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Emergencies drive LBS in SA

The increasing demand for safety and emergency solutions is likely to be one of the biggest factors spurring the growth of location based services in South Africa, says QUENTIN JOUBERT, product manager at Cellfind.

Rising demand for safety and emergency solutions is likely to be one of the biggest factors spurring the growth of the South African market for GSM location based services (LBS), says Quentin Joubert, product manager at Cellfind, a subsidiary of Blue Label Telecoms.

He says South African cellular networks are driving emergency LBS services as a way to increase average revenue per user (ARPU) off infrastructure in which they have already invested, in turn finding a receptive market among business users and consumers alike. Such services use cellular towers to locate a person’s position using their cellphones.

‚”We are seeing demand for emergency LBS on the rise as consumers and businesses begin to become comfortable with the technology,‚” says Joubert.

‚”They are no longer as concerned by the privacy implications as they were a few years ago and now understand how such services can be a lifesaver in an emergency.‚”

Joubert adds that the corporate market for emergency LBS services is reflecting particularly strong growth. Some examples of emergency LBS apps in the corporate market include mobile panic buttons, traffic and danger alert information services, and geofencing apps that track vehicles, people and assets and warn an operator when a driver is straying into a dangerous area.

In addition to rolling out the technology for the safety of their own assets and people, many leading South African organisations are also offering LBS as a value-added service for their customers. Many medical aids, roadside assistance providers, security firms and banks are looking to LBS to enhance their core offering and strengthen their brands.

Discovery Health and ER24, for example, offer a cellphone panic button as an extension of their core service to consumers. Based on Cellfind’s technology, the mobile panic button is linked to a call centre that provides crisis services.

When the customer hits the pre-defined USSD string saved as a speed dial to his or her mobile phone, all of the customer’s details (family doctor, contact details of loved-ones) can be transmitted directly to the emergency service responding to the call.

Cellfind will receive the alert and perform a location based search for the handset and forward it to the call centre to be managed as appropriate.

Emergency services can be dispatched to the user’s location, even if he or she is lost or injured and unable to provide his or her location to a call centre operator.

In the consumer market, panic buttons are also popular. In addition, LBS that allow people to find their loved ones in the event of an emergency are also gaining traction. A user’s family can use LBS to find them with their permission, of course – by sending a query by USSD or SMS, or visiting a Web site from any Internet-enabled device.

Depending on which service you are using and which handset they are carrying, the user’s loved ones will receive a text message with his or her location or a visual map sent by MMS. Such services need no additional software and can be accessed from any phone, and are available for an affordable monthly fee.

Says Joubert: ‚”With network operators finding voice revenues under pressure, we can expect value-added services such as LBS to be an increasingly important part of the mix in the years to come. As a result, we expect strong growth for our services throughout the next two years.‚”


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