08 August 2012

Why Can't (the carriers) Just Get Along?

No matter how hard they try, it seems that large companies have a tough time working together; as a company grows and its bureaucratic develops, the company seems less and less able to deliver products in a responsive manner.

Case in point: the wireless carriers. Sprint, Verizon, At&t and T-mobile all have network-based location capabilities, but none are available to app developers via a simple-to-use API. With this API, developers find it extremely difficult to utilize network-based location on their apps. The Wholesale Application Community (WAC) was a cross-carrier partnership who's goal was to allow any app to be used on any handset on any carrier. Under this Utopian coalition, a developer would build their app to WAC standards, and then would be able to deploy the app across carriers. It turns out that the carriers each had their own idea of how this should work, and after years of infighting, the WAC dissolved with few results for years of effort.

So what's a cross-carrier app developer to do? Well, if the end goal is to inoperative carrier-grade network location services, then companies like LOC-Aid are the answer.The carriers specialize in building infrastructure that operates with 'five 9s' reliability, and therefore innovation on the carrier side is a slow, painful process. LOC-Aid (for who I do contract work, full disclosure) specializes making carrier location services available through a modern, well-built API that app developers find easy to use. The carriers handle the back haul equipment and reliability, and LOC-Aid provides an innovative, high tech front which developers can use to bring the latest location technologies to their apps without direct carrier interaction.

The failure of the WAC shows how intermediary companies such as LOC-Aid continue to provide a highly valuable service to developers and end users. Maybe some day that telcos will learn to play nicely together (not likely), and until then, let someone like LOC-Aid handle the tough carrier negotiations!

04 August 2012

Just How Big is Los Angeles?

Los Angeles is the urban sprawl capital of California. Simply climb to the top of any of the many mountain ranges which surround the city; one can see freeways, blocks of buildings, and endless ballet of cars, usually through a thick blanket of smog. 

Los Angeles Skyline and San Gabriel Mountains
Image © Charles Abbott, 99 Photography

Ask anyone who lives in the area: no on gives a second thought to driving 45 minutes at the top of the hat, or assuming that traffic will delay one's arrival for at least another 30 minutes. These constant traffic snarls and delays are simply a part of life for the average resident of the area.

The Hollywood Sign
Attribution: User Oreos at Wikimedia Commons

So why is traffic also so bad? How did Los Angeles earn the reputation as one of the most trafficked city in the country? Well, take a look at the map below and see how much larger of a geographic area the city covers when compared with other cities. A resident of LA simply has a much larger area which they will be expected to transverse for work, school, or pleasure. And because everything is so spread out, many areas are impractical for mass transit, keeping everyone stuck in their cars.

Size of Los Angeles vs. other urban centers
Attribution: Archinect News