Asia-Pacific gears up for location-based services

Wireless high-accuracy location-based services for the Asia-Pacific market will soon be launched following the success of initial trials in Singapore.

Users tested a range of innovative applications – including buddy-finder, points of interest services, fleet management and PDA-enabled applications – running across an E-OTD (Enhanced Observed Time Difference) enabled network jointly set up by SingTel Mobile and Cambridge Positioning Systems (CPS).

A key aim is to highlight how location technologies like E-OTD can deliver far higher accuracy than Cell-ID-based systems, currently in use in the region, and support a broader range of applications.

The GSM market in Asia Pacific is growing rapidly with over 120 operators serving some 200 million customers across the region.

E-OTD technology is already proven in U.S. deployments where it has achieved sub-100 meter accuracy levels.

The trial, the most extensive of its kind in the Asia Pacific region, is supported by the government through the Infocomm Development Authority’s (IDA’s) “Wired With Wireless” program.

Once in the Tampines trial area, officials from trial sponsors, SingTel Mobile and other trial users, were able to pinpoint users with an E-OTD enabled phone. One application involved using PDAs (personal digital assistants), Bluetooth and GPRS (general packet radio service) connections to simulate an ambulance service manager tracking the location of his vehicles at accuracy levels far superior to Cell-ID technologies.

Hui Weng Cheong, SingTel Mobile’s vice president of Consumer Products said that location-based services have proven to be very useful and popular with their customers.

“We have been looking to enhance our existing applications and for higher accuracy positioning technology. This trial project provides us with a good opportunity to evaluate the feasibility of the E-OTD technology and the potential for high-accuracy applications.”

Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive of IDA said with the availability of GPRS, MMS (multimedia messaging), multimedia phones and PDAs coupled with a good infrastructure, companies have initiated some exciting pilots and trials for location-based services in Singapore.

“This joint trial by CPS and SingTel Mobile-the world’s first GSM-based E-OTD trial in a real-world environment involving live applications-further attests to Singapore’s status as a living laboratory for wireless innovation,” he said.

CPS chief executive Chris Wade said the trial underlines the enormous potential that exists for a new generation of location-sensitive applications.

CPS is hoping to expand both the trial’s scale and scope in terms of applications. “The collaborative effort between SingTel Mobile, the IDA, the applications developers and ourselves is a model for future deployment and is a very encouraging signal to the GSM world,” said Wade.

It is intended that further trials involving a wider range of applications will begin before the end of the year.