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Charting Profits With GPS Services


THE GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM

, usually called GPS, is a satellite-based navigation system made possible by more than two dozen GPS satellites, which broadcast precise timing signals by radio to GPS receivers, allowing them to accurately determine their locations (longitude, latitude and altitude) in any weather, day or night, anywhere on Earth.

When paired with wireless devices, GPS technology is accessible to consumers and businesses to help them locate, navigate, track or map. For wireless dealers, GPS represents an add-on service to existing accounts or an application sale for emerging mobile enterprises in a range of industries from construction and transportation to insurance and health care.

Just a couple of years ago, handset-based commercial telematics services were a niche application offered in North America by only one major carrier, but they are now becoming an increasingly popular and lucrative business for wireless carriers and ASPs alike, says Frank Viquez, ABI Researchs director of transportation research.

GPS-enabled mobile handsets are available with data plans from Sprint Nextel. Other carriers are rumored to be getting their networks ready to support the technology.

Not enough channel partners are offering this value-added service, says Vince Bradley, president and CEO of master agency World Telecom Group. He speculates this is because GPS is a data-based technology agents need to take the time to learn. If they do, though, the return will be well worth the investment, he says. The customers are stickier and the opportunities are nearly endless, he says, explaining demand for GPS tracking and navigation capabilities extends to nearly every niche except small businesses. I think any business that utilizes mobility, and that has remote workers, can benefit from GPS, Bradley says. Trucking and construction are especially good examples, he adds, as is a large retailer, such as Home Depot. Even though all their people are on site, if you get GPS and can see where a person is, you dont have to call them because theyre probably with a customer.

The bottom line is that with GPS-enabled wireless devices, managers can know, at the touch of a button, where their employees are located. If a truck driver veers off course, for example, a dispatcher can radio the driver to find out why he or she is out of area.

Partners can work directly with vendors or obtain GPS applications through mobile operators. Jarrod Nelson, director of wireless solutions for Ferris Communications, prefers to work with the carrier. When the carrier does the provisioning and billing, it makes it very convenient for dealers because then the commission stream comes through the carrier and we dont have to track down commissions with a bunch of different vendors, he explains. … [T]hats a big factor in which vendors I choose to work with.

GPS commission payments typically are not high-dollar alone, but in tandem with voice plans add up to a tidy sum, says Nelson. Commissions on GPS services, like other wireless services, typically are upfront spiffs of about between $60 and $90, per device.

Applications for GPS Technology

Fleet tracking:

Trucking and cargo companies can make sure drivers are on the right roads, check their speeds and ensure the most efficient routes are being used.

Architects and construction:

Managers can determine how to charge clients based on how much time employees spend on specific job sites.

Surveyors:

These workers can get driving directions to their next destinations.

Wilderness or hunting guides:

Outdoor enthusiasts can use GPS to plot their courses, make sure theyre on track and keep an eye on colleagues leading other groups.

Cable installers:

Providers can make sure installers are at the right destinations at the right times.

Farmers:

Agriculturists use GPS to manage crops and locate equipment on spread-out acreage. For example, farmers provide coordinates to workers spraying fields so certain areas get extra-needed treatment.

Real estate:

Agents can find out how much homes in certain areas have sold for, their square footage and get tax information.

Law firms:

Firms can figure out which courthouses their lawyers are in.

Private security companies:

Private security companies install bar codes on subscribers yard signs, which patrollers can scan to show they have checked the route.

Sprint Nextel is the U.S. carrier most active on the GPS front. It has teamed with several companies to offer various GPS applications. For example, through Smarter Agent, Sprint lets real estate agents get on-the-spot information about certain neighborhoods. Users can get details about the closest homes sold within the last three years with information including last sold price, last sold date, taxes and square footage. [O]nce you download the application, every time you engage it, your wireless phone automatically locates where you are and instantly provides you with recent sales data for homes around you, says Brad Blumberg, CEO of Smarter Agent. The Smarter Agent applications only work using Sprint PCS Vision service.

Another company Sprint works with and that WTG and Ferris Communications also use is TeleNav Inc., a developer of GPS navigation and tracking services. TeleNav plans to expand to other carriers by the fourth quarter.

The hardest part for channel partners starting to sell GPS is getting past the Is this for real? phase, says Sal Dhanani, senior director of marketing and one of the four founders of TeleNav. The capabilities of the application can be so mind-boggling that it takes a while for partners to grasp all of the possibilities. To lessen that tentative response, TeleNav makes its technology available to Sprint Nextel dealers for free so they can try the service and learn it.

TeleNav has two GPS applications it offers over wireless devices: TeleNav Track, which is sold business-to-business or business-to-government; and TeleNav GPS Navigator, designed for consumers and road warriors. Using a computer, TeleNav Track lets managers or dispatchers for construction or delivery companies, and so on locate the route a driver has been on during the day, says Mary Beth Lowell, communications manager for TeleNav. Then, thanks to a built-in reporting system, supervisors can analyze whether the routes are the most efficient. They also can determine the costs associated with various jobs and show how fast a driver was traveling. You can zoom in and out and click on any driver icon to get more information or detailed historical travel reports, she says.

Businesses also can give their employees GPS-enabled phones, allowing them to clock in and out, for example, and track mileage.

TeleNav GPS Navigator works over wireless phones; currently, just on the Sprint Nextel network, which includes prepaid Boost Mobile plans. Subscribers use the application as they are driving toward specified addresses and locations.

In TeleNavs case, the company sells its services directly to carriers, which makes life easier for channel partners, says Dhanani. This is because they order and provision services from the carrier, and get commissions from the provider as well. The indirect channel has been very successful for us, says Dhanani. A large portion of our sales comes from dealers.

Links
ABI Research www.abiresearch.com
Ferris Communications www.ferrcom.com
Smarter Agent www.smarteragent.com
Sprint Nextel www.sprint.com
TeleNav Inc. www.telenav.com
World Telecom Group www.wtgcom.com

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