Skyhook are the worldwide leader in location positioning, with their technology being used by countless manufacturers in millions of devices globally. This week we managed to secure an interview with Ted Morgan, the founder and CEO to get his thoughts on the future of indoor location positioning, their relationship with Apple, plus news on their new SpotRank technology.
1. Hello Ted, and thanks for the interview with GPS Bites. We are really interested in your new SpotRank technology which predicts the density of people in predefined urban square-block areas worldwide. What are the main use case scenarios that you expect application developers to start using the technology with?
Understanding how people move throughout metropolitan areas every hour of the day, every day of the week, unlocks a host of unique and compelling opportunities. Commercial property planners will use SpotRank to better determine the ideal locations for their retail locations, while urban planners and emergency personnel will be better equipped to manage large events and crisis situations.
Developers of mobile-social applications are able to use SpotRank to better identify locations that match a users preferred venue based on activity. Finding a quiet afternoon spot to grab a relaxing cup of coffee, or identifying where the most active nightlife is on a Thursday night are made possible by incorporating SpotRank into an apps recommendation engine.
Renters and home-buyers gain a whole new insight when selecting an ideal location. No longer does a renter have to guess at the level of activity on a certain street at 1am on a Thursday night. With SpotRank, real estate professionals can help steer their clients to locations that meet their lifestyle.
Finally, advertising and spot promotions become highly effective using Skyhook’s SpotRank data. Large scale and local retailers and restaurants can use SpotRank in dynamic marketing campaigns designed to reach the highest density of their customer base at the best time to reach them. Instead of broadcasting expensive, ineffective campaigns; advertisers are now able to geographically target their messaging at the precise moment best suited to get the desired result.
2. In 2008, Steve Jobs announced that the iPhone would be using Skyhook’s Wi-Fi positioning system to power some of the Apple mapping applications. This seems to be a major milestone in the development of the company and helped you to achieve impressive growth. Before this event, what were the main challenges for the company as a start-up?
There is no question Skyhook was early in pioneering this technology. Having invented this technology before many came to appreciate the power of fast, accurate positioning indoors and out, we spent the first couple of years evangelizing to largely disinterested audiences. In those early days, many still believed that GPS was all that was needed to solve the use cases of the day. One has to keep in mind what kind of experiences phones provided prior to the iPhone. However, we always understood that the need, and ultimately the demand for accurate positioning technology would not stop at personal navigation devices.
The introduction of the iPhone and a year later the App Store, unlocked the creativity of app developers exploring new areas of location based services. Prior to that, we spent countless hours in meetings discussing things like geo-tagging photographs and other data, location based search, device recovery, and using location as context for content, to no avail. The challenge was that the evolution of mobile was still in its nascent stages.
The introduction of the iPhone and App store accelerated the adoption of WiFi enabled devices, applications that required location intelligence, and an expectation by the consumer that their mobile device always knew where they were.
3. A couple of years later, Apple moved location positioning technology in-house. Did Skyhook need to adapt their business model and services at all in order to continue to be the leading provider of location technology?
Our business model and services were not altered. It’s important to note that Apple remains an important and valued customer for Skyhook. There is no question that having Steve Jobs and Apple value and recognize the technology we invented helped advance our growth. But the reason we continue to be the leading independent provider of positioning technology is because of our commitment to our broadening customer base and our focus on enhancing and improving our solutions to delight the end user.
Indeed, we benefit greatly from our cross section of devices customers such as Samsung, Sony, HP, Dell and app partners like OpenTable, MapQuest, Citysearch, Priceline and Kayak. Introducing advanced features such as Always-On positioning, geo-fencing, IP location, and airplane location, are all a direct result of the close partnerships we have developed with app developers and device manufacturers around the world.
4. Could you give our readers some insight into what your predictions are for indoor location positioning and GPS-type technology in the next two years, whether from a consumer, governmental, or corporate perspective?
Indoor location, as labeled in the market, refers to high accuracy use cases specifically designed for a particular venue (museum, hospital, retail store). We have seen this area of the location market struggle over the past 10 years due to inflated expectations and issues of control. Having said that, we at Skyhook are incredibly enthusiastic about the renewed interest venue owners have shown in indoor applications. We have been working with venue owners (retail stores, theme parks, mall owners, etc) to build an industry standard to give them more control over the process and alleviate their concerns over control of their data and portability. We believe addressing those business issues will help spur the deployment of new in-store applications.
Over the next several years it’s very easy to imagine Skyhook technology being leveraged to provide museum visitors with contextual information relative to their position within a gallery. Colleges and Universities could take advantage of improved indoor positioning to help new students navigate a sprawling campus. Advertisers and retailers will be able to capitalize on this technology to better respond to customers needs at any given moment during their in-store experience such as helping them navigate from their precise location to the product they are looking for at the other end of the store.
5. What is the most innovative or unusual way that your customers have harnessed Skyhook Wireless technology since you launched the company?
App developers continue to come up with innovative and compelling ways to leverage our best of breed technology. Because of our unique power management capabilities, customers like Mapquest and Life360 provide their end users a superior experience without compromising battery life on their devices. One very innovative company, EyeFi, has deployed our technology on their award winning wifi enabled SD cards used in digital cameras to geo-tag photographs that would be otherwise impossible without native positioning technology built into the device.
But Sony’s implementation of Skyhook technology on their acclaimed Vita gaming device is perhaps the most illustrative of what device manufacturers and app developers can do with Skyhook Location.
6. Many people are talking about the death of traditional portable navigation devices such as Garmin and TomTom due to the success of smartphone navigation. Do you have any views on how companies like this can adapt and perhaps take a slice of the growing location positioning market?
We think the example of Mapquest can be instructive during this obvious transition by consumers preferring a single device. Not satisfied with their position as a de facto mapping solution on the web, Mapquest recognized the consumers desire to bring that experience to their mobile device. While it may have been quite easy to simply provide a rudimentary version of their service for mobile devices, Mapquest understood the importance of maintaining the best of breed experience their web based users had come to expect. Leveraging Skyhook, Mapquest’s Android application continues to be the top downloaded navigation app for Android devices.
7. Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline that you could tell our readers about in terms of new products, innovations, and technology?
We always have exciting projects in the pipeline, that’s what makes this so much fun. While we can’t give away too much, I can say that what you see today in our SpotRank product is just the tip of the iceberg. Our team is working tirelessly to develop products that unlock the enormous potential of our data. In the months to come, we will be introducing advances in location intelligence that was unimagined just a year ago.
Additionally, while our global coverage continues to expand, our positioning technology is being further enhanced and refined leading to continued improvements in power management, accuracy and unique new features we will be bringing to market.
Want to Know More? If you would like to know more about Skyhook and their services relating to location positioning, please visit their website on: www.skyhookwireless.com.