Location services in infancy but promising

Updated: 2013-07-01 08:02

By Shen Jingting (China Daily)

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Location services in infancy but promising

Location services in infancy but promising
An international location-based services industry exhibition in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. By gathering information from mobile terminals, location-based services companies can offer information such as navigation, e-maps and cargo-tracking. [Photo / Provided to China Daily]

Location services in infancy but promising

As early as November, Kangping, the most northerly county of China's Liaoning province, embraces its first snow of the year. The temperature drops below zero degrees Celsius and may even fall to minus 30 later.

Under the grey sky, bundles of cornstalk lie on the rich black soil. Icy winds, mixed with smoke from firewood, blow into people's nostrils and make them sneeze.

Winter had once been the most troublesome season for Huang Yanqiu, headmaster of Kangping's nine-year compulsory education school. When the weather becomes colder, more students tend to take privately owned school buses.

Craving more profit, school bus drivers used to play a cat-and-mouse game with local student safety supervisors. They secretly overloaded the buses, drove at excessive speeds and avoided regular vehicle condition checks.

In order to protect students from accidents, Huang and other teachers escorted children to buses and tried to make sure everything was ok.

"Things have now changed," Huang said, slowly sipping a cup of tea. The clock hands pointed to 3 pm, when students start to leave school for home. "All school buses in Kangping have been installed with an electronic system that helps us check buses at anytime, anywhere," Huang said.

It is a global positioning system that stores detailed information such as vehicle type, color and the driver's name of every school bus. It is connected to a surveillance center and transmits real-time bus locations to the center.

China Mobile Ltd, the world's biggest telecom operator by subscriber numbers, provided the service to Kangping county. The company has developed into a leading location-based services provider in China. It had a customer base of more than 40 million by 2011.

The Kangping case is one of many location-based services in China. By gathering information from mobile terminals, location-based services companies can offer information such as navigation, e-maps and cargo tracking. The location-based services business has risen in popularity worldwide since 2009, when Foursquare, a location-based social networking website, set up in the United States.

Chinese companies have quickly picked up on the trend. Analysts pointed out that the Chinese market possesses great potential for the location-based services industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2010, China Mobile set up a location-based services center in Shenyang, Liaoning province, to develop product and services for the domestic market.

China Mobile plans to invest 3 billion yuan ($488 million) over five years to build a 2.2-hectare industry park targeting location-based services in Shenyang. The industry park aims to attract software, terminal and information service partners worldwide. Currently, China Mobile's location-based services business covers various industries including navigation, transportation and logistics.

"The location-based services industry is still wide open in China. However, as the Internet and machine-to-machine technologies develop, location-based services will play a more important role and create a greater value for individuals and enterprises," said Li Hui, general manager of China Mobile's location-based services center.

China is going to be a major driver in the world's location-based services industry.

Currently, the market volume of China's navigation and location-based services is valued in excess of 80 billion yuan, according to statistics from CCID Group, a research organization under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

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