Can you find me now?

The future of navigation and LBS applications

Just like the real-estate agent's mantra, one of the fast-growing trends in the wireless industry can be summed up in one word: location, location, location.

Navigation applications and location-based services (LBS) are starting to find a foothold in the industry, as more phones have assisted GPS (A-GPS) technology embedded in them. According to research by Frost & Sullivan, in 2008 there were nearly 158 million A-GPS-capable phones in the U.S. market and 7.11 million subscribers using LBS applications, or about 4.5 percent penetration of the accessible market. In 2009, that figure will grow to 6.7 percent, according to the firm, and by 2013, the penetration rate will be 18.8 percent.

Despite relatively lackluster market penetration, it is clear that navigation and LBS applications are showing signs of growth. "I think consumer awareness of what is actually possible with respect to LBS has gained a lot of traction, just from the introduction of the iPhone 3G and what Google is doing," said Brent Iadorola, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan. "There is a much broader consumer awareness of what is possible in the LBS arena."

The possibilities for LBS apps are endless. Social networking applications converged with navigation are not yet big moneymakers, but may have potential. In addition, enterprise solutions based on GPS tracking will likely experience strong growth because of the sustainability of the business model.

These burgeoning applications and potential business models are examined in this feature, which is divided into specific sections.

Carriers - the giant in the room
Paid vs. free: which business model prevails?
Social networking holds potential
Enterprise - a sure bet