GestureTek wins award at Mobile World Congress

BARCELONA — A Canadian company has been chosen Overall Winner at the GSM Association’s Mobile Innovations Awards at the Mobile World Congress here.

GestureTek Mobile, a business unit of GestureTek Inc. of Toronto, was recognized for its gesture-based mobile control software, which allows users to “roll” the interface of applications by tilting the handset. This allows the user to control an player icon in a game on a handheld device, for example, or pan and zoom a map by twisting his or her wrist.

Francis MacDougall, founder and CTO, says there’s no hardware add-on required for the functionality. It uses the existing camera on the mobile phones it supports. The EyeMobile Engine was first launched on Verizon handsets last February, and is now available on 30 Verizon handsets. Japanese wireless technology giant NTT DoCoMo invested in GestureTek last spring. The EyeMobile technology is available on seven DoCoMo handsets, and will be available on 12 in the spring, MacDougall said.

As well, a round of investment by Telefonica, which closed in November, means the technology will be moving into Europe also, MacDougall said. While no Canadian handset supports EyeMobile, Windows Mobile-based smart phone applications will be available soon, starting with the iRex browser, MacDougall said.

GestureTek was founded in Toronto in 1986. The company makes a number of “vision-based interaction” products, MacDougall Said. Some of these products allow users to manipulate computer interfaces with gestures. Others include immersive advertising, like projected floor ads in stores and on sidewalks.

MacDougall said the company is also increasingly moving into health-care applications, like projective environments for doctors’s offices and stroke rehabilitation.

The Mobile Innovation awards are a special category recognizing small and medium-sized companies developing mobile products and services. The conference also awards 14 prizes in a number of other categories in its main Global Mobile Awards. The winner of the best network quality initiative went to Israel’s RAD Data Communications for its LA-130 Cell Gateway. SonyEricsson’s W910 Walkman Phone was chosen best mobile handset, while Redwood City, Calif.’s Seven Networks Inc.’s System Seven 7.0, which enables mobile operators to offer subscribers access to corporate applications on any mobile device was chosen best mobile messaging service.

GestureTek is exhibiting at the Mobile World Congress as part of the Canadian pavilion, an Industry Canada-Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada presence that gives smaller mobile companies a higher presence than they might otherwise be able to afford.

“This is *the* show” for mobile products and services, said Suzanne Bubic, assistant deputy director with Foreign Affairs’ Business Sectors Bureau. “(Canadian mobile companies) know this is the show to be at.”

Last year’s show put Canadian companies in front of 30,000 potential investors, customers and partners, Bubic said. This year, attendance is estimated at between 50,000 and 55,000.

This year, 16 companies, from chip design firms to interactive technology operations, exhibited products and services at the pavilion, up from 12 last year. Some exhibitors had to be turned down, Bubic said. She expects more interest next year, but doubts there will be more real estate available – exhibitors are already booking space for next year.

Booth space at the World Mobile Congress costs a minimum of about $20,000, Bubic said, and that gets exhibitors a space that can easily go unnoticed. The 105-square metre Canadian pavilion is about a $500,000 investment, Bubic said. And that space, while big enough to attract attention, is fairly modest compared to the huge presences of some of the bigger players on the mobile scene.

“It makes it an easy decision” to exhibit, said GestureTek’s MacDougall. “You get a lot of side benefits.”

Also, at a show where booth space is sold out months in advance, “You’d end up in a very weak location” renting your own booth space,” he said.

While nothing as raw as return on investment is measured, the Canadian government does apply metrics and monitor feedback from exhibitors, Bubic said. A survey of client exhibitors asks whether they will return to the show and why, the value of any transactions or leads developed through the show, how many new contacts made, and which shows they believe a presence at is valuable, Bubic said.

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