What I learned in my first month at NextNav

Well, it’s official – I’ve been at NextNav for a full month now. As their first full-time marketing hire, it’s been a whirlwind of messaging exercises, technical deep dives, and planning for an ambitious several months ahead. 

Sometimes you join a company with high hopes, only to find that its trajectory isn’t exactly as rosy as you might have thought. That’s certainly not the case here! If anything, I’ve grown even more bullish about where NextNav is going as I learn more about the technology and how it fits into the geolocation space.

For those who are considering NextNav as an employer, or just want to learn more about the company’s path forward, here are just a few tidbits of what I’ve learned in my first month on the job:

We should really expect more from geolocation

Like most people, I’ve been coasting through life looking at 2D maps, not thinking that there’s anything more out there. I’m used to seeing huge buildings as a simple rectangle, and my place in them as an amorphous dot that means I’m in that building…somewhere.

NextNav is showing me that I should expect far more. The world is 3D – why aren’t our maps and our apps? 

If I’m looking for a particular store, telling me that I’m somewhere in a shopping center isn’t really that helpful. I want to see that I should be on the second floor, and I want it to guide me there so I don’t waste time looking for the right escalator.

Even more important: if I call 911, I’m going to want the first responder to find me as fast as possible. My life may hang in the balance. If I’m in a building, I’m going to want them to know which floor, which suite, which room. Showing my approximate location in a 2D map? Not so helpful.

There are a lot of gaps in current geolocation technology

When I arrived at NextNav, I assumed that GPS could find me pretty much anywhere. Now I know that this isn’t exactly the case. While GPS and the technologies derived from it have come a long way, there are still major gaps.

This is particularly true in dense urban areas, where skyscrapers and complex streetscapes often thwart the best attempts by GPS to find someone. Since GPS signals are coming all the way from outer space, there’s only so much they can do. Indoor location is still a big challenge, and the signal shadows cast by large buildings don’t help much either.

There are a lot of potential workarounds, from wi-fi to 5G. While all of these approaches have their particular technical strengths, none of them offer a truly comprehensive, readily available, highly accurate solution that we can all consistently rely on. If there was an easy way to “solve” location, we would have found it by now. The reality: this is a thorny, technical weedy challenge that really requires a dedicated technology.

Altitude is the tip of the proverbial iceberg

I joined NextNav because I could see that its Pinnacle vertical location service has the potential to open up a whole new ecosystem of applications and services. The ability to reliably pinpoint where someone is on a vertical plane serves all kinds of use cases, from public safety to advertising, delivery apps to AR games.

What I didn’t fully grasp is that altitude is just the first part of NextNav’s plan to revolutionize geolocation. For over a decade, NextNav has been steadily working toward a much grander vision. The ultimate plan is to supplement GPS with an entirely new layer of geolocation technology – one which delivers more accurate, reliable, resilient location services at scale. 

More than just filling in the gaps in GPS, this new layer will provide a richer, more detailed option for location which will enable all sorts of new functionality – much of which is still in the realm of the imaginary, just waiting for an enabling technology to come around. Futuristic possibilities like drone delivery, fully autonomous vehicles, and highly personalized advertising are just what we can think of today – NextNav’s technology will advance all of these and so much more.

This is fun stuff

As a marketer, it’s my job to spark people’s imaginations. That can be really hard or really easy, depending on what the product is. The best (and, quite frankly, easiest) products to market are the ones that fill a gaping hole – the products where, when you unleash an idea, it automatically gets people’s minds spinning.

NextNav’s geolocation technology is one of those products. You’ve probably never sat around and wondered “why isn’t this map in 3D”, but you’ve certainly wondered why your Uber driver is trying to pick you up at the airport departures level instead of the arrivals level one floor below. I’ve already found that it just takes one or two examples like that – people will fill in the rest on their own.

It seems like every day here at NextNav, I’m handed new ideas about why this technology is so important and all the amazing things it’s going to enable. My imagination is more than merely sparked – it feels something like an electrical storm. That’s why I’m so excited for the next month…and well beyond!

Learn more about NextNav’s amazing technology, and while you’re there, consider joining us.