AskKinjo Inc., Canada’s first provider of free and personalized location-based services (LBS) in audio format, today launched its local mobile search service in the Greater Toronto Area, offering mobile phone users a new and convenient way to find information they need while on the go. [click to read full release]

Taking its name from the Japanese word for neighbourhood, AskKinjo’s unique technology platform uses a geo-coded system to provide users with the information they need in their vicinity, updated in real-time. The interface is an easy-to-use automated-speech-recognition system (ASR), complemented by text messaging that allows for safe and convenient hands-free use while driving. There are no subscription costs, no data plans, no downloads or system configurations, and the service works with any wireless device regardless of carrier, features or phone functionality. The privacy and security of personal information is ensured thanks to anonymous profiles, separate databases, an extensive validation process and opt-in only setup.

“Everything we do is centred around where you are and who you are to help you save time, money and take the stress out of a busy day,” said AskKinjo CEO Stéphane Attal. “Nothing else provides such customized, relevant and current content to the individual mobile user on demand. And best of all, it’s free and easy to use. The only cost to users is the fees they normally incur to use their mobile phones.”

Simply by dialing #KINJO (#54656), users can access a range of location-relevant services, such as the nearest gas station, or the station with the cheapest gas within five kilometres. An additional feature, called “Tomorrow’s Gas Price Today,” provides the next day’s forecast price of gasoline and diesel every weekday after 5 p.m. This allows drivers to make a more informed purchasing decision and cut fuel costs.

“This service can save drivers a bundle when global events cause volatile fuel prices, such as the rash of hurricanes that have interrupted oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and sent prices at the pump soaring and plunging in the past two weeks,” said Attal.

Dialing #KINJO can also provide mobile phone users with personalized updates on traffic and road conditions along their specific commuting routes. Users can also find the ATMs or parking lots closest to them, saving them the hassle of driving aimlessly around the block.

Additional location-based services for coffee shops, convenience food, restaurants, bars and nightclubs will roll out over the next few weeks.

Users pay nothing for AskKinjo’s services. During the 10 to 12 seconds while their information is being retrieved, they hear a short audio advertisement they can act on, if desired, to take advantage of special promotional offers or to visit the advertiser’s nearest location.

There are no strings attached to dialing #KINJO and taking advantage of the local mobile search services at any time of day for free. However, by registering and creating a free profile at, users obtain personalized information, a much faster user interface and more relevant ads. For example, registered users can find a specific brand of product in their vicinity, such as a gas station for which they have a rewards card, or a particular coffee chain, and traffic reports for their regular commuting route.

AskKinjo’s business model is much like television programming, interspersed with commercials. Its revenue comes from the advertisers who pay to run their short audio spots.

“In addition to the ease and convenience for the user, our platform provides a vast new opportunity for advertisers looking to take advantage of an advertising market that’s set to explode,” added Attal. The U.S. mobile advertising market is estimated to grow from around $350 million in 2007 to more than $4 billion by 2011, according to research firm IDC.

AskKinjo has launched its mobile search service in the Greater Toronto Area as the first phase of an aggressive expansion strategy for the North American market that will unfold over the next several years. At present, the service is available in the Greater Toronto Area, a coverage zone that ranges from Whitby to Burlington and from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe.

AskKinjo has secured partnerships with major content providers and the wireless carriers Virgin, Bell Mobility and TELUS; it hopes to add Rogers Wireless in the near future. At present, Rogers and Fido subscribers can access the service by dialing 647-476-6468 in the Greater Toronto Area.

About AskKinjo
AskKinjo was founded in 2006 to deliver a superior customer experience to users in search of relevant location-based information services, and to provide a new channel for advertisers to reach a mobile audience. The company’s patent-pending technology platform integrates context-based advertisements with value-added location-based services delivered free of charge to users. Upon dialing #KINJO, opt-in users are presented with an interactive audio advertisement tied directly to their interests, information request, time and geographical location. Once the ad is heard, the user can listen to the requested content. AskKinjo overcomes the many issues hampering the embryonic mobile-advertising industry, such as little free content, costly platform dependence, difficult human interfaces and privacy concerns.