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This developer I've been corresponding with could be weeks away from a truly killer app for cellphones

Several weeks ago, I blogged about what I consider to be a thus-far unbuilt killer app for mobile phones: shopping mall maps small, yet clear enough for cellphones.My point was that everyone brings a cell to the mall, and in-mall "you are here" store maps are oft-consulted and confusing.
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Written by Russell Shaw on

Several weeks ago, I blogged about what I consider to be a thus-far unbuilt killer app for mobile phones: shopping mall maps small, yet clear enough for cellphones.

My point was that everyone brings a cell to the mall, and in-mall "you are here" store maps are oft-consulted and confusing. So why not build such an app, have your cell carrier distribute it, and use it to help you find and lead you to individual stores and even special offers once you are at the mall.

Well, over the last 24 hours, I have been corresponding with a South Africa-based software developer who is working on just such a feature.

Because he feels he is about two weeks of rigorous testing short of completion, he asked me not to use his name. But I am free to excerpt his descriptions of what he has been working on from the two emails he has sent me:

In his first email to me, he writes:

I am quite passionate about the idea of shopping mall maps on mobile phones.

I dont need the coordinates of a store in the mall for my map as I assign my own screen coordinates. I have even built a Flash Tool which for the particular Mall in question gives me all the coordinates. Using this tool I can get the coordinates and other info on all 284 stores within 30 minutes. I then feed this data into my map (takes about 10 minutes) and the map is fully functional.

I have build it for a particular Mall but was carefull in the design so as to make it easy to convert to another Mall.

I have  a graphics specialist who handles all the graphics for me.

I have a fully working one for use on a normal computer screen. It too doesnt give direction to the store yet but in the next upgrade I do plan to develop code which will send a little PacMan around the screen showing you the way to go (or something of the sort).

My thoughts on receiving this first email is that I hope this guy is resourceful enough to find a VC, and then with VC funds, to hire a marketing team. This idea is a winner.

Then the guy emailed me earlier today w/ this follow-up:

Although I say I've the past 6 months working on it in actual fact it has taken me 4 years to get this far.

As I said I began by totally redesigning the usual Mall map which is found on every website of a shopping mall. I needed a way to display all the mall levels on a single graphic at the same time. The answer will surprise you.

The Mall I have built my map for is the largest in South Africa. After re-designing the map I built a paper version of the map. Next I had to figure out how to digitise it and make it interactive. This I suceeded in doing and now have a version which fits on a normal computer screen. Its only in the last 6 months that I have been miniturizing it for a Mobile phone.

I believe that I have mastered all the coding challenges and am right now busy constructing the final map. You will even be able to telephone the store from the map.

The map is completely self-contained on the mobile in that it does not reference any external source to function and its current size is only 120 kbytes (full color). It even has a digital mechanism to help you orientate yourself in the mall as obviously the graphic on screen is only true to the Mall layout if you hold the mobile in a certain orientation relative to the mall. So I had to come up with a simple mechanism to let you know how to angle the mobile no matter where you were in the mall. Mobile phones don't have built in compass needles.

Again the solution is so simple it will surprise you.

I say keep my name out for now as I may still stumble across a problem or two and don't want to brag too much till I have a working model. This should be in about 2 weeks or so but you can write something now if you wish. Let me know what info you need to write it. The current map runs ok on my Nokia N70.

Once complete I will need to investigate its compatibility with other phones but this should not be an issue since it is built in Flashlite. Then I need to give copies to friends to field test to see if theres anything I have overlooked.

I have approached the mall with my computer map and they were very interested but have not yet told them of the mobile map.

As I've said before, I think this guy could really be onto something.

Do you agree?

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