Mobile Commerce

Customer: Palisades Center Mall

Global Positioning System

New Jersey Online

Andy Goren

Mobile Wireless Future

Corrections or additions?

These articles were prepared for the November 29, 2000 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Promise of Wireless: Location-Based Info

by Douglas Dixon

What should we do tonight? Where should we go for

dinner?

These are perennial questions, whether you’re exiting a theater in

Times Square and ready for some serious shopping, or commuting home

on the train and interested in going to a movie or trying out a new

restaurant.

But how do you find out what your options are: what interesting stores

are within walking distance, which restaurants are running specials

this week, or the show times at near-by theaters? If you picked up

a local newspaper, you could look through the ads and entertainment

listings for something interesting. If you were really organized,

maybe you brought along a city guidebook. Or if you are the wired

type, maybe you planned ahead and surfed the Web to find interesting

opportunities.

It’s fun to use the Web to explore the virtual world online, with

instant access to news and information, the ability to shop the globe

from your desk, and even the ability to look up local businesses and

create customized maps. But we live in the physical world, where we

commute to work, shop in local stores, and eat in neighborhood

restaurants.

So wouldn’t it be cool if this kind of instant access and up-to-date

information in the virtual online world also were available to us

in the physical world?

This is the beckoning promise of wireless communications: everyday

use of handheld devices to provide wireless Web access, combined with

"location-based" services to provide information relevant

to where you are and what you are doing. A Cranbury company, GeePS.com

Inc. (www.geeps.com), is working towards this promise by

developing

products that provide the technological infrastructure required to

support these kinds of services.

This is the transformation from E-commerce to M-commerce (mobile

commerce).

"The marketplace has survived since the dawn of the man,"

says Arshad Masood, president and COO of GeePS. "We are

genetically

predisposed to a place like a market, something like a downtown square

where people gather and shop. GeePS is trying to extend that place

to the people, and the Internet to the people, so they can connect

to that place, both when they are physically there, and also when

they are physically not there."

GeePS was founded in 1999 and announced its first customers for retail

and mall services this summer. New Jersey Online (www.nj.com) also

is using GeePS to develop its first wireless edition and is beginning

to test location-based services for local businesses in the Summit

area.

With the GeePS service, you can access information about your local

environment on the wireless Web, whether you are walking around a

city like New York or driving through a town like Princeton. You can

look up merchants, find out about special promotions or pick up a

coupon, and then head over to a store. Once in the store, you even

can complete the sales transaction with a secure wireless payment

through your Internet-enabled cellular phone or handheld PDA.

"This is the premise of the Internet," says Andy Goren, CEO

of GeePS, "anything, anywhere, anytime, no limits. We provide

the whole infrastructure for merchants to go live and provide messages

targeted to consumers in their area."

Top Of Page
Mobile Commerce

GeePS intends to provide an end-to-end mobile commerce solution for

both merchants and consumers. It helps local merchants compete with

"E-Tailers" and attract new customers by sending personalized

information and promotional messages to customers in their immediate

vicinity. GeePS allows merchants to continue to offer the best aspects

of traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping (touch and feel, and human

interaction) with the informational capabilities of the Internet.

"GeePS is a location-based wireless ASP (Application Service

Provider),

focused on retail," says Goren. "We provide the dynamic

communication

between merchants and consumers that doesn’t exist in the physical

world."

GeePS has introduced two product suites: the GeePS.Store suite for

retail chains and the GeePS.Mall platform for brick-and-mortar malls

and virtual malls such as media companies and portals. In recent

months,

GeePS has announced several strategic alliances and its first

customers

for these products.

In August, GeePS announced the signing of Liberty USA, a West Mifflin,

Pennsylvania, wholesaler that supplies packaged goods to 1,500

convenience

stores in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and also

has communications activities as a regional Internet Service Provider

and as an AT&T mobile dealer.

As part of the agreement, Liberty USA will negotiate with

manufacturers

to sponsor special deals for its retailers that are signed to the

GeePS "Go Power Shopping" (GPS) program. Liberty USA will

then promote these specials to consumers using GeePS technology, and

retailers will receive GeePS advertising for them.

Top Of Page
Customer: Palisades Center Mall

GeePS’ first mall customer is Palisades Center, an

innovative

four-level shopping mall with 220 stores and 10 sit-down restaurants

in West Nyack, New York. The center will use mobile commerce

technologies

for wireless delivery of targeted, local shopping information and

news to consumers (www.palcen.com). Fifty retailers went online on

November 13. "We expect to have 15 to 20,000 users in two to three

months," says Masood. "It’s one of the largest wireless tests

in the nation."

