Location Services Change from Concept to Reality
By Eric Lin, Fri Mar 26 03:45:00 GMT 2004

There aren't many handsets, or even PDAs for that matter, with GPS receivers built in. However as more manufacturers add GPS to the list functions built into their phones and operators begin to fine tune tower-based location services, it should become easier to determine exactly where a user's handset is at the moment.

Rumor has it that Siemens used this very feature last week to track down a handset stolen from their booth CeBIT. Catching thieves is certainly useful, but for most people, improved location tracking will be more useful for improved location based services (LBS).

The Guardian takes a tour with minds behind Urban Tapestry. Like the early days of SMS business models, the early days of LBS "services" were dreams (though now we can call them nightmares) of handsets buzzing with coupons and dinner or drink specials as users roamed the city streets. Now the models are based on communication, on tagging locations with reviews, with poetry, or with personal notes. Urban Tapestry is one such experiment in geographic markup.

While the Tapestry (as well as a few other ventures) are interactive, most LBS are one way. Traffic information or turn by turn directions are already popular in Japan and other regions. The article in the Guardian mentions a number of companies who create location based tours, however none use cellular Assisted GPS instead relying on Wi-Fi or other short range wireless technologies for determining location. Another Guardian article from today mentions a low tech phone based tour guide system going live in London. Handheld History is a service where users dial a number, punch in a code on historical placards posted around the city, and then get an earful of London history. It's not exactly LBS, but at least it will work on everyone's mobile phone until location standards and technology are more popular.

Like Nokia's Lifeblog uses time to group and sort media, location will also become a marker around which we will organize our memories. ADM partners have a sneaky picture of an application Siemens is working on called Condensed Info Space. It will use GPS to organize media, once Siemens handsets have GPS, that is. Attaching GPS data to mobile media such as pictures, videos and notes is not a Siemens exclusive. A San Francisco programmer created a blogging plugin some time ago so that his Japanese girlfriend could log the GPS location of every picture she took on her location-enabled cameraphone. This week at Microsoft's Mobility Developer Conference, Ori Amiga demonstrated APIs in the new version of Pocket PC and Smartphone that would capture location data if it was available, allowing programmers to create similar tools with a minimum of work.