Executive Q&A: Manlio Allegra

Jan 15, 2012

Source: Express Computer

Executive Q&A: Manlio Allegra

Manlio Allegra, President & CEO, Co-Founder of Polaris Wireless, talked to Prashant L Rao about Location Based Services (LBS) and the importance of accuracy with regard to the same as well as how the technology was evolving.

LBS in India has been slow to take off. Do you see that changing?

The LBS market in the US is mature at this point. Everything there was triggered by the 1996 E911 mandate. Besides public safety, there's a huge multi hundred million dollar enterprise market for location as applied to logistics, sales force management etc. Nextel started this, followed by Verizon and then AT&T. Most enterprises in the US track everything that they own that moves-it can be a human or a physical asset. Knowing where the assets are is of huge importance. Given that enterprises act similarly all over the world, I don't see why the Indian market shouldn't grow in the same way.

How does your LBS technology differ from competing offerings?

The competitors are hardware systems. One is triangulation. The solution involves the deployment of boxes at each and every BTS. It's a nightmare. They use some of the backhaul from the BTS to the network and they need to sell the server. About ten years ago, this solution was deployed by AT&T for GSM. They spent a billion dollars for 50,000 sites and it took them three to five years.

The other competing technology is A-GPS. In the old days the chipsets would cost $12-15; today, it costs $1-2. This forces the operator to change the phone. Verizon adopted this solution for the US. It took them ten years after they enabled all the phones with GPS to have a decent penetration and it still cost $400-500 mn.

We invented an accurate software-based system. It doesn't touch the base system and involves no changes on the phone. Everything resides in the intelligent system that we integrate into the carrier's network. Once the system is in the network it is able to track all phones including roamers.

Our technology is deployed in the network allowing any enterprise to use it through existing GSM phones. We can go down to 40 meters and we do this indoors which is something that GPS can't do.

We have filed 50 patents of which 30 have been granted.

Do you support CDMA?

We do not have CDMA at present. We started with GSM as it had a much larger footprint in the US and from there we moved on to UMTS and later to LTE.

What would the cost and deployment time be in India?

This would cost $50-75 mn for a deployment on the scale of AT&T's and take less than a year. In a country like India, we could deploy in nine months.

We did a trial in Bangalore in July 2011 where 70% of over 3,500 calls were within 40-50 meters and 95% below 150 meters. These are blind trials where we deploy the solution and the carrier does the trial.

Where is your technology headed?

We are gunning for 10 meters accuracy. Once you move the location indoors, 100 meters isn't good enough; you need 10 meters for targeted marketing. It's futuristic but that's what's happening in the US and what we are focusing our attention on.

Tell us about the segments of opportunity and use cases that you see for LBS.

The four major segments are the enterprise, public safety, carrier applications (network optimization & zone-based billing) and consumer-oriented applications. Use cases include natural disasters. For instance, you could put a geofence around India's coastlines and broadcast an SMS before a tsunami strikes. The second one is that of emergency services.

In marketing campaigns, the technology improves the click through rate from the typical 1-3% to 7%.

You just signed up with Tech Mahindra. What's your game plan on partners?

We need local partners to help us deploy, maintain and service our business. We will be tying up with others as well.

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