The Palisades Center’s more than 20 million annual visitors can

register

on its website or through kiosks in the mall and indicate the general

categories and individual stores from which they want to receive

promotional

messages. "Customers will have the ability to not only find

through

print what is going on," says Masood, "but also through voice,

Internet, mobile, portable devices, and E-mail, the whole spectrum

of information sources or channels. We will be able to give you

something

that is interesting to you."

The participating Palisades Center merchants — including Filene’s,

Restoration Hardware, Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers, Lord & Taylor,

Old Navy, the IMAX Theater, and Macaroni Grill — are reportedly

enthusiastic about the quick-to-market and quick response they get

from wireless advertising. "This test is indicating that mobile

messaging technologies have made the move from fiction to fact,"

says Masood.

GeePS is founded on the premise that the underlying technology for

these kinds of services is becoming available very quickly, especially

the pervasive use of mobile phones for Web access. This is not just

wild optimism; you do not need a crystal ball to see this future;

it is already developing around us today.

Part of the technology has appeared with the introduction this year

of mobile phones with Web access and with wireless Internet services

for handheld PDA (personal digital assistant) devices like the Palm.

This is also leading to the development of location-based information

and services, from restaurant reviews to movie show times to maps

and directions (see Location Based Services on page tktk).

The future of mobile Internet access is even more visible overseas.

Mobile phone use is exploding around the globe, not only in the

obvious

areas like Europe, Scandinavia, Japan and other East Asian countries,

but also in poorer countries with unreliable telephone service and

expensive Internet access, where cellular access provides a quick

alternate path to becoming wired.

Top Of Page
Global Positioning System

The final piece of technology needed for the GeePS service is the

ability for your wireless device to pinpoint your position, so it

can retrieve information related to your current physical location.

The GeePS name is derived from the Global Positioning System (G.P.S.),

which can triangulate your position based on signals from satellites

in geosynchronous orbit. The G.P.S. system was developed by the U.S.

government for military use, and, until recently, deliberately

provided

a lower level of accuracy for civilian and commercial use. G.P.S.

receivers have become widely available, for providing driving

directions

in rental cars, tracking truck fleets, hiking isolated trails, and

even as add-ons to handheld PDAs.

However, with the growing use of G.P.S. for important non-military

applications like transportation, agriculture, and emergency response,

the government removed the service limitations in May. This means

that G.P.S. receivers can now pinpoint your position with an accuracy

of around 40 to 70 feet. But G.P.S. accuracy relies on line of sight

visibility to up to four satellites, and can therefore be hampered

by atmospheric conditions, and it has trouble when driving in a city

with tall buildings or an area with lots of overhanging trees.

Meanwhile, the FCC has set an October, 2001, deadline for its

"E-911"

Mandate, which requires that wireless carriers be able to locate a

caller who makes a 911 emergency call over a cell phone. The cellular

carriers will likely implement this service by using their cell base

stations to estimate your position relative to the stations on their

network that can receive your signal. Installing full G.P.S. receiver

hardware in cell phones will be rather expensive for the near future.

"G.P.S. will be in some phones by next year," says Goren.

"Network-based location services are not as accurate, but the

networks can implement it much faster. The accuracy varies, from a

few hundred feet to maybe a mile."

Given that all these technology components will fall into place —

ubiquitous mobile Web service, E-911 location positioning, and

location-based

services — GeePS is developing the "glue" components to

connect them together into a complete end-to-end service for local

retail businesses. Local businesses typically have no need for a

heavily

wired Web presence, so the idea is to develop tools to help get them

online, and updated with timely information.

Top Of Page
New Jersey Online

One prototype of this kind of service is being developed

by GeePS with Advance Internet for their New Jersey Online Web site.

New Jersey Online was launched in 1996 and now attracts more than

30 million page views each month. Its local content includes local

news, sports, features and classifieds from the Star-Ledger and Times

of Trenton.

The wireless edition of NJO went online in October

(www.nj.com/wireless)

and includes a demo of how the service actually looks on a wireless

phone. The NJO service will offer local news headlines, weather

forecasts,

sports scores, and stock quotes, as well as location-based shopping

information.

