Are Location Based Services About Social Applications Or Just Ads?
By Mike Masnick, Tue Jul 13 23:45:00 GMT 2004

Frost & Sullivan is suggesting that location based services are set to take off, but they're focused on the kind that annoys users. Shouldn't LBS engage users instead?


Location based services are a concept that gets attention all the time as "the future" for mobile data services. However, not everyone agrees on what form they'll take. Initial efforts haven't lived up to expectations. The problem, often, is that carriers view location based services solely as a direct revenue generator: it's a way to spam subscribers with targeted local advertising. Users, however, have a very different view. To them, the mobile phone is a social tool, used for connecting them with other people, and any successful location-based service needs to take that into account.

Analyst firm Frost & Sullivan came out with a report today saying that early attempts at LBS have failed because the network and the technology was too immature. However, with advances in the technology, and the increase of things like GPS being built into phones, they believe LBS is ready for a renaissance. Unfortunately, they believe that renaissance is all about mobile spam. They list "special offers, impulse buys and last-minute deals" as the core of a successful LBS strategy now that the technology is in place.

Of course, perhaps part of the reason past attempts at location-aware mobile spam hasn't worked is because users don't want mobile spam. Instead, they're looking for applications that improve their social lives and connections rather than ways to get more advertising. For example, the success of Mogi in Japan isn't about advanced technology (or advertising) but a compelling proposition to the user that lets them engage with others. MIT's Tech Review has a story noting a variety of social mobile applications, that actually enhance, rather than detract from, the lives of those who are using mobile phones. More importantly, successful location based social services like Dodgeball don't require particular sophisticated networks and technology. Instead, they leverage the fact that subscribers want to use the service to get over any technology hurdles. Those types of applications drive mobile data applications and usage. While they may not allow the operators to profit directly from spamming their users, they're much more likely to actually be desired by users -- no matter what state the technology and networks are in.