TechCrunch Europe has an interesting guest post on geo-location based services from Justin Davies, founder of NinetyTen, a UK-based consultancy providing mobile community and location aware solutions to companies.
With social networks already well used on mobile, geo-location is seen as a logical next step, and the next “killer app”. Proof of its potential can be found in the emergence of FourSquare and moves to integrate location into social networks like Twitter, with Facebook rumoured to follow suit soon.
For all its potential geo-location suffers a few issues as Davies’ article discusses, primarily looking at the issues of privacy and context.
First up privacy…
Privacy will always be an issue with large, connected networks of people. Flattening the physical world into our laptops and phones will always cause problems because we forget who we are connected with.
Status updates by their very nature are 140 characters or so long, they are not built to have a huge amount of thought put into them, let alone who will eventually see or not see them.
This is not to say that location services are doomed. Far from it, as more people are considered early adopters, they educate people on the benefits of open communication, and educate them on the merits of privacy as not only a mindset, but as a tool.
There will need to be better privacy controls within location based services for them to become truly mainstream. I want to share my location with my family when it is relevant for them to know, but I don’t want to have to think about what lists I should send my location to.
One thing that was missing from location we found was context. A simple idea of context in location is the “I am at Work”, “I am at Home” problem. If I searched for “Pizza” when in work mode, it’s probably because I want a work lunch with clients. If I did it when I was at home, I’d want to know about delivery pizza.
This is where Foursquare, Gowalla and new services like Pappd have changed the dynamic of sharing location, they have Game.
Adding Gameplay into location provides a safe mindset to share your location freely to a wider list of people because they are part of the same game.
Up to this point, western markets, and western consumer and business mindsets are the basis of the discussion until…
As a parting shot dear reader, if you are thinking about being the next Gowalla or Foursquare, think outside the box. The world is a very large, and spherical place, mapped by a long/lat address.
What about developing countries, where the penetration of mobile data usage far outstrips that of broadband, or even dial up modems?
99% of all location services I have seen are targeted squarely at Early Adopters. If you are looking for the next big thing in location, one that attracts people in the millions, look at the developing markets, because connecting people in disparate locations, and giving those people a way to share information is a great start.