"The GeePS concept of wireless access is a perfect fit with the

positioning for NJO," says Fred Tuccillo, president and CEO of

New Jersey Online. "It’s a terrific tool to bring to local

advertisers.

It makes the Internet an application for small businesses

locally."

"The Internet is intimidating, with the cost and technology,"

he says. "It has the potential to pull the customer away from

local business to national aggregators. We are positioning NJO to

allow local retailers to bring their brand and business to the

Internet."

NJO began a test of this approach this summer by providing

location-based

service in the Summit area. "We will support local businesses

in Summit," says Tuccillo, "at least two to three dozen, and

grow during the test. It has a good mix of retail, services, and

convenience

stores, clustered around the railroad station. Commuters can access

restaurants and dry cleaning." The plan is then to broaden the

service to the rest of the state in a few months.

NJO already posts advertisements and coupons from its affiliated

newspapers

online, so the content is already available to translate for wireless

access. "There are no technology requirements for the

retailer,"

says Tuccillo. "Initially we were doing the work for the

advertiser.

Existing advertisers are already sending us material, and we translate

it. Advertisers are not paying extra. They get a level of exposure

to the marketplace for as little as $40 a month."

New Jersey Online, based in Jersey City, is owned and operated by

Advance Internet, which is itself owned by Advance Publications, Inc.,

part of the Newhouse chain of newspapers in 22 cities including the

Star Ledger and the Times of Trenton, as well as the Conde Nast

magazines

and Parade. Advance Internet, working with Advance Publications’

newspapers,

has developed 10 local websites including New Jersey Online, Alabama

Live, Cleveland Live, Michigan Live, Oregon Live, MassLive, Syracuse

Online, Staten Island Live, PennLive, and NOLA Live.

"GeePS provides the connection to retailers, the best and easiest

administrative access to advertisers," says Tuccillo. "We

have a long way to go to making small business comfortable. We are

seeing good work from GeePS."

Top Of Page
Andy Goren

GeePS is the creation of Andy Goren, CEO, a veteran

of several Princeton area Internet and security software companies,

and Arshad Masood, president and COO, the founder of Visionet Systems,

Inc., a Cranbury-based consulting company specializing in E-business

services and wireless solutions.

Goren came to Princeton in 1992 after getting a BS from the University

of California at Berkeley and doing graduate work at Stanford. After

stints managing software development at Logic Works and Cranbury-based

Protoview Development, Goren started TV Objects in 1995, where he

was CEO.

TV Objects developed computer language conversion tools. Its Applet

Designer product anticipated the explosion of interest in the Java

language for the Web by allowing programs written in Visual Basic

to be converted to Java. Applet Designer was acquired in December

1998 by Diamond Edge Inc. (www.diamondedge.com).

Goren then switched to hardware, and was CEO of LapJack Systems, which

developed a hardware security device for laptops. LapJack was acquired

in February, 1999, by Curtis Computer Products (www.lapjack.com).

Arshad Masood has a MS in computer science from the University of

Guelph in Canada and an MBA from Baruch College in New York. He worked

at IBM as a sales manager for several years before starting Visionet

Systems in 1989 (www.visionetsystems.com).

"When I started out I wanted to have my own business," says

Masood. "I was looking for opportunity to do what I wanted to

do, and it took me a long time and a trip around the world to get

to that point."

He earned an undergraduate degree in engineering in Pakistan. "The

only job possibilities were to either be a doctor or an engineer,"

he says, "so I ended up in engineering, which I did not like."

At the University of Guelph, he explored interdisciplinary studies,

"because I wanted to broaden my horizons and see what was out

there beyond a mathematical equation."

Masood’s next stop was Baruch College in New York. "I figured

out that if I wanted to be a businessman, then I did not know how

to become one," he says. "So I took the most popular route,

in the 1980s, which was to get an MBA. And it worked for me. Not even

half way there, the first opportunity popped up," when he applied

for a summer internship with IBM.

"When I used to work for IBM, all my clients were in this

area,"

he says, "so I was practically living here. So when I started

Visionet I settled on Route 1 because it had a glamorous appeal to

it when it came to high tech."

In the early years, Visionet was a one-person company. "It took

me six or seven years to make it a viable business," he says,

"before that it was done out of my home, funding through my own

pocket, working wherever I could."

In 1996 Masood finally was able to open an office. "I discovered

that there was a sector of the technology in the mid-range systems

where there are very few players and a good market in this area. It

was a combination which was the right time and the right place."

