Keeping on track – but not a train in sight

By | March 9, 2010

gpsVehicle-based satellite navigations systems (Sat Nav), which first started to emerge in the early 1980s, now represent a huge global market. In Europe alone sales in 2009 exceeded €1.5 billion. Many of the leading brands have become household names. For example, Garmin with global sales of $3.5 billion  and TomTom with global sales of $1.5 billion, in 2009. Not surprisingly, as the market grew so did both the number and size of suppliers – competition was very intense.

The systems rely on a Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device, which can determine the location of a vehicle, person or anything else for that matter! The location is regularly recorded and transmitted to a central database using mobile cellular, radio, or satellite technologies. The position of a device can be displayed on a map in real-time or recorded to identify movements or routes. Whilst, we are familiar with car-based Sat Nav systems they have many other applications. From surveying to monitoring and from climbing to tourism.

The market for personal tracking has also begun to emerge particularly as a result of increased functionality of mobile phones. Such as, the Nokia N95 and Apple iPhone.  Specialist phone applications became available to take advantage of these new GPS-based features. For example, the LocoBlog mobile phone application and web site supported location-based mobile photo blogging. As users blog and upload images their location is tracked and displayed on website (www.locoblog.com).

The Apple iPhone 3GS, launched in 2009, provided a built-in digital compass with GPS technologies to find the direction of travel to orientate of maps. This service used GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile network masts to identify the exact location of mobile devices. This high-level functionality was incorporated into new iPhone Apps, many of which were developed independently. By March 2010 over 2,600 iPhones Apps that used GPS were available.

With so much competition surely gaps in the market wouldn’t go unnoticed by the larger players for long. They could expect to indentify an unmet consumer need and use their considerable resources to address it quickly. Perhaps this is why it was so surprising that Sara Murray was able to develop and launch her ‘buddi’ product and service under their radar (www.buddi.co.uk). Sara developed the ‘buddi’ after her daughter went missing in a supermarket and she had no way of knowing where she had gone. Sara could not find any product on the market that provided a discrete way of tracking vulnerable children. She developed a new device which was small enough to be worn discretely yet powerful enough to provide reassurance.

Like Sat Nav systems and mobile phones the ‘buddi’ used GPS technology to track people and combine this with emergency support. This kind of tracking device may be equally useful for vulnerable elderly people or lone workers as it is for children. Sara Murray was awarded Best Female Entrepreneur 2009 by the BT Business Essence of the Entrepreneur awards.

I think Sara has got that entrepreneurial ability to spot a good idea through having a personal experience. But, what makes her different from most people is realising that this was a real opportunity and then obtaining the resources to take it to market. I can’t help thinking that this won’t be her only enterprise!

About Nigel Lockett

Nigel is a senior academic, experienced manager, entrepreneur and community leader. He has previously worked as a senior lecturer at Brunel University Business School, business development manager at InfoLab21 and relationship manager and lecturer at Lancaster University Management School. Nigel also has more than 20 years' experience as a company director, with a track record in managing start-up, joint venture and social enterprises. He has successfully designed and delivered innovative programmes in entrepreneurship, innovation, strategy, e-business and technology enterprise and was the founding director of an MSc in e-business and innovation.

Specialties
+ Entrepreneurship
+ Innovation management
+ Universities in open innovation
+ E-business

3 thoughts on “Keeping on track – but not a train in sight

  1. Frokostordning

    Well… that’s quiet interessting but actually i have a hard time understanding it… wonder how others think about this..

  2. Neil Smith

    Nigel, really interesting point about spotting an opportunity under the ‘radar’ of large corporates. This is often the hardest bit for people wanting to start a business – so this year we are running ‘good ideas’ sessions at our Enterprise Shows in Yorkshire between March and May. We’d love to see anyone wanting to become the next Sara Murray!

  3. Shashank

    Nigel, what you have brilliantly written above is a great example of technology and and how it presents and opens new avenues in our world. I myself am a Computer Engineer and I can appreciate the technology and the benefits it brings with it. Your classes are very intriguing as is your article above and i love to hear more from you regarding the same matter..please keep writing…I might use your guidance to start my own establishment soon…thanks..

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