Location-Based Services & Being Map Dependent

A year ago, Gartner predicted that location-based services like foursquare, Yelp, and the like, will reach 1.4 billion users by 2014. While the projection may seem mind-boggling to some – it’s a huge number, of course – Gartner’s data is totally in-line with reality. Don’t believe me? Look at your phone right now.

How many of your apps feature some sort of location-based functionality?

I’d venture to say that most of them do (and for many, location is the primary feature). In fact, as if Gartner wasn’t enough, according to Pew Internet, nearly 74% of smartphone owners today use LBS.

Location-based services are essential today. Plain and simple. Whether for recreation (Shadow Cities), exploration (foursquare), navigation (us) or productivity (Checkmark), they’re here to stay.

However, what’s interesting is that end-users often forget about where/how location-based services ultimately get the data that powers them. This should be expected, I guess. With good apps, you sort of just use them. No need to spend time dwelling on the data source because the UE/UI is awesome.

If you’re deliberating about an app’s data, chances are a flaw forced you to do that.

That’s why this post is important, I think. Good apps, in particular, need to be acknowledged for the quality of data that they’re using. After all, if foursquare’s data was bad, what would be the point?

Here’s where we really start to blow your mind, though.

The location data featured in location-based services is all from a map. That’s right. Location-based services – all of them – are all map dependent. One cannot function without a map. It makes perfect sense when you think about it, but most people don’t make the connection (at least explicitly).

That’s why, for instance, our relationship with Barnes & Noble is important (we’ll be the default map reference for location apps on NOOK). Maps fuel apps like Sonar or Highlight or GroundLink. They make a check-in at your favorite diner possible. They make it possible for you to find a hotel nearby.

This is important stuff. Consider this—if maps feed location data into location-based services, map quality impacts location data. That means map data impacts the utility and ease-of-use for an LBS.

We know this. That’s why we’re launching GeOS in the coming months. The OpenStreetMap is the best map out in terms of detail. With GeOS, we’re just making it easier for your favorite LBS to use it…