Masood grew his company with no outside funding.

Goren and Masood were brought together by a Visionet employee who

had previously worked for Goren. "He saw both of us trying to

do the next thing," says Masood. Traditional IP was becoming stale

to Masood. "The challenge was merging wireless technology with

the telephone," he says, "and also trying to extend it to

the brick and mortar because that was where we thought the opportunity

would be."

Masood used Visionet facilities, staffing, and funding to incubate

GeePS. "GeePS was partially funded by Visionet," he says,

"and it provided all the developers and all the basic

infrastructure

at the beginning until it got funded."

GeePS is also VC funded. It received a $2 million round of funding

in April from Cupola Investments Limited, and is currently working

on closing another round of $5 million. Some of the existing investors

are providing additional funding.

At first GeePS was co-located with Visionet in Cedar Brook Corporate

Center, but recently it moved into a separate 3,000 square foot office

in the same complex and now has about 23 employees.

"GeePS has a team of its own now," says Masood, "so

basically

I believe that my job is pretty much done. I’ll be withdrawing from

a role in GeePS and going back to Visionet."

Visionet, which recently opened a West Coast office, now has

approximately

50 employees, with 15 employees in 6,000 square feet in Cranbury,

20 employees in California, and the rest working on projects on-site

at customer locations. Visionet also has access to offshore resources

at three offices in Pakistan with 120 employees.

"I was looking for something exciting and new," says Masood,

"that was why I sponsored and invested in GeePS." GeePS was

his first outside investment. "I am looking at a couple of other

opportunities," he says, "very likely something to do with

voice and the Net."

But Masood is concerned that he must move to the West Coast to pursue

these opportunities. "I am resisting because my family and my

kids are here in school," he says, "but it is very hard to

do the things I want to do here. The types of opportunities, the

access

to capital, the environment, the people around you, the ease of

getting

employees, the ideas, and the acceptance are much broader in

California.

One of the reasons Visionet has the office there is that I want to

spend more time there."

Top Of Page
Mobile Wireless Future

So get ready for the mobile wireless future: constant

connection, instant access, and location-based services. With a mobile

phone, you can be connected wherever you go with telephone voice and

messaging services. With wireless Web service to your phone or PDA,

you can have instant access to Internet information and services.

And with positional information, you also can receive location-based

services.

Mobile phones and the E-911 locating service do raise privacy issues,

since the cellular provider, and therefore authorized government

agencies,

can track your movements from your cell phone. The use of this

information

for commercial services is a further concern, if wireless portals

and local merchants start collecting information about who frequents

their local area and then constantly bombard you with advertising

on your mobile phone.

"Our model is pull, not push," says Goren. "Users find

it intrusive to be pushing." The GeePS model, in contrast, is

to provide the services on request. You opt-in to the service by first

going to a site and registering. Then when you are looking for

information,

you go to the site and access the information that you requested.

The intent is to not make personal information and cell phone numbers

available to retailers and other third parties.

While the full promise of these services is not available today, the

pieces are coming together. With some advance planning, you can

download

and save location-based information for a specific city, including

restaurants, shopping, and maps. With the additional effort of

manually

entering your current location, you can also access similar

information

from your wireless phone or handheld PDA.

The task for GeePS is to build the technological plumbing to make

it easy for a wide variety of retail stores to go online, and to

enable

a critical mass of location-based information. "We provide the

whole infrastructure," says Goren. "We integrate to the back

end of merchant systems. We have the locations of 16 million U.S.

businesses in our database."

The New Jersey Online test period will run for a year. "We are

approaching it an open-ended way," says Tuccillo of New Jersey

Online. "We can expand as we go. With the full year, we get full

value, through the seasonal shopping cycles. It’s a work in progress,

like most Internet ventures."

"This is a change of paradigm for retail information," says

Goren. "The big companies get it, and the smaller ones are just

playing with it. It’s going to take time."

GeePS.com, 3 Cedar Brook Drive, Cedar Brook

Corporate

Center, Cranbury 08512. Andy Goren, CEO. 609-409-8484; fax,

609-409-8383.

Www.geeps.com

Visionet Systems Inc., 4 Cedar Brook Drive, Cedar

Brook Corporate Center, Cranbury 08512. Aezaz Hussain, CEO.

609-452-0700;

fax, 609-655-5232. Home page: www.visionetsystems.com


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