Cyantel staying ahead of the posse

MOBILE phones have already changed the face of modern communications and now location-based services are about to bring major changes to mobile phones.

Very soon, you will be able to use one to find the nearest pub or shoe shop or keep track of family and friends.

Although the technology that allows this to happen hasn't yet been deployed by mobile phone operators on a wide-scale basis, Cork-based company Cyantel is ready to provide them with a whole range of applications when it is.

The aim of company founders Padraig Murphy and John Sheehan was to get in to the market ahead of the posse.

Both men had extensive experience in the IT industry and recognised that the market for these type of applications would open up in the early 21st century.

Since it was set up in 1999, the company has developed three suites of applications for locations-based services for sale to mobile operators.

The first, called EZ-Manage, is a suite of business to business applications which allows corporate customers of mobile operators to track and manage workers, vehicles and other assets.

The first major milestone for Cyantel came in September last year when Eircell now Vodafone launched FleetManager, a component of the EZ-Manage suite, on the Irish market and became the first Irish mobile to offer this type of tracking and management solution to its business customers.

Cyantel has also developed a suite of applications called EZ Track which allows mobile operators to provide consumer oriented services such as automatically notifying pre-paid mobile phone users where to find their nearest top up terminal for their phone when their credit runs low.

There is also an application called Family Guardian which allows parents to keep track of their children's movements.

And Friends allows mobile phone users to keep, locate and message their friends.

The other company product is a location-based marketing application which lets consumers give their consent to be targeted with deals from nearby merchants.

Cyantel started life as part of a graduate enterprise programme in Cork.

"Both Padraig and I had a lot of experience with the technology but didn't have the experience of running our own business.

"The programme went very well and we spent the first year doing research and development," reveals Mr Sheehan, who is the operations director.

During 2000 the company set up operations at the Marina Commercial Park at Centre Park Road in Cork where it now employs a staff of 14.

"Selling to Eircell was a major breakthrough for us.

"Eircell was the first mobile operator in Ireland to offer a location-based service and we are very happy they decided to go with a small Irish company," says Mr Sheehan.

Although the technology has been developed that allows mobile phone operators to locate a phone connected to the GSM network only a handful of operators around the world are using it at this stage.

But Cyantel is confident this will change in the very near future.

"Mobile operators everywhere are now looking at deploying the technology on the networks that will allow them to offer services to their customers.

"It opens up new ways of generating revenue.

"They would be crazy not to deploy it," observes Mr Sheehan.

To date, EZ Manage application is the only product the company has sold.

But Cyantel expects there will be a lot of demand for products such as the Family Guardian which helps parents to ensure the safety of their children.

Mr Sheehan says he expects the applications allowing mobile phone operators to offer shopping opportunities to its customers will be slower to take off since it is more difficult to see how revenue can be generated with these applications.

Cyantel has hopes of selling some of its other products to Vodafone this year and it has had discussions with a number of other European mobile phone operators.

"We are pushing very hard at this stage we are a little over two years in the business but are already one of the leading players in Europe, in terms of product we have ready to sell," says Mr Sheehan.

In April this year the company secured second round funding of 1 million from investment and consultancy firm HotOrigin, Enterprise Ireland and several private investors.

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