2008 Laptop location – More What than Where

2008 Laptop location – More What than Where
Patrick Connolly is a senior analyst with IMS Research’s Mobile Technologies group. Patrick’s focus is on the worldwide licensed and unlicensed mobile radio markets, as well as autonomous and network-based/assisted GPS solutions for cellular and portable devices, and emerging location technologies to be used in conjunction with GPS. Patrick Connolly may be contacted here.

The rise of the ‘netbook‘ and the emergence of an UMPC/MID market means that a larger amount of laptops are becoming more and more portable. This increased portability is driving a large interest into location technologies and new applications and services, across the whole laptop market.

As people use their laptop in more locations, there will be an increased need for localized information and context awareness. Consequently, two different and complimentary location approaches are beginning to see uptake in this market. With GPS chip costs plummeting, some laptop manufacturers view GPS as the next tickbox and are integrating GPS directly, weighing up the best design approach from the variety of options available. However, others are considering taking advantage of existing Wi-Fi capability to perform Wi-Fi location.

Ericsson mobile broadband module with built-in GPS
Ericsson mobile broadband module with built-in GPS
Given that laptops are commonly used indoors where it is difficult to get a GPS signal, Wi-Fi appears to offer the perfect solution for location companies to provide indoor coverage and take advantage of the lower costs involved. One such company is Networklocation, designed for Mac OS X and uses Skyhook wireless’ database to locate a laptop, based on WiFi signals.

This is just one example of a number of innovative services/applications that will use Wi-Fi to locate a laptop. However, accuracy is a function of the number of Wi-fi access points (AP) available and whether they are recorded on the underlying AP database. Given the limited availability of Wi-Fi in rural areas and the limited coverage of current AP databases, this solution is not always conducive to a consistent user experience, both in terms of accuracy and coverage. Consequently, users will also require a GPS signal.

In the second edition of the report “The Worldwide Market for GPS/GNSS Enabled Portable Devices”, IMS forecasts a considerable increase in GPS and Wi-Fi location enabled devices across a variety of vertical markets with the laptop market showing increasing growth throughout. In other markets, such as cameras, there is currently more direct competition between these technologies. However, in the laptop market, the growth for GPS will compliment the demand for Wi-Fi location software instead of competing with it, giving the consumer a better user experience.

As laptops become location aware they will not follow the application models for other established markets. Instead GPS will act as an enabler for existing and new features, with huge potential for innovation. In the new report, IMS Research has identified some of those that are currently catching people’s attention.


Tuesday, October 7th 2008
Patrick Connolly

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