Many terms describe tools that share a person’s location. Geo-location services, location based services (LBS), and social location sharing (SLS).
Geo-Location Services: covers all types of services that provide the location of a device anywhere on the planet. These devices include personal GPS devices found in many vehicles and boats. Also included in this category are the handheld GPS units used by hikers, bikers, hunters, anglers, and runners. All use some form of geo-location service that presents GPS data in a format that is useful to the particular application that the user has selected. For example, runners overlay a route on their locations and save that route for later repetition. Some runners also add additional information, such as time of day, temperature, heart rate, average speed, and so on. Someone using a GPS in an automobile might overlay location with traffic information, road construction notes, points of interest, and so on.
Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) used by hikers, light aircraft, and marine craft are also good examples of geo-location devices. PLBs share the user’s location only in situations where the user has turned the device on. PLBs are generally activated only when the user has an emergency and are intended to direct rescuers to the user’s location. Although PLBs aren’t social devices, I include them in the geo-location services category because they are not tied to cell phone service, as are other social location services.
Services such as OnStar (the in-car assistance from GM) or Lo-Jac (a company that helps locate stolen vehicles, motorcycles, and even laptop computers) are also geolocation services. These devices utilize GPS data and overlay it with their own data.
Location-Based Services: . LBSs are services that disclose the location of a user via a cell phone or other device that is connected to the cellular network. This term is often used when referring to social location sharing. However, I maintain that this is an incorrect usage. Location based services include social location sharing tools; however, they are much broader and include what are best described as passive location sharing tools. These include things such as the family locator services from cellular companies Sprint and Verizon in the United States. The GPS chip in that person’s phone is actively tracked via a service that ties numbers to one account. This service is primarily aimed at parents wanting to check on the location of their mobile-phone-carrying children, although it could also be used by small businesses to track delivery or service vehicles.
This technology has been extended to non-cell-phone devices that look like watches, or can be embedded in shoes for young children to enable parents to find their child if they lose sight of them. Some versions fit onto the collars of the family dog so that if it strays, its owners can locate it.
Vehicle tracking is a popular commercial use of passive location based services. Domestic uses include OnStar, which can provide turn-by-turn navigation instructions that are sent right to the user’s vehicle. Commercial applications include cell phones that transmit the user’s exact location, allowing, for instance, shipping companies to pinpoint the location of commercial drivers without asking them to check in.
Social location sharing: is the term I use to describe the various services that require a user to actively share his or her location with a network. This network is a group of people and companies with whom the user has agreed to share that information, as well as a broader network via connected social media platforms. It is the active nature of these services that sets them apart from the other services, which are passive in their nature. This active participation makes them so intriguing and so compelling for marketers.Why would someone want to broadcast their location to their own friends.
Foursquare seems to be a strong favorite. Facebook is into social location sharing.