Location-based technology is one of the hottest tech topics being bandied about right now. It was the talk of SXSWi recently, and this week, Where 2.0 is holding its annual location-aware conference in San Jose. The increased use of Foursquare and Gowalla, and even Twitter’s tweet location-tracking, has caught most of the headlines. And while these applications are great — I love the synergy between location and social networking — it’s important to keep perspective on the business practicalities of location-based services (LBS).
The full promise of location-aware technology resides in solving people’s real-world needs or problems. In other words, through the technology knowing where they are, customers and businesses need to experience a Location Benefit. There are several companies providing such solutions, so I thought I’d share some with you here:
Keeping Families Connected:
Created and marketed by LBS pioneer WaveMarket, Family Finder is the granddaddy of location-aware services and goes to the heart of a real-world issue: keeping track of loved ones. While you may not use it directly, WaveMarket has pushed this through multiple worldwide carriers, so you may know it as “AT&T FamilyMap,” “Sprint Family Locator” or “Vivo Localiza Familia.”
Along with keeping general tabs on your kids once they’re out at the movies or hanging out with friends, it also alerts you when family members, including mobile phone-equipped kids or elderly parents have ventured outside a pre-set area. In all honestly, I’m thankful this technology didn’t exist when I was a kid, but today, as a parent or one who may need to care for aging parents, I can see tremendous use of this.
After any wayward family members are collected, everyone will probably be famished, and that’s where OpenTable comes in. OpenTable is the popular site for making online restaurant reservations and a fantastic example of location-aware technology that helps people easily find and make dining reservations when out and about.
While helping restaurant-goers, it’s also benefiting OpenTable’s restaurant partners, which use the company’s reservation software. Through the end of 2009, OpenTable says it seated more than two million total diners through its suite of mobile applications. Equally impressive, OpenTable estimates that diners seated through its mobile products have generated over $100 million in cumulative revenue for its restaurant partners (based on a $50 check per diner).
Keeping Track of Inventory:
While OpenTable answers “Where do we eat?,” uShip uses LBS to answer the question: “Where’s my stuff?” uShip is the online transport marketplace that helps people ship hard-to-move items. We now give our thousands of feedback-rated transporters and moving companies the ability share their real-time location with their shipping customers through LBS.
This capability became increasingly important earlier this year: a text ban was placed on commercial truck drivers when behind the wheel. Yet these transporters are still required to notify customers of a drop-off time without losing time. Through uShip’s partnership with WaveMarket, hundreds of transporters with Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile are now opting-in to share real-time tracking.
This also opens up exciting opportunities to proactively locate new shipping jobs for carriers based on their current location, ultimately making the uShip marketplace more efficient and delivering better value to both customers and transporters.
The Bottom Line:
Whether you’re finding a family member or restaurant, tracking items in transit, or looking for customers, locate-aware technology is serving practical needs and making people’s lives far more efficient. As you consider your business and the fundamental problem it solves, how can location-aware technology create more opportunity and revenue?
Shawn Bose is Vice President of Product at uShip, the global online transport marketplace that connects people and businesses with feedback-rated transporters.