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Cyantel launches mobile child finder
Monday, September 30 2002
by Ciaran Buckley

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Irish telecom software developer Cyantel has developed a new technology that allows parents to pin down the location of their children using a mobile phone.

Parents register for the Family Guardian application on their mobile operator's Web site. The child's phone number is entered on the Web site, which causes a text message requesting permission to be sent to the child's phone. Once permission is granted, parents can locate their child's position using SMS, WAP or by accessing a password-protected Internet site.

If the child's location were given in the form of a text of text message, parents would receive a message such as "Jane is near the GPO on High Street." In HTML form on the Web, Parent's would see the location of the their children on a map.

This product introduces new features to Cyantel's product set, specifically the ability to find out whether somebody is in a particular area at a particular time and to receive an alert if they're outside that zone.

The technology can track the child to the nearest mobile phone mast, which could indicate the location of the child to within 500 metres in urban areas, but might only be accurate up to five kilometres. But Cyantel's chief executive officer Padraig Murphy told ElectricNews.Net that 80 percent of the target market is urban.

Family Guardian is Cyantel's first consumer-oriented product. "This is a very important product for us, because the bulk of mobile customers are consumers," said Murphy. "The consumer market for location-based services should ultimately become a lot bigger than the corporate market, but it will be slower to take off."

Murphy also said that Cyantel has had a lot of interest in the technology, because people recognise that parents are working later and that kids are more independent than was previously the case. The product also includes features built-in to respect privacy. Children cannot be tracked without their permission and can disable the application or simply switch off their phone if they do not want to be found.

Murphy expected a high level of interest from mobile operators, despite the fact that the cash-strapped telecoms were reluctant to invest in new technology at the moment. He pointed out that many operators had already invested in location-based services on a network level and applications like Family Guardian would allow them to recoup their investments.

"The wireless sector is going through a lean period," said Murphy. "But because our product is available on either a usage or revenue sharing basis, the up-front costs for a mobile operator are relatively low."

Cost will vary depending on the cost structure of the mobile operators, however Murphy estimated that the telecom providers were likely to charge between EUR0.20 and EUR0.50 per lookup, depending on that telecoms market penetration.

Cyantel was started in 1999 and employs 14 people in Cork. The company raised EUR1 million in funding in April, from Enterprise Ireland and HotOrigin and is not currently seeking more funding. However Murphy told ElectricNews.Net that he did not rule out the possibility of going for more funding depending upon the state of the investment markets. The company expects to be profitable by the end of 2003.

The company's first major customer was Vodafone in Ireland, which signed a contract last year for Cyantel's fleet tracking application. Cyantel's products let mobile operators offer a range of services to business customers who want to track and exchange messages with workers in the field, such as mobile sales staff or couriers.

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