Irish firm signs deals with five European operators


1 Jun 2005

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As mobile operators scratch their heads trying to figure out how they will leverage their large investments in mobile data services, a Dublin mobile software firm reckons it has discovered a potential killer app for mobile and as a result has signed up five European operators for its service.

Dublin-based Alatto has recently launched a viral content service for mobiles called Tribes that a number of operators are quickly deploying across Europe. The operators include Orange in Belgium, Telering in Austria, Telfort in The Netherlands and it is currently being trialed by O2 in Ireland and O2 in the UK to work across both WAP and iMode mobile phones.

The company describes its Tribes service as a unique and potentially disruptive technology that enables both on and off-portal content discovery and could trigger mass-market use of mobile content.

Alatto’s CEO Neil Flanagan told siliconrepublic.com that the technology could be likened to Google’s toolbar technology that is currently being pushed aggressively on the internet. “Similarly to Google, the technology – which is a toolbar that sits on a mobile phone – looks simple, but has a sophisticated engine running behind it. It is effectively an ASP (application service provider) service that we sell to mobile operators. For ordinary users to use it requires no activation, all they have to do is access the mobile portal on their phone and the software immediately configures itself for their phone.”

The company claims that the technology doubles average user session times, includes advertising and banners in content pages, allows sponsorship and preferential display of data content and enables one-click content snacking (effectively Googling on phones).

The technology is called ‘Tribes’ because it delivers relevant personalized content with a viral recommendation from other people – Tribes – using the service so you just browse information of interest to you and others like you rather than drilling through menus of irrelevant information.

According to Flanagan the technology uses an artificial intelligence (AI) engine. The more you use Tribes the smarter it gets. It learns your habits, it learns your moods. You can set preferences so it gets very personal. New options are revealed as you become a regular user.

“The idea came about in that despite the fact that people use mobile phones, they can’t find the content they want very easily. Mobile operators say they’ve invested millions in content portals but people are finding these portals difficult to navigate and are discovering that the content they want is buried.

“Operators that have deployed the Tribes services are discovering a €7.14 increase in data ARPU (average revenue per user). Behind it is a large AI engine analyzing what people are looking for and based on what we can predict what information they’d like to see next, whether it’s the Crazy Frog ring tone or a full audio track from Beyonce,” Flanagan explained.

According to a source close to Alatto, if the company has discovered the next killer app that might in turn kill mobile operators’ financial headaches over substantial data investments it could have opened the door to a €3bn content market.

“The market for this is large. Operators have been banging their heads trying to get money out of their large investments in mobile data services but have little to show.

“In the UK last year there were 14.4bn internet pages served over mobile phones, small enough compared to the web but growing at 18pc per annum, so there is good end-user demand. The company that cracks the mobile data/service discovery market with the right application is looking at a €3bn market in Europe alone over the next few years.”

By John Kennedy