Asian developer maps software to location services

An Asian software company has developed a new application for accessing location-based services on Symbian-based cellphones.

SINGAPORE--An Asian software company has developed a new application for accessing location-based services on Symbian-based cellphones.

Called NavFone, the software was developed by agis, a Singapore-based company. Users can download it from the company's Web site and install it on cellphones like the Nokia 6600 and 6630, said Poon Kim Ying, agis' chief technology officer.

Available since April this year for about S$30 (US$17.71) per copy, the software includes a directory map of the island-state, together with addresses of places such as restaurants, banks, roads, malls and churches. So far, more than 1,000 copies of the software have been sold, Poon said.

With NavFone, a cellphone user is able to locate a restaurant within the vicinity or search for a building by entering its name--similar to how users perform a Google search. "It's like having a street directory and Yellow Pages with you on your mobile phone," said Poon.

To make it easy for NavFone users to download new and updated information from the Web site, agis embedded all information, such as restaurant locations, in "layers" that sit on top of the map. This makes it easy to create layers for new classes of information, such as bus stops, and to update existing ones with new data.

The software also enables mobile phone users to pinpoint their physical locations when they are indoors. To do this, NavFone retrieves information from the individual cells on a GSM cellular phone network to determine where the phone is.

Poon said this gives the software an advantage over GPS (global positioning system) solutions, which typically require users to be outdoors. Also, users may not be willing to pay for GPS receivers that cost around S$200 (US$118) each, he added.

Another notable application is taxi-booking, which enables users to book a taxi with Singapore cab operator Comfort Transportation by highlighting a taxi pickup point on the map. In 30 seconds, a text message will be sent to the user with the estimated waiting time, together with the taxi license plate number, Poon explained.

NavFone took a year to develop and at a cost of S$500,000 (US$295,200). The project received funding support from the Infocomm Development Authority, but agis did not disclose the amount.

Poon said there are plans to partner with banks and malls to "push" information on retail promotions to mobile phones users whenever they reach a targeted location.

agis is in talks with Singapore mobile operators to market the software to cellphone users. The company is also planning to introduce NavFone in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India and Australia.