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March 2010 | Volume 13 / Number 3
Personalized Apps

Cell Broadcast Firm Addresses Location-based Applications

By: Paula Bernier

A company called one2many has an entirely unique angle to contextual applications. INTERNET TELEPHONY Executive Editor recently interviewed Maarten Mes, managing director of the company, about the company’s business model and how it addresses location-based services.

What does one2many sell and to whom?

Mes: one2many sells its Cell Broadcast System to mobile network operators, telecoms equipment providers and OEMs across the world.

CBS offers a non-intrusive, real-time service of distributing text messages to mobile handsets, specific to their current location. Where SMS is a service of individual messages, Cell Broadcast is capable of broadcasting one single message to reach all mobile handsets in an area as small as one radio cell and as big as an entire country. Only handsets that have Cell Broadcast channels activated will receive these messages. It is fast and in real-time. Sending a message to millions of handsets takes a matter of seconds. This is particularly important for emergency alert services. The ability to broadcast in a specific area makes it possible to provide handset users with information relevant to their location.

What is one2many’s customer target and geographic focus?

Mes: one2many has the largest Cell Broadcast global footprint -- of more than 80 installations with 50 customers in more than 30 countries. Based in the Netherlands and Dubai, the company targets customers across the globe. Key markets include Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Africa. The company’s customers are typically tier 1 and 2 operators.

What are the benefits of Cell Broadcast for public warning?

Mes: The days of sirens and alarms being enough to warn the public of impending danger are long gone. Today’s dangers require a tailored approach to each individual event and detailed instructions must be given to the public, informing them with localized information to alert, inform and guide them to safety.

The example of a fire at a chemicals’ plant illustrates this well. While persons within the immediate range of the fire should be evacuated, those downwind of the toxic smoke could be in danger if they venture outdoors. Two distinct messages, therefore, need to be broadcast – different messages sent to distinct locations.

Today, only Cell Broadcast has the geographical flexibility to do this. As messages are broadcast to all users within the range of individual cells/base stations, the right messages get to the people who need them.

Does this kind of alert system require some action on the behalf of the end users?

Mes: Users do not need to sign up to the system, as the messages are sent to all phones in a specified area rather than to individual handsets. This means that visitors to the area as well as locals will receive the relevant warnings – and similarly, local residents that are out of town will not be unnecessarily alarmed. Users can also easily opt out simply by turning off the Cell Broadcast channel on their handsets.

Cell Broadcast also offers a truly robust approach to public warning. Cell Broadcast has its own dedicated channel, which ensures that Cell Broadcast messages always get through - even at peak periods (like New Year’s Eve) or at exceptionally busy locations.

How can service providers recoup their investments in Cell Broadband public warning systems?

Mes: Cell Broadcast offers excellent means of doing this. The features of Cell Broadcast enable operators to exploit, for example, location-based mobile advertising services, location-based information services and dynamic discount service network optimization for revenue generation and improving customer loyalty.

What specific mobile applications can one2many enable?

Mes: Cell Broadcast has solved the issue of how to deliver location-based services and mobile advertising without the need to impinge on user privacy. It works by blanket-sending a message to a cell or series of cells within a specified location. The messages are not sent to specific individuals, but to all network antennas in the targeted area. The organization sending the message does not need to know the numbers of the phones within that location as they are targeted automatically by being in the area. This removes much of the fear of ‘big brother’ inherent to other LBS/mobile advertising approaches.

Also, Cell Broadcast allows operators to efficiently broadcast Tweets of celebrity Twitter users with a huge number of followers, by allocating CB channels to them. A message will reach all followers instantly without being a burden to the mobile network.

Cell Broadcast also enables user-generated content to be broadcast with location relevance. User content can be sent to the operators via a premium rate SMS number – generating revenue for the operator with each use. Once received by the operator the content can be broadcast to all users in a given location signed up to a particular channel. For example, while visiting a particular city a user could Tweet to all of [his or her] followers in that area in case they wanted to meet up.

This enables value-add applications such as (location-based) dating, community and classified services.

And with the dynamic discount service, operators can now introduce dynamic pricing and provide discounts in areas where the network is under-utilized. The operator’s statistical or dynamic information shows for each cell site what the traffic load is throughout the day, throughout the week. When at certain periods in the day there is ample capacity available, traffic can be stimulated by offering a discount. Each cell uses Cell Broadcast to broadcast the discount percentage. This information is shown on the display of the mobile device through the cell information feature and can be updated on an hourly basis. IT

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