Location, location, location. It’s all about location..

While Jake is busy working on his super secret project he’s asked me to fill the rambling spot for him.  Hopefully, I can make this a regular place to spout my technolutionary thoughts.

In a previous life I did a lot of work with Oracle’s Location and Spatial products.  There really is nothing like putting a map in front of an executive to show him what’s going on in his company.  In my previous post I mentioned about Google’s Gears supporting the new W3C location API.  Today, Mozilla announced a new plug-in called Geode that uses Loki’s location data to bring that info into Firefox. They use the wifi access point MAC addresses within range of you to calculate your location vs. the triangulation / gpi hybrid most cell providers use.

I’m still a closet location geek.  I really love the ability to find out whats going on around me at any given time, who’s there, what events are up, people I should meet who happen to be at the same place.  It gets me all giddy to see things like this come together.  Back in my travel days I too wondered what it would take to solve the OpenLocation.org manifesto problem. I wondered all too often how many times another car guy was sitting 2 seats behind me on a plane, or an IdM expert was staying at a hotel up the street from me who I could have picked his brain over dineer.  If only I had known they were there.

Today everything from cell phones, to automobiles, to dog collars have a GPS onboard.  Services like TripIt and Dopplr know about the trip I have coming up, iTunes has all my music, and facebook has all my friends.  How do we put them all together and have a good time.  It has long puzzled me why the airlines and hotels haven’t gotten into the social network space with their rewards programs.  It seems like it just makes sense.  They have a ton of info on you already, know when/where you are traveling and can predict when people with similar interests are going to be in the same location.  Plus it gives them an avenue to make you a more happy customer that 3 hour layover in Detroit doesn’t seem so bad when you can shoot the breeze with another Apple fanboi.  Plus they could then offer discounts at your meeting place like 20% off food or a free drink at the hotel bar.

The current location services are just a pain to use.  I’m forced to open an application to update my location for most of them, but that should change with the W3C spec.  Pretty soon all our browsers will have plugins to update them on a regular basis, then we need those plugins to tell us when something important is happening next door, or next month when I’m in Omaha.

The current iPhone location apps are getting there, but in tech savvy towns outside the valley, like DC, the adoption is just slow.  The potential is there, even for enterprise apps, to use this data to their advantage.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know someone you worked on a project with for years is coming to town next month years after you lost touch?  Or that your boss just landed early and is on his way into the office (time to get out of bed).  Or some co-workers in another group are heading to the same concert as you.  The possibilities are endless.

So I’ve rambled long enough.  What are your hopes, concerns, and wishes for location enabled systems?  How are they going to change your life?  or just make it more complicated?


  1. Thanks for keeping the content rolling.

    I'm with you on location. In fact, just yesterday I was wondering why the Google iPhone app doesn't ask for my location (the Maps app does). No one does a really great job with local search, and wouldn't search from your location-aware phone be a killer app?

    What if you wanted a video store and didn't feel like burning extra gas while you were out already? Search could surface geo-closer results with higher relevancy. Turns out Yelp does a better job of this. Go figure.

  2. I'm glad you're blogging somewhere again. However, I am a little surprised that there has only been one slight reference to cars so far–I expected more. Not seeing you post something related to cars is like Jake not talking about lolcats. Weird.

    Anyway, glad to see you're adding to the good stuff here in the 'lab. I'll be waiting for the car reference in the next post :).

  3. I like cars and motorcycles too. We can definitely talk about them.

    Paul is a bit of a car-geek too. He typically shares items about Tesla and electric superbikes, etc.

    In my defense, I haven't mentioned LOLcats since OOW. You're one to talk Scuba Steve.

  4. I'll work on more car talk, I'm still coming down off the high from staining my deck this past weekend. So, back to location talk. I just installed “Around Me” on my iPhone, it grabs your location data and tells you where the nearest banks, bars, gas stations, etc. are to me based on my current location. The GMaps search functionality can do the same thing, but this seems much cleaner all in one simple interface.

  5. I like Loopt, I have a friend who did a Road Trip from North Carolina to California and I could track his progress on loopt, complete with comments and photos, nice facebook and twitter integration too.

  6. Don't take the diversions to cars or LOLcats as bad things–I rather enjoy the change to something different occasionally. While I don't fancy myself a “car guy” I like reading the banter and discussion.

    Back on-topic, the CTA (who runs the buses in Chicago) recently rolled out a web interface to all the location data they gather about buses. If someone could tie that in to my current location and tell me there's a bus arriving in 2 minutes (like BART does in SF), I'd buy that. I don't know the downtown bus schedules well enough to know things like that off the top of my head.

  7. Interesting, I don't think I know a single person who uses Loopt in the DC area. Out of 250+ contacts in my phone there was only one person who has Loopt on their phone. However, the local auto repair place is offering a transflush special through Loopt.

  8. I second that. I remember bitter cold winter mornings in Chicago waiting for a dumb bus or El that was running late. Chicago's not a great place to stand outside and wait, even when it's not Winter.

  9. This is exactly what I needed. Yelp did a decent job, and I didn't realize Maps did this too. Feeling a bit dumb about that. I'll give Around Me a try. My problem with apps is usage, just like on the regular 'tubes. I never remember to use Brightkite or any of the nifty apps.

    BTW, I need a free Flickr app. Why isn't there one of those? Seems they rolled out a mobile interface (m.flickr.com), but it's only for Pro members?

  10. I recently noticed a bus stop in Singapore with a 24″ or 30″ screen showing which buses serve the stop and how long before the next one would arrive.

  11. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority operates a light rail system. On the main line in that system, the platform at each station has a simple horizontally-scrolling electronic display that lists the arrival times for the next three trains. Having that little bit of information takes a lot of the impatience out of waiting for a train.

  12. Yeah, I've seen stuff like that. I was thinking specifically about the investment in LCD monitors at bus stops.

    In my public transit experience, trains are way more regular than buses.

  13. sadly I only have 1 person on my iPhone on loopt, good news is he drove 5,000 miles across the US so he was interesting to follow.

    More people on loopt please!

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