Wi-Fi to Take LBS Prize


Looks like Wi-Fi may win the LBS (location-based services) fight, beating out the hefty competition from tried and true GPS and cellular technologies and up-and-comers like MEMS and RFID.

According to a new study from ABI Research, www.abiresearch.com, shipments of Wi-Fi location technologies will reach more than 1 billion by 2015, outstripping all other location-based service technologies. And the top LBS spot is a good place to be, as companies are starting to see the revenue-generating possibilities of location-based advertising and marketing.

“Location-based services, revenues, and advertising are the hot topics of 2010 as companies grapple to gain control of this market,” confirms Patrick Connolly, a senior analyst at ABI. “The key is accurate, ubiquitous location-finding across a variety of portable devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.”

With the proliferation of Wi-Fi and increasingly lower-cost or free location engines, ABI forecasts it will become the most widely available location technology during the next five years. The research firm believes location is key to unlocking the potential of location-based advertising, marketing, and analytics. With Wi-Fi location set to become ubiquitous, ABI says it is a vital technology to support.

The current Wi-Fi location market is split between incumbents such as Skyhook Wireless and Mexens Technologies Inc., leading GPS companies such as Broadcom and CSR/SiRF, and new threats from giants such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, and even Facebook.

Skyhook’s recent lawsuit against Google for interfering with its business and for patent infringement shows just how cut-throat the LBS space is becoming. It also highlights how, despite a plethora of free solutions, there is a huge market for high-quality location technologies.

Other emerging LBS technologies include MEMs, barcodes, NFC/RFiD, Bluetooth, and TV. In the future, ABI believes location solutions won’t be a case of either/or, but more of a continually evolving hybrid approach. GPS alone, for example, will not be sufficient to support the next generation of services and revenue streams, according to ABI. Services such as local search, location-based advertising, geotagging, social networking, and augmented reality can all be significantly improved through increased accuracy and indoor/ubiquitous location.

As the future unfolds, it will be interesting to see how creative location players can get, and whether Wi-Fi will continue its reign or have to play nice with other technologies for the LBS market to reach its full potential.

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