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Where you at?

Everybody is talking about GPS and using GPS. ABI Research Inc. predicts that within five years, 335 million consumers in the United States and Canada will subscribe to GPS services and that by 2008, the market will be worth $22 billion. So, maybe its time you stopped talking about GPS and started selling it.

Selling GPS services is application- and solutions-based, provides additional sources of revenue in addition to connectivity, and is a stickier sale and thus reduces churn and increases ARPU (average revenue per user). As such, GPS represents a lucrative market opportunity for a legacy wireline consultant or a voice-centric wireless dealer.

Location-based technology and the inclusion of GPS chips in many mobile devices came about following the federal E911 mandate requiring service providers to pinpoint the location of the caller in an emergency situation. GPS, or global positioning system, technology uses satellite triangulation to determine the longitude and latitude of the receiver based on information received from three satellites. Assisted GPS adds to the satellite triangulation by using the cell sites to increase the communication and processing speeds between the receiver and satellites. This type of accuracy and speed has spurred the development of robust business applications that provide, for example, turn-byturn navigation to drivers.

According to ABI Research, half the market for GPS services today consists of vehicle- and asset-tracking applications, but the market is expanding to encompass more varied applications, including those that marry other radio technologies like cellular and Wi-Fi. (see sidebar, Tracking the Future, below).



The Palm Treo Smartphone GPS Navigator Edition

Todays GPS solutions can be separated into three simple features locating, navigating and tracking. Some applications provide only directions for navigation. Others add location functionality by using handsets to locate employees, for example, to dispatch them efficiently to the next closest job geographically. Tracking functionality adds detailed reports, such as employee location and job start and stop times. In addition, a barcode module can be added to provide proof of delivery, assetlocation or inventory-tracking capabilities.

Although there are numerous wireless application vendors (see sidebar, Where to Look, below for a few), it is advisable to start with a carrier-billed application vendor. This means the customer will receive one bill for voice, data and the application. It also means the carrier has done its due diligence on the financial stability of the application vendor and the technical feasibility of the solution on its devices and network. In addition, the carrier will have expertise in implementing and supporting the application. Sprint Nextel Corp., for example, has a fleet of highly trained mobility experts called Solutions Consultants dedicated to the indirect channel to train partners on wireless data applications. They directly can support subagents on sales opportunities under master agencies holding contracts with Sprint Nextel. If you are a wireless data novice, leaning on these experts can help you qualify the opportunity and assist in making the right recommendations for the applications vendor based on the customers business needs.

Sprint Nextel has been a leader in delivering carrier-billed GPS applications via the mobile handset to help businesses track their assets, fleets and mobile workers. Prior to its merger with Sprint in August 2005, Nextel dominated the wireless data market by delivering GPS solutions to key verticals such as transportation, construction and public sectors. Nextel owned the lions share of these verticals due to the push-to-talk functionality coupled with Java-based phones and built-in GPS handsets enabling navigational and tracking applications to reside on the device.

The leading vendors of GPS location-based services (LBS) are TeleNav Inc., Xora Inc., Gearworks Inc. and ActsoftInc., although there are many more. Xora GPS Time Tracker and Actsoft Comet Tracker are exclusive to Sprint Nextel, but TeleNavs applications are available and billable through Sprint Nextel, AT&T (formerly Cingular) and Alltel. Verizon Wireless has rebranded Gearworks etrace application as its Field Force Manager data offering.

All mobile operators provide compensation when a data application is sold in addition to a voice plan. The amount can range from a few dollars per application to a multiplier of the monthly recurring cost of the application.

This payout normally is delivered as a onetime commission in addition to the voice plan. Data plans retail from $9.99 to $49.99 per unit depending on the level of complexity and features required.

Some application vendors will provide additional spiffs to the dealer. Comet Tracker, for example, will pay registered dealers an additional $20 for every unit activated $10 is paid out upon activation and the remaining $10 is paid after six months if the unit is still active. Xora pays an additional $10 per unit activated for Sprint Nextel dealers.

SIMPLE SALE

There are a few simple questions you can ask any business to qualify them for a GPS application. These are:

  1. Do you have a mobile workforce?
  2. Do you have pay-by-the-hour employees with overtime?
  3. Would you like to control your fuel costs?
  4. What differences would see if you rode with your people everyday?

These questions will give you the key factors to why a GPS solution might solve an inefficient dispatch operation, control runaway overtime and eliminate inefficient use of fuel due to lost drivers.

The calculation of ROI is very important for sales of wireless applications as it typically is reached very quickly and is highly quantifiable. For example, if a technician or driver is paid $10 per hour and navigation directions save them 15 minutes per day, then $2.50 per day savings times 22 working days equals $55. The most basic version of TeleNav costs $10 per month per user. So, in this very scenario, the company has an immediate ROI of $45 per user.

Another quick illustration centers on increasing customer visits. If your prospect can get just one additional customer call in every three days due to more efficient dispatch, you have increased the number of sales by seven per month. Multiplying the average sale by seven produces the additional ROI.

The more feature-rich the application used, the higher the ROI to the customer. In addition, the more robust and integrated the applications are with the businesss back-end systems such as payroll and inventory, the lower the churn rate and higher the ARPU.

