The Opportunity Beyond Smartphones: Ipadio, Loc-Aid Target Feature Phones


Credit: Corbis / Andy Rain

With smartphone penetration for some of the world’s leading operators still at less than 20 percent, developing mobile services for feature phones is still a big opportunity, and looks like it will be for some time to come. Ipadio, the UK-based phonecasting service, and the location-based-services company Loc-Aid, are two companies that have raised funds to capitalise on that.

Ipadio — not to be confused with the Apple-made tablet of a similar name — has picked up £1 million ($1.6 million) in funding to grow its business. Investors include the London Business Angels, ipadio-founders Nemisys, and the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme, according to TechCrunch.

Ipadio — which lets users “call in” a recorded voice note that then gets posted on the web — has apps for both the iPhone and Android platforms, but it has also developed a service that be used on more lower-end mobile devices as well, as well as fixed-line phones. These last two categories give the service a particularly strong profile in countries with patchy data networks, and among those users who do not have advanced devices.

A case in point: the company had a moment in the limelight the other day when it turned out someone in Egypt was using the service on a regular, fixed-line phone to upload information to the internet when mobile and data connections were shut down in the country during the protests (hear the remarkable broadcasts here).

The service was originally developed as a consumer focussed, voiceblogging product, but as with Audioboo and other mobile-voicecasting services, the company is also promoting it as an app for enterprise use.

Loc-Aid: The company that bills itself as a “location as a service” company has raised $13 million in a Series C round, with investors including H.I.G. Ventures, venture firm Intersouth Partners, and the Florida Growth Fund.

In the last year, Loc-Aid says that it has been adopted by AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon, Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile in the U.S., as well as operators in Canada and Mexico, altogether creating a footprint of some 350 million mobile subscribers. These operators can can now link in to Loc-Aid’s proprietary location platform, which the company says allows third-party developers to create location-based services to target any device, be it a smartphone or something more basic.

Loc-Aid basically creates a bridge, and a single point of contact, between any company and the various operators’ own ability to be able to track its customers. Current named customers include the North Face and Molson Coors, which are using the service for mobile marketing campaigns.

Loc-Aid says it has a number of other customers in financial services, retail, healthcare, machine-2-machine (M2M), education, ecommerce, entertainment, and hospitality industries, which use the platform for other location-services, from fraud prevention and asset management, to presence and check-in services. The company claims that it has already “led the industry” in location look-ups for third-party application developers

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