At this year’s Mobile World Congress, while the official theme is “Mobile is everything,” the underlying theme seems to be taken from the real estate industry: Location. Location. Location. This ranges from virtual reality allowing you to go anywhere to relentless big data talks on privacy and how and if people should be able to find you. But the most important value derived from all that data seems to be context, driven first and foremost by knowing people’s location.
On Tuesday, Accelerite, an infrastructure software provider for mobility, telecommunications service creation, the Internet of Things, cloud and endpoint solutions, announced the launch of its LaaS API (application programming interface) platform. Not to be confused with the many other LaaS acronyms in our industry, this one stands for Location-as-a-Service, although they’ve been focusing on their clients—India’s leading automotive manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra—and not their name so far. Originally developed for the trucking industry in India, this Location-as-a-Service platform enables mobile device location aggregation.
Why not just put an Internet of Things sensor on the cards themselves and call it a day? Well, in India, like much of the developing world, most people still only have feature phones—like the offline, nine-button, flip phones we rocked at the turn of the century with their few J2ME Java capabilities. And if they have a smartphone, every megabyte of their data plans is precious.
“Their need was to create an API that was independent of anything that’s on the phone ad to work off a feature phone, too,” Accelerite’s marketing person Rajesh Venkatachalam told ProgrammableWeb at their stand at the 2016 Mobile World Congress. He went on to explain that the trucking industry in the emerging world is ripe for disruption and optimization, particularly in these fleets of smaller trucks that travel within India’s crowded cities.
Accelerite decided to develop an API platform for these first customers because they needed the device-agnostic flexibility to make existing business applications “location context-aware,” which can work with not only new devices but also with these simpler phones which usually even have GPS turned off.
“The reason we want to provision it as an API is to really make it easy for developers to access that,” Venkatachalam explained.
On the other hand, it isn’t an option to build apps for these phones either. He is proud that his team is “able to subject ourselves to the reality of the consumer.”
it’s counterintuitive to go build something on a feature phone
After solving this problem for one customer, they realized that they have a business opportunity to provide via the LaaS API platform a network location for as many devices as possible, acting as sort of “wholesalers for network operators.” They see their tool as an opportunity for mobile app developers in India to expand network operators, adding a benefit to the enterprise customers but zero footprint left behind on the phones.
The next step for LaaS? India, like much of the world, doesn’t have the United State’s 9-1-1 or Europe’s 1-1-2 mandate. In fact, the emergency number can vary from state to state or even city to city, and—with GPS still having extremely low penetration—there’s no centralized way of tracking where these calls came from. With location uncertainty, it can take more than half an hour to find the patient. Accelerite is trying to work with public safety to enable emergency services with location-based context awareness.
With such disjointedness, this is, of course, an easier-said-than-done situation. “Sometimes they say they want the same standard and they don’t realize how much it costs.” That’s why the LaaS API platform gives them the capability build these services first independently, and then, if an emergency line mandate comes through, APIs and containers would make it easier to sync up across the huge country.
After expanding into more logistics companies and first responders, the team at Accelerite foresees a big brands like McDonald’s building on their API platform to create location-aware, push SMS, opt-in ad campaigns.