Satellite navigation boosts social networking
Dutch company ‘bliin YourLIVE’ has developed new possibilities for online social networking using satellite positioning data, mobile phones and the internet. ESA’s Business Incubation Centre in Noordwijk is all set to help the company get off the ground.
"bliin enables users to be live all the time, anywhere in the world where there is mobile phone and internet coverage. Friends and family can follow every step you take but you decide who can 'see' you. Basically you use your mobile phone, with the software we provide, to tell where you are, to locate your fiends and to share photos, videos, text and audio files with them," explains Stef Kolman, co-founder of bliin yourLIVE (bliin).
All the shares - photos, videos, text and audio files - are uploaded to the bliin website and tagged by satellite navigation data. Communications can be oriented around a user’s location to enable them to show friends and families where they are, what they are doing and what is going on in the vicinity.
At present the system uses the GPS satellite positioning system but once Europe’s Galileo global navigation satellite system becomes fully operational bliin plans to use it with Galileo’s better functionality. "The Galileo system will provide much higher precision than what is available today and will open new consumer and business applications for bliin," says Kolman.
For example, bliin could be used to follow a parcel on its journey from distribution centre to delivery point or to trace a vehicle, giving its exact mileage and route, to support road payments or rental costs. Once the higher Galileo accuracy is available many more applications will emerge.
bliin in operation
bliin, which won the regional prize for South Holland in the European Satellite Navigation 2007 Competition, has already been in public beta operation since 30 April last year. It differs from other emerging navigation services in that it provides a user-generated points-of-interest database. Users decide who can see their uploaded information and follow their movements, thus guaranteeing their privacy.
The bliin software can eventually run on any handset, any model, any browser, any PC and it operates a carrier-independent worldwide service accessible anywhere mobile phone or internet services are available. The only requirements are that the mobile phone must be linked to the internet and to a satellite-based navigation system.
"bliin is a free service for non-business users. We already have 5500 users of all ages, most of whom are in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe, but we also have users in Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Oman, Kuwait, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Algeria. We even have members in India, Thailand, Singapore, China, South Korea and California, so bliin is becoming a truly global social network," says Kolman.
"With a steep increase in flat-fee mobile data subscriptions and a growing global demand for GPS-embedded handsets, we believe it's realistic to target a 40 000 user base by the end of 2008," he adds.
At ESA’s Business Incubator Centre at ESTEC in the Netherlands, the bliin team will receive support to get their business off the ground. The Business Incubator offers start-up companies operational services, know-how in a high-tech environment and easy access to ESA’s technical specialists.
"It is not enough to just have a great idea about how to adapt space technology for a product or service; developing the idea and bringing it to market are big challenges too," explains Bruno Naulais, European Space Business Incubators Network Manager.
"New space technology-based firms are open to innovation, which we need, but often lack business and management capabilities. These are the type of companies that need the structured support the business incubator can offer with a mix of skills and competences a start-up company often lacks," adds Naulais.
The plan for growth
Prospects for bliin are good; the company has been selected by CNN Money.com Business 2.0 as one of the "31 most promising start-ups to watch". The team is now looking to increase business in 2008. To do this the company has set itself three tasks: to simplify the use of bliin, to open it up to external applications and to create a network of partners.
From this month 'bliin YourLIVE' will be hosted at ESA Business Incubation Centre at ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, to help the company to get the business off the ground.
"Our incubation period with ESA will help us to achieve our goals and is yet another incredible opportunity that we are looking forward to with great expectations," says Kolman.
Notes for editors
ESA Business Incubation and its associated network of business incubators are designed to bridge the gap between an idea and an actual business by helping technology transfer projects get off the ground and assisting its development into viable businesses. ESA's Business Incubation centres provide technical expertise, office support and business-development support, to entrepreneurs and start-up companies spinning-off space technology to non-space sectors.
ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO) coordinates the Agency's three Business Incubation centres, located at ESTEC in the Netherlands, ESOC in Germany and ESRIN in Italy.
TTPO mission is to facilitate the use of space technology and space systems for non-space applications and to further demonstrate the benefit of the European space programme to European citizens.
The TTPO is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies including the incubation of start up companies. For more information, please contact:
Technology Transfer Programme
European Space Agency - ESTEC
Keplerlaan 1, P.O. BOX 299, 2200 AG, Noordwijk
Office: +31 (0) 71 565 3910
Fax: +31 (0) 71 565 6635
Email: ttp @ esa.int