Where’s the Cinnabon?… or, Will Indoor LBS Hit it Big in 2012?

‘Tis the season to prognosticate.

We’re 17 days away from the new year, and far before Auld Lang Syne begins playing and we pretend to know the words (after all the champagne, who can remember the lyrics we optimistically Google’d the day before anyways?), we’re pondering what changes are in store for us the next twelve months.

In a whitepaper released by ABI Research this week, their tech analysts took a collective look into the crystal ball for 2012 and (in their words) “have drawn some bold lines in the sand on a plethora of top-of-mind topics.”

But instead of predicting what WOULD happen in the mobile and telecom space, they took a different spin on the usual list and forecasted what WOULDN’T happen.  Nice twist.  (And a really good read.)

One of their more interesting predictions for those of us in software testing is by Patrick Connolly, Senior Analyst of Telematics and Navigation:  “Indoor location will NOT become commonplace in 2012.” 

It’s easy to see how this could be true…but also surprising.

After all, for as many articles that have been written about the technological challenges in making Indoor Location Based Services (LBS) a reality, there has been an equal amount of big name, big buzz announcements about it over the past few months.  There are dozens of industry-leading companies—including Apple, Navteq, Qualcomm and Nokia—tackling the challenge from every angle.

There are even some major apps launching to give Indoor LBS a jolt from vision to reality.  For instance, Google announced on their Mobile blog in November that the new Google Maps 6.0 gives users (on Android OS 2.1 mobile devices) the ability to Map the Vast Indoors, vis-à-vis:

“When you’re inside an airport, shopping mall, retail store, or other public space, Google Maps 6.0 for Android brings the freestanding map directory to the palm of your hands –helping you determine where you are, what floor you’re on, and where to go indoors. For example, in this busy travel season, you can use Google Maps 6.0 to help you find your way around airports.”

So what does Connolly think we can expect in 2012?  He proposes that there will be “isolated mobile applications and services around individual high-traffic public areas like airports and malls.”

For software testers, the proliferation of LBS (indoor and out) means it’s becoming ever critical to move a portion of the testing out of the lab and into the wild so apps can be tested in real world conditions.  After all, if LBS is inaccurate inside a mall by 100 feet—and the store we’re trying to find (hello, Cinnabon!) isn’t anywhere near where we thought it was– it might as well be off by a mile.  The ball is increasingly in our court to make sure this cool, new tech is a consumer delight… not a dud.

As an industry, we’re on the cusp of some exciting indoor location, tracking, mapping, and navigation apps that will enrich the user experience.  And we’re playing a critical role in making it possible.

We’ll toast to that.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

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