Cell Phones Get Smarter

Cell phones in Japan can now gather company information for users simply by being pointed at a building, retailer, hotel, or billboard advertisement. The phones, currently produced by Sony Ericsson, include GPS technology and a compass, along with GeoVector's Gvid spacial search-engine platform. NEC Magnus Communications will implement the Japanese version of GeoVector's search platform, and is marketing GeoVector's enabling service to Japanese content providers. Through a partnership with NEC, GeoVector offers service and support to both enterprise and consumer mobile phone application providers. GeoVector introduced the technology in 1998, but had to wait for a telephone manufacturer to make a device with the GPS and compass capabilities and a telecom provider to include the application among the optional services subscribers could buy, according to Peter Ellenby, GeoVector's director of new media. KDDI, Japan's second-largest carrier, started offering the service on the phones earlier this month. Four other cell phone manufacturers, Kyocera, LG, Pantec, and Sharp also manufacture phones with the GPS and compass capabilities. Users pay about $3 per month for the service. KDDI, like other Japanese carriers, has an unlimited minutes plan, so it doesn't make any additional money from additional usage of the application. The service is different from location-based services that enable a user to ask for nearby businesses and narrow them down by type, like restaurants. "Those are opt-out applications, this is opt-in," Ellenby says. "With the location-based services [consumers] can get hundreds of hits." That's more than a typical cell phone user will want to scroll through, according to Ellenby. By contrast, Real World application users can set the desired distance of the information gathering for anywhere from 10 meters to a mile and also determine the radius for the search, so the user can point at a single business or at an entire block of stores to get information. Ellenby predicts the technology getting more play in the Asia-Pacific market before coming to the United States. He foresees further expansion into Japan, Korea, and China, followed by Europe, and then the states. "The Japanese are quicker to adopt new [telecommunications] technology. They were the first to adopt the camera phones when they were first introduced in 2001. Within nine months, the Japanese market was saturated. They like to have the latest technology." Related article: The Handheld Market Slows
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