LBS - Location Based Services

LBS is bright future of things for a while. Google search is be coming very location aware. Nearly every telephone has a GPS chip in it, or can calculate location from cell towers. So why is it so important?

Location Based Search

Google have updated many search term indexes to provide results from their www.google.com/places database, helping the searcher find services which are geographically important. Such as accommodation, plumbers, builders, hairdressors, dentists, doctors, schools etc.

A simple search for "movies" on google might help you find their "showtimes" service. This doesnt even require that you tell them where you live, they just seem to know. It's magic!

When you put your mind to it, there are heaps of online information services that make life easier eg

  • open homes, close to me, in my price bracket 
  • vouchers for family friendly activities, that are current, local, and valid for entry today

Location Aware Devices

Most smart phones have GPS built in or can calculate location based on cell phone towers. This allows them to provide a useful "local map service" service at the press of a button. But it does more than that, with the use of the internet it can stream adverts for special local offers on lunch or coffee, or transport congestion, or the nearest bus route, and the expected time of the next bus.

Photos are automatically filed by not only date, but by the country or location where they were taken...  Great for quickly finding those photos from your last trip overseas.

But consider the push technology. If the communication networks detected an earthquake, they could push alerts to the most appropriate cellphones. It is suggested that 8-30 seconds of warning could be achieved by communication systems beating the speed of the earth moving. 8 seconds is enough time to get under a desk, or move away from a window or old brick wall.

Plus these devices can talk back to the servers, providing real time clarity of people movements, great for identifying congestion, and selecting better public transport routes. Or perhaps a bank, with your permission, could correlate your telephone co-ordinates with the location of a credit card transaction.

Or the devices can talk to each other using Bluetooth, perhaps to use as "keyless entry" to your home.

Location Aware Social Media

Facebook have recently added https://www.facebook.com/places/, probably to compete with the successful phone apps like www.foursquare.com. Although this might seem like an invassion of privacy to many older readers, it is actually very popupar with the younger set. If you are an accommodation provider, restaurant, cafe, bar, or anyone in the tourist industry, you should take note. If I was travelling away from home, FourSquare would be the place I would look for current and unbiased reviews of local entertainment options.

Twitter has "tweet locations", which could be helpful in doing geographical brand monitoring. I haven't really thought what else it offers, welcome some feedback on that in the comments below.

www.Meetup.com provides an iphone app that helps you find business or personal meetups happening in your town. A great chance to get out and network.

The Future

The stuff mentioned above is actually here and now, its well received, well used, and probably old knowledge to many readers. However I invision only more and more use of LBS in websites, search and phone apps, in ways we hadn't really thought of.

The real future breakthrough will be when the cross reference the data with our demographics, so that the information is not only location relavent, but just plain relevant in all regards (eg gender,age,occupation)

I'd really welcome your feedback. If you have any great links to check out, please enter them as a comment below.

Posted: Tuesday 19 April 2011

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