Trends in location based services

Local, Mobile, Social

Location based services (LBS) are nothing new on the web. But what’s new is that there are now very interesting devices that can integrate with these services and provide great value for the user even while people are on the go – which makes the location based applications more valuable. Basically by giving the places and things we interact with the capability to understand who is interacting with them, and in what manner, we can enable a whole new generation of real-world user experiences.

There are many technologies how to connect physical objects with digital data/content, like RFID, NFC, even sound and light. But rather than the technology, what fascinate me are the applications/things that you can do with these connections:

  • Product + Software: This is one of the most exciting areas. So many great experiences are being designed by adding the location based services on top of existing products. Nike + iPod is one of the pioneers in designing a hardware + software application that can track your running cycles and compare with others with a simple device attached to your shoes. Now Nike has expanded the Nike+ concept to many of his shoes with Fuelband. Siri now offers location based reminders on iPhones. It is sometimes not a bad idea to remind yourself to turn off your cell phone when you get home – and an app can do that now. Google has recently introduced Google Now. Google Now claims to get you just the right information at just the right time (and at the right location) – sounds cool.
  • Gadgets: The difference between the gadgets and the products are that the gadgets are only designed to provide you a specific digital experience for the user. Google glass now will carry all the digital experience along with you – you will be able to broadcast your life real-time – or you will be able to get digital content or information while looking at the physical products and places. However they are not alone in this arena, Apple and Olympus have some plans to. How about contact lens idea that could act as part of a wearable display which is already in the works…
  • Augmented Reality: AR is one of the best tools, technologies to bridge the gap between online and offline experience. Starbucks had a great campaign during the last holiday season. But Starbucks is not the only one with great AR campaigns. However still the power of the AR is not used properly (for many reasons that I will address on my later posts) but I predict it to be really big with many other applications in retail stores soon.
  • Mobile Payments: NFCs are penetrating quickly into the smart phones and the physical wallets are doomed to disappear… So many things are already written about it, and there is still much more to it (a topic for one of my next posts).
  • Check-in applications: They are hot and plenty. Location based advertising and offers at the retail stores are becoming mainstream thanks to Foursquare and many other clever apps. They are the next big leap forward for the retail stores to finally bridge the gap between online and offline world.
  • Mobile Content: Content is still the king! Now, it is available everywhere. Best Buy is experimenting with mobile content at physical locations.

These services, products and applications are just a small part of what is going on at the LBS world. However, the idea is simple: connect physical place, things with the digital content and information to create a great social experience for the user.

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