Mobile LBS failures to meet expectations

Via Fabien: Mobile LBS Market by C. Desiniotis, J. G. Markoulidakis from Vodafone, and J-Fr Gaillet from NAVTEQ. The paper describes the mobile market of location-based applications (as opposed to web-based LBS for instance). Overall, it interestingly describes a more down-to-earth vision of the present situation:

mobile LBS were widely predicted to be the most promising “killer applications” in wireless communications. Today, most of these expectations are still not met and a significant delay in the market forecast has incurred. (...) Some of the most important reasons responsible for this turn are summarized as follows: Poor tracking performance. Current deployed techniques only allow a few hundred meters to a few kilometers accuracy. For the time of writing, very few handsets with advanced location capabilities (e.g. A-GPS) are available in the market while they are offered at high prices. Inherent customer perception issues. Privacy concerns arise as users are uncomfortable of feeling being watched. Security and location-aware phobia (both consumer and operator) prevent the users from adopting LBS as their usual habits. Low throughput mobile networks. The unavailability of high capacity networks (that would enable the transfer of multimedia content) is also considered a preventive factor for the wide adoption of LBS. The 3G networks launch and commercial availability was delayed. Further to this, only recently WLAN have started to take up and provide Internet services to crowded hot spots. Significant investment required. The initial investment and the high deployment costs (in terms of network equipment and marketing campaigns) imposed to MNOs and service providers did not justify the LBS development and market launch (at most markets). User adoption requires time. Taking as example other successful services, the market should be well educated in order to adopt a new service concept. Therefore, the initial low take-up phase of LBS was unavoidable. Not well defined business models. Taking into account that the emerging LBS introduced new service concepts, the business rules that would govern the value chain were not clearly defined among the business entities. This caused confusion in the involved players discouraging thus new initiatives. Unfriendly User Interfaces. Inherent difficulties of mobile devices e.g. for entering queries and displaying results (images, 3D maps, etc.).

Why do I blog this? because it lists very pertinent factors regarding problems about the mobile LBS adoption. I am mostly interested in the "Unfriendly User Interfaces" and I think the authors are maybe a bit too usability-centered and forget that LBS suffer from more holistic "user experience" problems: the failure to be deployed in correspondence with people's context and practices. And I surely believe that 3D maps won't help in the short run.

The forecast described are also intriguing expectations (based on a survey: “LBS 2006 Temperature Meter”, LBS Insight Industry Survey, Berg Insight, April 2006): I am not a fan at all of survey (especially in this case: we don't have any ideas about how it has been conducted) but it's like a barometer that gives the zeitgeist of the industry. Even though I find it pretty okay for the navigation and fleet tracking, I am curious about what is behind the figures for the location-based entertainment/games or information services. So far it was mostly prototypes with a low user adoption.