Location-based services all have one thing in common: They create semantic information around the concept of a place. Semantic information means that the way the data is expressed is via a set of common attributes. A place contains a name, address, description, category, and phone number. Some of that data — such as the category — is even standardized, which means that you have only a finite number of values to choose from.
Categorizing Location-Based Services:
Mobile: Mobile location-based services give you the ability to reach just about anybody with a mobile phone in the place that they are at the time that they need the information. You may assume that all location based services are mobile because of the strong association of location and global positioning systems and the fact that all mobile phones have
GPS. Companies build applications to run on smartphones— such as Apple’s iPhone, the HTC Incredible that runs Google’s popular Android operating system, and many others.
Mobile applications can also be accessed via the (mobile) web. While many companies favor building applications that are delivered via stores like iTunes, Android Market, Blackberry’s App World, and many more, developers can also deliver applications via the mobile web and SMS (text messaging) so that feature phones can also get some of the benefits.
Check-in: One of the most common application types is the check-in. A check-in is the ability to announce “I am here.” The idea is simple, but the barriers to entry are high, though, as checking in to a location isn’t very useful on its own. The check-in can deliver a lot of highly standard data for you to analyze: the person, place, and time.
Knowing that a person checked in to a place allows you to begin to build profiles of users who check in to your business. Those profiles can tell a story about who checks in and why they check in.
Social: What good is a check-in if nobody knows? Social applications allow users to maintain a list of trusted friends that they can share the information with. Location-based applications allow users to share check-ins with a wide range of entities, including friends, colleagues, business associates, and even strangers. Some services allow a user to share this information through other social applications, too. In other words, a location-based application — such as foursquare — might plug into a larger network like Twitter or Facebook.
Discovery: When you talk about location, you have to talk about discovery. Accidental discovery, which is one of the driving forces behind the popularity of location-based services. Location-based services can document the secrets of your business through content attached to places in the form of pictures, recommendations, and even video.
Helping others discover businesses, places, products, and services that they might enjoy — isn’t limited to the application users. You can add tips in places to help customers unlock the secrets of your business. Some platforms offer users the ability to declare that they saw your tip and tried your recommendation.
Engagement: Some location-based services allow you to have a conversation. Engagement is a one-to-one, more personal sort of conversation. If you can carry on a dialogue or group conversation, this is engagement. Think of Twitter and Facebook as the ultimate platforms for engagement.
Ambient: Ambient networks use the device’s environment to do interesting things like building a social graph without the input of the user. These networks use attributes like place, time, and even the noise in the room to see who is together and then decide who the user’s friends are. To use this technology, encourage loyal customers to take pictures that represent your brand. Those customers are then lumped into the social graph of early adopters, and they can then interact with other early adopters and encourage others to join the fun.
Color is an ambient social network. Other ambient networks allow users to interact with each other based on proximity. They use chat rooms and text messaging to form temporary networks of people in a particular place.
Intent: Sometimes you know what you’re going to do and you want to let people know. Whether it’s going to an event or having a coffee, you might want to let people know so that you can connect with them or solicit their opinions about what you should do. People like recommendations and advice from people they trust. They also like to know who’s going to be at an event so that they can decide not only how they’ll spend their time, but with whom.
Platforms: Platforms allow you to take a set of functionality and build something else. Location-based platforms provide places databases, check-in functionality, tips and recommendations, authentication, and much more. You can use these platforms to build your own application to cater to your specific purposes.
Content network: Some location-based systems have copious amounts of user-generated and publisher/professional content. User-generated content is created voluntarily by someone who isn’t paid. Reviews on Amazon and Yelp, videos on YouTube, tweets on Twitter, plurks on Plurk, and highlights on Gowalla are all examples of user-generated content.
Analysis: A series of tools allow you to build campaigns and measure their impact. Some of them are location-specific and provide a look at what’s happening in check-in spaces. Others require you to have the data, but provide strong tools for visualizing the impact.
Offers: Many platforms let you offer specials and deals to people who check in at your place. The idea is that location adds contextual relevance. Sending the ideal offer exactly when someone needs it is the idea that marketers really latch onto.