To ensure customers realize the promised ROI, its important that customers are trained to use the services correctly. This need not be an additional burden on the dealer. Application vendors typically will train the customer on the application in order to drive end-user adoption. Gearworks also recently launched a value-added partner program to sign up master agents, which provides additional support and expertise to their partner bases in selling, delivering, implementing and training on the Gearworks etrace application.

The growth of more robust software and hardware coupled with rapidly evolving business and consumer applications for GPS-based technologies will continue to proliferate in the next five years. Its a great time to ask your customer about their mobile workforce and mobility initiatives, so you can get them hooked up with GPS applications that will drive immediate and quantifiable ROI and a growth path for the future.

Natasha Royer Coons is the founder and managing director of TeraNova Consulting Group, a firm providing fully managed mobility solutions and wireless WAN products, services and expertise to channel partners nationwide. She brings a decade of experience as a former Solutions Consultant and SC manager advising partners on wireless and wireline products for Sprint Nextel Corp. Reach her at natasha@teranovaglobal.com.


Tracking the Future

At the DEMO 07 conference in Palm Springs, Calif., Alcatel-Lucent unveiled a new type of PCMCIA card that has its own processor, operating system, software, battery and built-in GPS chip. The card leverages emerging 3G networks to allow an enterprise IT department to find, disable, patch and upgrade a users laptop even when its off. It also provides a VPN so that all information is tunneled and encrypted automatically. This 3G card will be made available to the carriers and will provide a solution for enterprises to leverage 3G networks and GPS to better track, manage and control their assets.

In order to provide in-building tracking of people and assets, the next wave in GPS applications will leverage Wi- Fi triangulation. This means they will use multiple wireless access points within an office, building, warehouse or campus to track and locate assets in real time. As enterprises install pervasive Wi-Fi networks to better meet data mobility needs on their premises, leveraging the same infrastructure to support location-based services is the next logical step in maximizing their ROI.

In January, Sprint announced the launch of its LBS capability on the Sprint EV-DO Rev. A mobile broadband card (the Novatel Wireless U720 and Novatel S720) through an enhanced version of the Connection Manager software. Users of the cards can perform location-based searches to find a nearby restaurant, gas station, bank and other points of interest. The software automatically obtains a location reading from the GPS chipsets in the mobile broadband cards and will auto-launch a Web browser providing location information and search results.


Where to Look

Here are a few GPS applications for dealers to consider:

TeleNav has two flavors of the GPS solution. One is purely navigation and provides voice turn-by-turn street directions and also helps locate restaurants, lowest-price gas stations and businesses by geographic area. A traffic flow report is available and can provide a reroute that will guide the driver out of congested areas. This version is good for consumer or fleet use.

 
TeleNav traffic overview

TeleNav Track provides a higher level of reporting and functionality geared toward pure B2B use. TeleNav Track can provide information to a business on where its employees or vehicles have been, the speed theyve been traveling, stops theyve taken and more. Jobs can be sent wirelessly to the devices as all employees with TeleNav track-enabled devices are locatable. Wireless flexible forms and barcoding also are available.

The available handsets range in price from virtually free to a few hundred dollars for smart devices with more sophisticated operating systems. On Sprint Nextel, the latest EV-DOcapable BlackBerry devices (8703e and 7130e) are GPSenabled handsets that support both TeleNav and TeleNav Track. They retail at $399 but after discounts range from $99 to $149. 7130e is $99 and the 8703e is $149.



Xora GPS TimeTrack

Xora

is another GPS applications provider and is an exclusive Sprint applications partner. Its applications run on both the iDEN (legacy Nextel network) and the CDMA (legacy Sprint Network). Xoras applications have many levels of features and functionalities including navigation, location tracking of field employees, breadcrumb trails to follow the path of an employee and alerts for speeding or a prolonged stop. Smart job zones automatically will clock in and clock out an employee. Xora applications start at $11.99 at the most basic level.

Gearworks flagship etrace product is available in three editions from simple tracking of worker location and time to enabling real-time dispatch and integration with back-office applications like payroll via ADP or a salesforce automation application like SalesForce.com. This type of back-end integration between mobile devices in the field with back-office corporate applications drives increased value and productivity. It eliminates paperwork and provides an automatic and real-time feed of information captured on the mobile devices in the field to back-office accounting applications like Quickbooks or payroll applications like ADP. The most basic Gearworks package starts at $9.95 and goes up to $59 for full back-end integration with corporate applications. Gearworks applications are available on both Sprint Nextel and Verizon.

Links
ABI Research Inc. www.abiresearch.com
Actsoft Inc. www.actsoft.com
Alltel www.alltel.com
AT&T Inc. www.att.com
Cingular Wireless www.cingular.com
Gearworks Inc. www.gearworks.com
Sprint Nextel Corp. www.sprint.com
TeleNav Inc. www.telenav.com
Verizon Wireless www.verizonwireless.com
Xora Inc. www.xora.com
Alcatel-Lucent www.alcatel-lucent.com
Novatel Wireless www.novatelwireless.com

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