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Recap MobileMonday Tokyo: All About Location

We attended MobileMonday in Tokyo, Japan. The event started around 7pm at BierVana, a very new bar, opened only a few days ago. There were four talks - all about location based services.

The first presentation on the “Asia Pacific Mobile & LBS Outlook” was held by Marc Einstein from the market research company Frost & Sullivan. His presentation (PDF) gave a lot of statistical insights in different regions in Asia. Asia in general is a very competitive market especially for mobile operators. In India alone there are around 15 operators and Indonesia, also a very interesting market for mobile services, has 11 mobile operators. Indonesia is also the third largest region worldwide (after US and UK) for Facebook usage on mobile devices. Contrary to Indonesia, in Japan the biggest mobile social network is Mixi with over 21 million users and in South Korea it is Cyworld (18 million users).

Smartphones are getting more popular in the Asian Pacific region. In 2009 there were nearly 22 million smartphone devices, representing 4.5% of all devices sold in this region. Frost & Sullivan expect a robust growth in smartphone sales in the coming years.

Location based services are also big in Japan, especially when talking about maps and navigation. NTT Docomo’s most used LBS are maps/navigation too, also things like finding family members and friends. But interestingly names like Gowalla or Foursquare were missing in all the talks. So maybe it is why mobile users in Japan are more bound to their carrier portal or such services do not have the attraction than in other places. It could be a language thing too.

After Marc’s presentation Takeshi Mitsutani introduced us to deCarta, an independent LBS software platform. Opera for example uses deCarta instead of Google Maps for maps and local search. Their goal is to reach about 100 million users in this co-operation and share the revenue through advertisment with Opera.

Samsung also integrated deCarta’s data into Bada to provide developer a location API. deCarta wants to reach up to 50 million users by 2011 there. Their model: revenue share of paid apps and advertisement revenue share on free apps.

The company also provides its navigation application to Medion and T-Mobile in Germany.

The third presentation was held by Hiroaki Kando from ZENRIN DataCom. They aim to be a leading service provider for location data and map content and they offer an easy-to-use real-time interface (so they claim). Their location based services “itsmo” is preinstalled on NTT Docomo’s phones for providing users with train or alternative route information, e.g. underground routes for when it is raining or if you want to take a shopping detour. The service is also available on the iPhone and was the best selling app in Japan in 2009.

The final presentation was from the US company Skyhook, a Wi-Fi Positioning System. The Core Engine SDK is available for Android, Symbian as well as Windows Mobile and is already integrated by apps like Layar or Kayak. Skyhook wants to look into the future by predicting human behavior through analyzing previously collected data. They also want to make this available to application developers - your privacy alert should have turned on by now ;)

Then the networking part started. The crowd was pretty mixed: American, German, English, Danish, French, Chinese even some Japanese and probably some more nationalities mixed up to talk mobile - quite an experience and again quite different from our previous MobileMonday experiences in the US and Germany.