than your existing services like 411 or directory assistance or roadside assistance app. We are working with a top tier carrier to "location smart or location aware” their directory assistance so that they can provide you a better level of service to know where you are. They may ask you the 'city and state please' question. They can also have all kinds of information that has been personalized or is relevant to you, because it's localized to you. Not only that, to speed up finding you that phone number, you must ask the question why is that person calling for that phone number in the first place? In our research, we've shown there is a big difference as to why people call directory assistance on a landline vs. on a mobile phone. On a landline you truly are calling just to get a phone number. In a mobile environment, something else happens. When you ask a person why they call 411 and they say "I called to get a phone number.” if you ask the question slightly differently: "why do you want a phone number?" They will say, "I want a phone number because I don't know how to get there, so I will call the location and say, 'I'm here -- can you tell me how to get there?'" If the operator has the location smart directory assistance after they give you the phone number, they can ask you that
question, would you like driving directions of how to get there? "Sure that's why I want the phone number." Our platform is responsible for locating you and knowing where the doctor's office is and is able to give you through a text message or SMS that relevant and useful information because now that location service is location smart."

This is a big deal because you ask the question, is directory assistance now a LBS? I would say no, from the end users point of view, it's still 411, directory assistance. Location services made it better, more compelling, more effective. And I'm going to charge you another 25 cents on top of that 411 call which you're happy to pay because you got there sooner, etc. and now comes in the average revenue per user. You pay about $1 on your phone for it already. Probably $1.25 when you're mobile and you're running late. You don't think of the money you just think you're late."
Autodesk has a really different view on what it takes to deliver the location based service platform to a wireless carrier. Three out of five carriers have gone forward with a procurement to buy one of these and Autodesk has won all three.

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