Monday, January 30, 2006

Location, Location, Location

My last posting on Meetro brought up some interesting discussions with Mobilites out there. Some see Meetro as having the disadvantage of lacking users' precise location and feel mobile operators' Location Based Services will overtake players like Meetro. My response is simple. Applications like Meetro fulfill a different need entirely: "I want to know who's close to me. I want to know if this attractive person lives close to me or far away. And if they live close, I might just throw out there the idea of meeting up". It is true Meetro cannot offer precise location information to within feet, but in some sense, why would they want to? Enter the BIG issue when it comes to LBS: Privacy. Privacy is a huge deal for mobile operators as well as for consumers. Mobile operators will probably never allow users to see where everybody else in the network is physically located. Talk about the potential for disaster... Customers would never allow other untrusted users in the network to know their precise location either. Even for trusted users, an LBS user will want the capability of turning on and off that visibility. The services we are going to see from operators will be security intensive. An example would be a friend (or employee, or child) finder app, that lets users set security rules for other users – i.e., only my friend should be able to see my location, but only when I want them to).

This brings me to the big news of the month: Verizon Wireless launched their first LBS application, VZNavigator . VZNavigator finds your precise location and that of such destinations as restaurants, airports, specific addresses etc. and provides you with turn-by-turn directions. To use VZNavigator you will need a Motorola V325. Once you buy the phone you can use the service for $9.99/month or $2.99/day.

This is a pretty big deal for Mobilites. While mobile operators are likely to launch with a few more branded applications I would be willing to bet they are probably not going to get into the Web 2.0 groove. Let's just face it, while NTTDoCoMo fully exploited data to provide an Internet like experience on mobile devices, U.S. carriers completely missed the boat. Chances are they will miss this one as well. This leaves open a great opportunity (and in my opinion, obligation) for developers to leverage LBS and take Mobile 2.0 to the next level. The two big LBS platform providers Wave Market and Auto Desk claim to have developer programs. This playing field should get very exciting, very soon. So to get a closer look at Auto Desk don't miss the Bay Area's up coming , Mobile Monday.

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