Location, location, location – geo-commerce is here and now

27 Nov 2008

Irish firms are using mobile technology to map out a geo-commerce future.

It’s a Saturday afternoon, and as you stroll through a busy shopping district with your partner, you can’t decide whether to go for a meal or check out what’s on in the cinema. You check your mobile phone, and displayed on the screen are options of restaurants and shops nearby where you can get discounts.

As you scroll through these options, mulling over whether tapas or a burger will satisfy your cravings, you decide to see eateries that friends have recommended, and within feet of your location on the phone’s map are little tags of reviews authored by trusted friends.

These technologies aren’t from a scene in Minority Report, but are entering the Irish mobile space very soon, enabling Irish consumers to use their phones to make buying decisions, get discounts and access services through geography-based commerce (geo-commerce).

At the forefront of this trend is Dún Laoghaire-based technology firm ICAP Media, which has developed a technology called Ocode that it describes as Ireland’s first opt-in mobile-phone marketing platform.

Ocode stands for ‘offer code’, and the technology will sit on the menu of the average consumer’s mobile phone. Based on their location, consumers can then access discount offerings from restaurants, retailers and cinemas, and use the details on their screen to redeem the discount at the cash register.

ICAP is headed by Ken Nugent. “We’ve trialled the product with over 2,000 users, including iPhone users. Basically, over 95pc of mobile phones in people’s hands today are internet-enabled,” he says.

The key target for Ocode’s business is advertising revenue based on mobile street campaigns that combine with intelligence from the streets. “That’s the untapped value of mobile. People are coming around to accepting advertising on their devices, but not in an intrusive way. It has to be about context, relevance and adding convenience and value to their lives.

“From the user’s point of view, it’s instant gratification. The phone recognises they are in an area, and they can see what stores and restaurants nearby give discounts.”

Nugent says the service is currently being rolled out in the greater Dublin area, but will be nationwide within three months. The firm has plans to export the model to mass-market locations, such as the UK.

So far, some 10 to 15 national brands in various areas of south Dublin have signed up to the technology, including the 911 café chain. Nugent says he envisions Ocode labels adorning participating stores and restaurants.

“This technology could be essential to cost- and value-conscious consumers. It will also equip retail brands with street-level consumer intelligence,” he explains.

Another  Irish tech firm pushing the boundaries of geo-commerce is Tagggit.com, led by Loughlan Spollen.

Tagggit recently launched the second application ever to deliver an accurate wireless positioning system (WPS) on mobile phones other than the iPhone 3G. Tagggit has termed the WPS ‘City Mode’, as it functions in metropolitan areas. Spollen says the technology functions perfectly in built-up urban cities.

“Tagggit is a geo-tagging social network. The idea is people who live in large cities move around those cities to meet friends/family and to do business. They don’t, and can’t, know the entire city. However, they can tag the city. Tagging the city allows them to remember where they found a good parking spot, where they found a good coffee shop, etc.

“They can share those tags with friends and search for their friend’s recommendation tags. They can join communities and share tags with people who have similar interests.  London will be my target market, as Tagggit is most useful in such a large urban area.”

Tagggit’s technology works on seven Nokia devices (including the N95 and N96), as well as the Samsung i550, and can be downloaded from www.tagggit.com.

“This mobile software will help us to change the way urbanites use their phones,” says Spollen.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years