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uShip uses Veriplace for accurate shipment tracking – Mobile Marketer

Online shipping and transportation service uShip is the first developer partner to commercially launch an off-deck location-enabled application on WaveMarket’s Veriplace, which opened to developers less than three weeks ago.

The uShip service, like many Veriplace applications, is a Web-based service that does not ask users to download anything onto their phones. Because the Veriplace Location Platform is designed as a Web service, it allows Web, mobile Web, SMS, and mobile developers a way to remotely locate phones on carrier networks.

Mobile Marketer editorial assistant Jordan Crook interviewed Joel Grossman, vice president of marketing and product management for WaveMarket. Here is what he said.

What’s the news here?
Until recently, there was no easy way for third party developers to access an end-user’s location. Launching an LBS application required spending multiple years working on a carrier partnership, getting the application and business case approved by the carriers, building a mobile application and porting it every device you wished to support, designing a privacy and security model that protected end-users, getting the application certified for the carrier deck.

It was an impossible proposition for developers and a strain on the mobile carriers, who had an incredibly powerful LBS infrastructure that they had trouble monetizing because launching applications was so challenging.

Last month, WaveMarket opened the Veriplace Location Aggregation platform to all developers, leveraging our long-standing carrier relationships and time-tested commercially deployed location privacy and security platform (since the start of the century, we have built and operated most of the white-label Family Locator services in the market today, including Sprint’s Family Locator, AT&T’s FamilyMap, etc).

Veriplace offers developers remote access to a mobile phone’s location by simply building to a standard set of Web services APIs.

The developer does not have to worry about what type of phone the user has, what network the user is on.

Veriplace makes it easy for them to create great location-aware applications and locate tens of millions of phones on carrier networks.

For end-users, Veriplace provides complete privacy and security of their location information, as Veriplace never releases a user’s location data to an application without the user’s explicit permission.

Veriplace moved from theory to reality with our first commercial partner launch.

By building on Veriplace, uShip has added huge value to their (non-mobile!) service, translating into increased sales and revenue.

uShip, a shipping broker that allows shippers to bid on shipping contracts for individuals, was at a disadvantage compared to some competitors in that they did not have a way for end-users to track shipments.

Today, using Veriplace, they offer more accurate shipment tracking on their website (with GPS accuracy) — significantly more advanced than even their biggest competitors.

This means real dollars for uShip, and the investment wasn’t huge, either: they were able to launch commercially mere weeks after they first started building to the hosted Veriplace platform.

What is the strategy behind this?
Mobile carriers want to offer a wide variety of rich applications and services by opening up access to some of their network’s most powerful features, like location.

Historically, SMS messages became very valuable to carriers and end-users when aggregators connected carriers to provide cross-carrier messaging and a single API for third party developers to use to send messages to users across all carriers.

This openness created a giant thriving ecosystem of messaging services.

The Veriplace Location Aggregation Platform is designed to help carriers create the same vibrant ecosystem of location-enabled services.

Compared to messaging, though, location is even more interesting: Veriplace is a location aggregation platform in that it provides developers a single API and enables cross-carrier location access (like SMS Aggregators), but Veriplace also provides tremendous additional value by protecting the privacy and security of end-users in a transparent and consistent manner (Veriplace even supports OAuth and OpenID).

These privacy controls are crucial in earning the trust required for end-users to explore the huge variety of location-based services that will soon be coming out of the Veriplace developer community.

What challenges does it address and for whom?
Veriplace has tremendous value for Developers, Carriers, and End Users…

For Developers, Veriplace offers never-previously-available access to a mobile device’s location on carrier networks without any need for deep integration into the carrier infrastructure. And because Veriplace is designed as a web-services API, Facebook developers, Web developers, WAP developers and even SMS developers can easily access a users location, regardless of phone type, location technology, or carrier network using the same programming techniques they use to share data across services today.

They don’t need to build a downloadable mobile application and port it to dozens of different handset models.

They can build one service, Web-based and quickly deploy it across the broadest location aggregation network in the world; in addition to smart phones, Veriplace locates feature phones on carrier networks, which represent the majority of the market.

This is a core reason why the Veriplace developer community is rapidly growing even though we just opened up registration to all developers at last month.

For carriers, Veriplace offers the ability to monetize location infrastructure quickly and safely. Veriplace is a platform that enforces carrier-customized privacy and security rules while allowing third party developers to access location data without the challenges involved in direct integration into the carrier infrastructure.

Carriers can offer their end-users a huge range of location-enabled services while the Veriplace privacy controls empower end-users to safeguard their personal location information.

If the carrier wants, Veriplace can even handle the entire process of certifying the application, knowing that Veriplace, or the carrier, can always revoke an individual application’s location access (even after certification) if the app misbehaves.

For end-users, Veriplace offers an intuitive but powerful privacy and security interface, accessible both from the web and their phone, that allows them to grant or revoke permission to be located by individual applications, to set up notifications so they know when they are located and to view a complete history of every Veriplace-powered service that has located them.

Additionally, end-users have the peace of mind of knowing that Veriplace-certified applications have gone through a rigorous set of tests to ensure that only applications that respect a user’s privacy have access to their location via Veriplace.

Where do you see mobile taking us (in terms of location based technology)?
Needless to say, a small number of location-based services (like Family Locator and Navigation) have been huge hits — customers want services that take advantage of location information.

What the tremendous growth and diversity of the Veriplace developer community has shown, though, is that location can be a key component of hundreds of thousands of applications, even those that are not specifically about location (or even necessarily “mobile”).

Of course, we are already talking to some large players in the local (web) search space who want to provide smarter results for their users, but that’s just the “thick” part of the “long tail.”

We already have hundreds of developers who have creative ideas for location-enhancing their applications and services: the photo-sharing application can location-tag photos and show you other pictures taken near you, the fraud detection service that makes sure you are near where your credit card was just swiped, restaurant rating service that can recommend restaurants near you, or the cab company that can send a cab right to your foot, even if you have no idea where you are.

There are endless possibilities of how this Veriplace location platform, which protects the user’s privacy, will enable some amazingly powerful services — many that you don’t necessarily think of as LBS or even “mobile.”

What are your expectations for location-based mobile marketing as a whole?
Location based marketing is a service that users want, if it’s done respectfully.
Why would I want an advertisement for a business that’s nowhere near me if the same banner ad could detect that I’m 100 feet away from a boutique that’s having a half-price sale?

Advertisers (mobile and non-mobile alike) are some of our most excited Veriplace developers and one mobile advertiser even announced at the last CTIA that they would be building on Veriplace (and they showed a functional demo at the conference).

Because Veriplace never releases a user’s location without his/her explicit permission, users were opting-in to this partner’s location-aware advertisements and were getting more relevant advertisements because of it. Users who were not comfortable sharing their exact location used Veriplace to share only “neighborhood” or “city” information with the advertising company.

Making marketing tools smarter with location information is good for both the advertisers and the end-users, as long as the end-users can retain complete control (using Veriplace) of the information an advertising company can access and the advertising company uses that data respectfully.

And, of course, Veriplace provides a very powerful feedback tool for end-users: if they don’t like the way an advertising company is using their location, they can revoke permission for that service to locate them at any time from their phone or the Veriplace Web site.