Having just watched the Sport Relief Dragon's Den - I'm quite surprised at the success of the final bid. The pitch, by a Swiss man called "Jean Claude" was producing a GPS Hardware device for £300 which provides real-time information whilst on the slopes. He also produces software which can allow the user to 'playback' their position once they're home, and shows the stats on screen.
I wasn't overly impressed at this point. £300 is alot for a Sat Nav device, and people like Garmin and eTrex have been producing decent handheld devices at less than half that price for over 6 years. It's also possible to playback a GPS track quite easily using Google Earth - and with the coupled ability to 'geo-tag' pictures using this same software, there didn't appear to be too much on offer from this new device.
However, Jean Claude then pointed out that 85% of the turnover so far had been generated, not by the hardware, but by software downloads at £30 a download. It also works on GPS-enabled mobile phones. A Handset Manufacturer has an order for 10,000 downloads, to 'bundle' with it's new device.
The really cool bit was that it also reported on the weather, and avalanche warnings realtime, by linking up to databases at over 285 most popular ski resorts, with another 300 coming in November. This also provided lift information, allowing a user to plan their holiday based upon how many lifts are open.
Jean Claude predicted a gross profit of £1,300,000 by the end of year 2. However, for me projects such as this one are very 'old school' in terms of how people are using the internet, as essentially this is just a 'community aware' GPS device.
If that's 'old school', what's the new approach?
Working out where revenue streams come from is one thing, but working out what the end user is already paying for a similar service is really going to hit the projections hard.
Firstly, we have the GPS software itself. As I said before, Google Earth provides much of the functionality as regards 'playback' - and I don't think there is much attraction in sitting in front of a computer screen monitoring your day's skiing. It might be useful to begin with, and it'll be nice to track your improvements year on year - as well as race against friends - but without the social connection it's just a bit - geeky?
The second part is the pricing of this software. £30 a piece for what is essentially a downloadable application. On Apple's iPhone Store, and Google Android, the average sale price for an application is $1.50. The £30 mark is very high.
GPS tracking was novel about 2 years ago, but since devices like the iPhone have put it in people's hands, it's starting to be taken for granted. Seeing where your buddies are is a great little feature, but Google Latitude, 4Square and other services are doing that for you using your current hardware - get your guys signing up for these services (for free) and it's all sorted.
The best thing about the pitch was the real-time updates of Lift Information and Avalanche warnings. This is really something worth paying for, and as an off-piste skier myself, it's information that you're required to know. So I imagine you'd think that I would pay straight away for a subscription? No. I've already paid for a ski pass from the resort, and I'd expect that information to be provided for me by the resort, inclusive in my ski pass price. Sure this new device will soon be 'interfacing' with 600 popular resorts, but I'm not looking at that scale - I just want information from my one resort. They provide that for me all over the resort already - I just need to read the signs.
However, there is someplace where you can get real-time information on the ski zone. RSS feeds, and services such as Twitter, have been game changers for such information, almost by accident. If the resort follows the modern trend and integrates with Twitter - this should be all the information that I need regarding important avalanche information.
It would be useful to have a uniform information source for all the avalanche information, but if this is available to Jean Claude, then I'm sure ski-pass purchasing punters would also like it made available to themselves also.
The guy did a good pitch, the projections looked good, and the profits made from the product are going to goto Sport Relief - however, these profits aren't going to match the projection unless this becomes a 'must have' gadget for the next ski season. However, we now have 6 months (in the Northern Hemisphere) to prepare a 'mash up' of information to arm us with the information we require to stay safe on the slopes, and match the functionality of this device. I'd suggest you spend your £300 on the aprés-ski and enjoy a beer with your mates. It appeals more than being sat back in the hotel retracing your day's skiing on a laptop.