GPS Skylink, a two-month-old California-based provider of Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled devices and services, will open a service centre in Hong Kong in the next 30 days. President and chief executive Robert Chen is quick to point out that the company, which began its first Asian operations in Taiwan last month, is 'not a dotcom'. It makes GPS add-on units for cellphones and handheld computers and provides associated services. 'From next year, Nokia and Motorola will add GPS chipsets in all their new phones,' he said. Skylink's market is different - the 250 million cellphones already in use. Mr Chen said the first of Skylink's products, a cellphone cradle and GPS receiver, plugged into a car's cigarette lighter jack and turned a cellphone into a hands-free GPS unit. The second product, a portable version, slots into the battery space on a cellphone. Slightly thicker than a regular cellphone battery, it functions as both a battery and a GPS unit. The product, slated to ship to Asia early next year, has an adapter to enable it to be recharged from cars. Unlike most traditional GPS products which usually sport palm-size screens to display maps, Skylink's products will be voice-enabled. The units provide accuracy of up to about three metres. When a user needs directions, he can hit a button on the handset to provide him direct access to an operator at a call centre. The operator then calls up a map, locates the user from the GPS signal and provides directions. Customer centres also provide other services such as information on the nearest hotels and restaurants and assistance in emergencies. Skylink also allows users to log on to its portal and view in real time the location of their friends and family members. In North America, Skylink has partnered with the Automobile Association of America. Mr Chen was in Hong Kong to meet 'B' round investors and raise US$18 million. So far, investment group W I Harper and private investors Rosemary Ho, Compaq managing director, Raymond Chu, senior vice-president at Sybase, and professional tennis player Michael Chang have agreed to invest. The company is aiming at two main markets - Greater China and the United States. Partner TelEvoke, an application service provider funded by Softbank, will develop and host customer applications such as GPS mapping, e-mail notification and billing as well as customer data. This takes the burden of managing the data and applications off the carriers' shoulders. Carriers need only bring in users and pay marketing costs. Mr Chen said the services would be provided to users at a starting fee of about US$10 a month. Skylink and TelEvoke will share the revenues from subscription fees with partner carriers. He said Skylink was expected to turn a profit of US$20 million in two years. The US Federal Communications Commission this year introduced a requirement that emergency service 911 calls from cellphones will have to be GPS-traceable.