Mobile phones and tablets present companies with new opportunities to engage with users, improve efficiency and profitability. The ability to both track and predict users and workers mobile locations will provide important new data. A slew of new location based mobile apps are now being developed. These applications, which are either directly installed or accessed via the Web on mobile devices, are location-aware.
What is Location-Awareness?
All mobile phones and tablets have internal GPS receivers. These require ‘line of sight’ or direct access to satellites. So unobstructed sky access. If indoors or in an area of tall building GPS fails. Your mobile devices then turns to “Assisted GPS” or aGPS. This gives a fuzzy position, triangulating its position using nearby cell towers. If that fails, most phones will then use nearby WiFi access points to triangulate its position.
Using these techniques mobile devices ultimately find their geolocation or lat/long point in space. Mobile location services take advantage of geolocation or devices location-awareness. Providing information about who or what is nearby and potentially reporting that data.
Types of Location Services
There are essentially three categories of mobile location services:
- Mobile Location Based Services (LBS) – These are primarily mobile services which provide information or entertainment. They are receiving considerable attention at present, since they potentially offer new ways to interact with consumers. Crucially, this interaction happens at the point of purchase. So marketers and advertisers are looking to LBS to help influence consumer behavior. There are a range of companies now offering location based mobile applications, these include Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp. The many services these companies provide include geosocial networking, recommendations, local data, discounts and coupons.
- GeoLocation Services – This category of mobile location-aware services use geolocation to improve business management and organisation. Imagine field technicians. Much of their time is spent at remote sites. Communication and job feedback is usually done using phones. Geolocation services allow technicians to log arrival and departure times, job location, provide job feedback; images, additional parts or work needed. Companies can more easily track and organise, while technicians have an improved way to provide ongoing daily work information.
- GeoSpatial Services – These are services which provide a deeper dive into location data. Providing both analysis and visualization of the data. Imagine a retail outlet wishing to open a new store. Often the surrounding area is an important consideration; demographics, access, competitors etc. GeoSpatial services can provide the analysis to find the ideal location based on these considerations. They can also display the results, usually using maps.
Creating Location-Aware Apps
Many companies are looking to build location-aware applications. But the location service sector remains confusing. Hardware and software providers are still defining their offerings. We see Adobe and Apple disagreements. The launch of a range of device platforms; Android, Apple IOS, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows. The increasing popularity of tablet devices. Debates about building Web mobile applications versus native applications.
Due diligence is needed when planning a mobile location-aware application roll out. Ensure you have either in-house expertise or an experienced location-service focused software shop to help navigate these waters. Well planned and designed location based mobile applications can provide key benefits to the enterprise.