This is part one of a two part series on the location sector. Large scale changes are occurring with the increasing popularity of mobile devices. Many new location based services are being launched. In this first article, we will consider some of these services sectors; location based services (LBS), geolocation services (GS) and geospatial services. The second part of the series will consider the opportunities now presented to business’ using these new services to improve sales, marketing and business management.

Location Services

Today’s mobile devices, be they smart phones or tablets such as the IPad, are all equipped with GPS. This has created a location based services frenzy. Highly publicized in the media, and well funded; a new wave of companies are appearing. Let’s look at this market in more detail.

Location Based Services (LBS)

What is LBS? From Wikipedia:

“A location-based service (LBS) is an information or entertainment service, accessible with mobile devices through the mobile network and utilizing the ability to make use of the geographical position of the mobile device”

Marketing and advertising companies see new opportunities to engage with users directly and influence purchasing behavior. This engagement can be targeted (suggesting only products of interest), influenced by others in your social network, and most importantly can potentially occur while consumers are near a point of sale. New products and companies are appearing almost daily in the LBS marketing space. Some of the services offered in the LBS sector include:

  1. Local data
    Local data is a hugely important potential area of revenue. Though shopping online has grown, still a large proportion of consumer spending is focused on the local market. Influencing that behavior has seen much attention. Yelp is a popular application which allows users to find and comment on local business. For example, find all Mexican restaurants within 1 mile of my current location, and indicate their grade based on user recommendations.
  2. Recommendations
    Bizzy, is new application which shows where your friends have dined lately and offers their recommendations. Foursquare Explore, and Scoville, which uses Foursquare api, are two other recommendation engines.
  3. Bargain Shopping
    Everybody likes a deal; sales, discounts, coupons. Increasingly consumers are looking to avoid paying full price. A range of companies have appeared, targeting bargain shopping.
    Loyalty – Check-In – The manual check in is an important part the loyalty based applications. Consumers are rewarded for regular check ins. These reward include site recognition – badges, status as Mayor etc – and discounts. Key players in this space are Facebook Deals, Foursquare and Gowalla.Geoloqi now offers automatic check-ins to your favorite Foursquare venues.
    Coupons – Groupon, LivingSocial, Savings.com have become very popular online coupon focused sites. Groupon alone is now valued at around $25b! LivingSocial, which just landed $400 million in venture capital, is expecting to see $1 billion in revenues this year. Savings.com is taking a targeted approach to coupons. Looking to personalize offers, they deliver deals based on a shopper’s stated unique interests and needs. The site itself gets a percentage of the sale without having to actually process the transaction. Facebook Deals is about to enter this space, and could have a big impact. Many of the companies in the coupons space are now partnering with location service companies. Checking in to your favorite grocery store is now linked with store coupons.
    Daily aggregators have become increasingly popular. These are sites which comb the Web for offerings, gather local deals, and aim to simplify deal overload for customers. Among the aggregation sites is Offers.com, a 2-year-old company that was already offering coupons, deals, and offers, and is now expanding into the local space with the debut of Local City Deals.
    Location based AdsChalkboard pushes ads to mobile devices when they are within a mile of a business.
  4. Social Networking – Collaboration and Sharing
    Facebook has the world’s largest single collection of consumer data. Many new companies are leveraging the Facebook data for their own location marketing efforts. Facebook strategy is slowly evolving in this space. This may be a threat longer term to these new ventures. Already we have Facebook Places, and Facebook Deals and it is thought Facebook will announce partnerships with smaller, local deals companies including ReachLocal, Tippr and Gilt City. Google have been slow in entering the location and social marketing sector. Many suggest they are scrambling to have a presence. A recent article in Mashable by Matthew Ingram mentions that Google employees annual bonuses are tied to the success of Google’s social efforts. It will be interesting to see how much Google will impact this sector over time.
    Connecting to strangers – Yobongo, Chatroulette, Situationist all allow users to create connections with strangers.
    Local networkGlympse lets those in your network know where you are.
GeoLocation Services (GS)

Geolocation services are focused on the enterprise and the transformation of companies. This sector is very new. Many of the companies in this space are concerned with using geolocation to improve business management and organisation. Examples include:

  1. Routing
    Route4Me is a Web and mobile app which allows users to plan optimal routes with up to ten stops.
  2. Tracking People and Things
    Ekahau works across small and large geographies, from within a hospital to across a whole continent. It allows the tracking of people and objects. So for example, locating medical equipment.
  3. File Sharing Based on Proximity
    The LoKast application from Nearverse allows file sharing based on location. So workers sharing files in a meeting and adding media to conference rooms or other spaces. The company hopes to broaden its application to more general ad-hoc geo-fencing.
  4. Geofencing
    LOC-AID enable developers to use carrier location information for precise geolocation. They have partnered with cell carriers, and use an opt in model. With a users agreement their location data is transmitted to the carriers. This has considerable potential, geofencing being one area of current company focus.
  5. GeoLocation Service Tools and Data
    OpenGeo are an open source project which aim to help developers build geolocation services. The companies founder, Matt Galligan, says; “Location-based devices only provide a latitude and a longitude, sometimes an altitude. What they don’t provide is a ZIP Code, city, state, county, weather data, messages and photos posted near the site. They don’t provide business listings, Wikipedia entries, census data (for demographics), articles written or posted near the location. All of which SimpleGeo does”
  6. Field Service
    These are tools to help field workers such as HVAC technician and equipment repair people. Location services can provide optimal call routes, log arrival and departure times, connect other techs in the same vicinity, and provide customers with more accurate schedules.
GeoSpatial Services

This is the largest location based sector. Centred around geographic information systems (GIS) it is focused on location and analysis, or pervasive maps which include visualisation and analytics. Geospatial services are used in inventory and management of resources, crime mapping, establishing and monitoring routes, managing networks, monitoring and managing vehicles, managing properties, locating and targeting customers, urban planning and cartography, environmental impact assessment reports and natural resource management.

The launch of Google maps in 2006 shook up the geospatial sector. The advent of geolocation many suggest will have a similar impact.

Summary

The popularity of mobile devices has created considerable opportunities in the location based sector. In this first article we have provided some background to the services currently in place. This is a vibrant and rapidly changing space. The combination of geolocation and geospatial services offer exciting future possibilities. As do new ways to connect with consumers through LBS. These will be discussed in the second part of this series.

Related Resources

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