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iPointer - Compass Points to the Future of POIs

ipointer-ctia.jpgIntelligent Spatial Technologies (iST) are currently demoing their iPointer, (tagged "TV Remote for the Real World") at CTIA Wireless 2009, Las Vegas.

iPointer is a fascinating new idea whereby you simply point your mobile phone or PDA at a nearby building or POI (point of interest) and it pulls up information about it. You're supplied with all sorts of details, such as the building or landmark's name, what's its use, opening times, special interest information, history, etc. It cuts out the time identifying the name of the building and having to search the net for it. So far, iST has aggregated information on 50 European cities and 58 in the US.

Rather than attempt to explain the technology behind it myself, according to the iST website, pointing based search generally refers to a search technique that allows a user to input spatial data to a computer by using a pointing device to identify an object of interest and then receive information related to that object.

To perform pointing based search with the iPointer, the user first activates an iPointer Client application on a cell phone or PDA. Once the application is running, the user simply points the handset at a landmark, building, or point of interest, and clicks a selector button. The iPointer client then builds its search criteria with input from a GPS receiver (position) and a digital magnetic compass (orientation) and sends it to the iPointer Server. The GPS and compass can either be on board the handset or made available as an accessory device connected via Bluetooth technology.

ipointer-ctia.jpg The iPointer geospatial search engine receives the search criteria and identifies the physical location that the user has selected using patent-pending pointing based search algorithms. Once the location has been identified, relevant location-specific content is assembled by the iPointer's content aggregation logic and delivered to the user's handset.

When the search results are returned, the iPointer client prepares the results for display to the end-user. In some cases, the search results may be augmented with data stored in a local content cache (e.g., compact flash memory) at the handset. This technique can be useful when the number of potential searches for a particular area is finite and the search results include multi-media content (e.g., a tour of a historic battlefield).

I asked their CEO, Chris Frank for some background about Maine based iST and iPointer.

Q. Can you tell me about Intelligent Spatial Technologies?
A. "iST has expertise in the rapidly emerging area of Location Based Services (LBS). We have developed an augmented reality engine providing local mobile client search and server information search and retrieval software. We hold a number of patents in using a compass as a pointing device to better define the user's surrounding location. The underlying technology was developed by iST. We are now in the process of commercializing our technology and are looking for funding to help us in this effort.

Q. Can you expand a little about iPointer?
A. When the mobile client software is running on a wirelessly connected mobile device (like a cell phone), that is also enabled with GPS and a compass, the solution will provide the user with information on their surroundings. By simply pointing their mobile device like a "TV Remote" for the real world the user can request 'What's that' information such as 'What's in that building?', 'What does that restaurant serve?', etc. this query along with accurate user location (latitude and longitude) and pointing direction (compass azimuth and tilt) is then transmitted to the server for retrieval of the information.

Q. How do you see mobile advertising integrated with iPointer?
A. The iPointer running on Location and Orientation aware devices provides a 'pure pull' mobile advertising solution.

The consumer receives immediate and un-tethered access to robust information on points of interest such as menus, inventory offerings with pictures, special offers. There is no need to access the web and scroll through pages and lists of data. Consumers will only receive information on locations they request when they request it.

The advertising model that the iPointer offers is very different from any other current model. Print, radio and TV advertising is very expensive and not easily traceable for most small businesses. Most small businesses service the neighborhood where they reside, not necessarily seeking business from the World Wide Web. They are more likely to spend money on local campaigns, not large yellow page ads or web pages. Restaurants are the most problematic when it comes to selling advertising according to the Yellow Pages. With the exception of the tourist destination places, most restaurants and small shops fall into the category of servicing neighborhoods and thereby need an advertising tool that better fits their needs.

The way people choose a restaurant, for example, is interesting to examine in light of the advertising models available. In the tourist situation, the consumer is away from home or the hotel and hungry. The question is 'What do I feel like eating?' 'Feel like' denotes an emotional and spontaneous decision. You may or may not be familiar with several places in proximity. That consumer is going to make a spontaneous decision not necessarily based on a coupon they may have with them, but what sounds or looks good from the information at hand. The buy decision is being made in the vicinity of the establishments.

The iPointer offers the ability to reach the consumer while in the vicinity. For the consumer, familiarity is unlikely. With the iPointer device, one can point and learn about each of the choices, giving each establishment the opportunity to sell themselves at the time the decision is being made. This is a warm lead.

A. What form of ad payment model will you use?
Q. iPointer has evaluated the 'pay per click' model for the mobile advertising. While we believe it may be appropriate in other applications of the iPointer, iPointer has found from talking with small businesses owners that they prefer to pay a small fee per month rather than have an 'unknown' liability.

Unlike print, but somewhat like websites, iPointer can gather useful data for the businesses. Businesses will be able to know how many inquiries, on what day and time, from what demographic, etc. This is useful information for them and information they did not have access to in order to attach value or an ROI on the advertising model. While the personal information of the device user will be kept completely confidential, the general trend data that is generated can be provided to the businesses as an added value.

A. Which phones have the capability of carrying iPointer at present?
Q. There are many phones in Japan that have GPS and a Digital Compass. Nokia's N97, 6110 and 6710 have GPS and digital compasses. Also, the HTC G1 or Google phone has capabilities and all future Google phones will as well. We are under non-disclosure agreement with and know that all major handset manufactures plan to launch a GPS and Digital Compass enabled device within the next 9-14 months.

Q. How do you go about collating the information you have in your databases?
A. We use 3D City Models from TeleAtlas for our map data. For example yesterday I was using the iPointer in NYC and we have 120,000 3D buildings modeled in the NYC City Model that we have loaded in our system for people to point at.

We have a content aggregator that is linked be many databases with information about the buildings. We get WhitePage information from InfoUSA, YellowPage information from R H Donnelley (Dex Knows), tourism information from the Travel Channel, we also link to publicly available information on the Internet. One great website we found for NYC is website that provides health inspection reports for every restaurant in NYC. This means that walking around Union Square I could point at restaurants and see that during its last health inspection 6 months ago it had 23 health violations including evidence of roaches present in the facility's food and/or non-food areas. Needless to say we decided not to eat at that restaurant.

Q. How long will it be before iPointer becomes commercially available?
A. It will be commercially available on a major wireless serves operation in the US and Japan within the next 9-14 months.

iPointer video demonstration

Posted by MaFt on Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:49 pm Reply with quote

that's quite a neat idea! i think it would work better integrated in a phone rather than having yet another device! although my parents would probably enjoy a stand-alone device. you could also rent them from tourist information centre!

they should take a look at http://www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk/ for a uk version of the restaurant health ratings - very eye-opening at times :D


Posted by mikealder on Sat Apr 04, 2009 8:14 am Reply with quote

The idea of a seperate Bluetooth unit as part of the package is what I would like to see, put it in your pocket and point which part at the building the receiver or the phone?

The GPS and compass can either be on board the handset or made available as an accessory device connected via Bluetooth technology. - Mke

Posted by MaFt on Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:24 am Reply with quote

now that the iPhone 3G has been announced as having a digital compass, is anyone aware of any plans for an iPhone app using this?


Posted by PaulB2005 on Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:07 am Reply with quote

now that the iPhone 3G has been announced as having a digital compass, is anyone aware of any plans for an iPhone app using this?

Give two weeks and there will be 3,225 of them, just like the spirit level app... Wink

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