GPS inside the mall: Location-based services will guide you to deals

GPS inside the mallRight now you probably use your GPS to get to the mall, rather than find your way around the mall, but Kevin Foreman, CEO of Point Inside,envisions that will change in the near future. The team at Point Inside, which makes a mall navigation app for the iPhone and Android devices, is made up of self-admitted location-based services (LBS) geeks who hold a combined 22 patents in telecommunications and related fields.

Hot off the release of the Android Point Inside app, Kevin spoke to WalletPop to discuss the future of location-based services, how the Point Inside app is just the beginning, and why malls and other large indoor locations are looking forward to the arrival of map and navigation apps.

Where are we now?

Right now, as you may know from your own shopping experiences, location-based services are not readily available inside shopping malls. This presents a huge opportunity for companies to enter the indoor LBS marketplace and help you find your way to Old Navy faster, but where do they start?

"Even when we as an industry can figure out positioning, there are no maps," Foreman told WalletPop in a phone interview. He said there are four layers needed to make indoor directions a reality; maps, point of interests like restrooms and stores, navigation and positioning. "[Point Inside] Realized that we've got to get the maps because without maps, navigation and positioning don't mean anything," he said. A business niche was born.

Given the need for maps as part of the equation, Point Inside is often referred to as the Google Maps of the indoor world. Just as many drivers were using printed Google directions and then static Google directions on their smart phones before Google began offering turn-by-turn navigation, Point Inside is starting with a smart-phone-based map while it figures out how to address the challenges of indoor GPS-style navigation.

Where are we going?

Once the industry addresses the challenges of mapping you in three dimensions, something Point Inside has several patents pending for, you can expect to have your phone give you directions just like your GPS does. Unfortunately this is, "a few years away.", according to Kevin. The good news is that when this technology does arrives you can expect to see it used in more places than malls.

How will we get there and what will it mean to shoppers?

One of the primary reasons that malls will get on board with this kind of mapping is because digital maps are much easier to keep up to date than paper, a factor that has become more important over the last year as stores leave and move around in malls. Additionally, the digital mall maps make it easier to provide customers with up-to-date mall events, like special sales and Santa's arrival, which are hard to convey to shoppers when they are actually in the mall.

In addition to events, the Point Inside crew is already working on bringing specials to consumer based on their location. So, if you are walking through the mall and want to find your way to a specific store, you could also ask for any current promotions. One important thing to note is that this won't be like the scene in Minority Report where advertisements bombard Tom Cruise's character; instead you will ask for the promotions you want. Also, because Point Inside is licensing this technology to other apps you could see the deal-based apps like Coupon Sherpa or Yowza adding similar LBS service in the coming years.

Looking ahead

Having just returned from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, at which every place you are trying to go is, "through the casino and around the corner," I can't wait for the GPS-like location based tools to arrive on our smart phones! I'm sure that my fellow directionally-challenged consumers will be waiting along with me, even if that's in Hot Topic because we couldn't find the Eddie Bauer store.
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