Yahoo recently launched Fire-Eagle, which is essentially an 'open platform' that allows two simple things:
A) Users can update the system whenever they want with their location
B) Application Developers can access the system whenever they want to know the location of consumers and do anything with it (i.e. serve any application that can make use of that information)
Of course, 'Users' can explictly set permissions on who can or cannot view their location.
For a long time, I have wanted to see such an open and simple platform, where 'executing a service based on location' is completely independent of 'the technology used to provide the location'. Because I believe providing individually accessible repositories of data is the key construct to building a hierarchy of innovative products. You collect data, expose it to others so they can transform your data into information. And your information, is data for the next application. So turns the wheel of the Web 2.0 circle. And a location repository is one key missing element to personalize services.
Often, one finds that LBS applications marry the two concepts together. The application that provides the location also executes the service. And usually, this is achieved by using one or more of:
- An inbuilt-GPS in the device, a GPS dongle or a-GPS
- Some neat technology that figures out your location via approximation, even if you don't have a GPS, like Google's Cell-ID to footprint mapping technology, or Sky Hook's wifi AP based tracking system.
Naturally, the first option is limited by devices and the second option is restricted by being able to create such an exhaustive database. Both problems are big problems, especially for smaller companies building innovative apps.
But do we really need the above for LBS services? This is the 'Web 2.0' world. so how about collecting location using social networking participation? I am sure you know Twitter. It just asks you 'What are you doing now'. Just a small text box. And people go crazy filling it in. So why can't someone put up a 'Where are you now', or say 'Where are ya now, and what are you doing' ?
If people love typing into Twitter, 'At Mobilize 08, hungry!' - THAT IS LOCATION ALONG WITH PREFERENCE!
Whoever said location needs to be dynamic and automatic ? If I can type 5 words, like the above, someone can use that as 'logic' to deduce my location. So, he is at mobilize 08, hmmm, let's see, does he have 'Mobilize 08' as an event in his facebook event list (which I can access via Facebook APIs if I am his friend and he has allowed me) ? If so, I can get the mobilize 08 location, find out which burger king is closeby, and IM him a special discount coupon for $1 off if he buys from Burger king.
Cool. See? How location is reported should not have much tie-in with How location is used. I am glad that Fire-eagle launched. They provide simple APIs that allow you to ask a simple question
'Joe - Where you at' ?
And if Joe wants you to know, you will know, his latest location, however it is reported. Take a look at some apps that already have started using this database.