Geolocation Conference in San Francisco: The Futures & Trends of Location-Based Services (LBS)

I attended the Geoloco conference in San Francisco on July 22nd 2010 and it was great to see how early we are in this new wave. There was even a big debate about geolocation being a feautre or a business... Anyway, I'll share my key takeaways.


The underlying trend discussed in the conference was the evolution of search into social and now into local. Altavista was one of the first movers in the search chapter, Myspace in the social and now Foursquare in local, meaning we still are going to see lots of changes in local. Given the early stage of this opportunity not even consumers are seeing a lot of value (except with navigation). The challenge, both for business and consumers, is to find applications that exist only because of local, generating real value. Data and privacy are the key components for new startups to leverage. The privacy issue affects consumers and the data element is the key for businesses (think of the first navigation devices where data was stored in the GPS box vs. the new Google map-style models where data flows back and forth constantly between the device and the server). Another interesting aspect to think about is how the location stack will look in 2-4 years: what is going to be a commodity and what will be monetized. Currently companies are blocking access to their data, generating silo solutions (an app for restaurants, foursquare, tripit, etc.). The question is how and when are we going to get over those contractual rules and build solutions that are more comprehensive.

Key trends to watch

1. Likely: Geodata will be free with mapping data from OpenStreetMap and other crowd-driven sources eclipsing commercial vendors
2. Very likely: Location-awareness will be an integral part of practically every mobile app where location is relevant and can add value - while users will have control (e.g. the ability to turn location disclosure on or off), location awareness will no longer be an exception or an "option" for developers of mobile app
3. Likely: More than half of all mobile advertising will be location-based
4. Very likely: Virtually any user-generated content (e.g. Tweets, Facebook updates, photos uploaded to Flickr, Yelp, etc.) can be automatically geotagged, allowing users to append location effortlessly. With automatic geotagging, users will routinely add "location" to their social data, resulting in an exponential increase in the volume of location-specific information"
5. Likely: Proximity will become a critical filter for mobile users, routinely and widely used to discover, view and act on news, alerts, nearby deals and other content relevant not just to their interests but also "near" (as defined by the user) their location
6. Likely: Mobile devices capable of scanning QR codes and barcodes will revolutionize the way in which individuals obtain information, shop and generally experience places. As businesses rapidly embrace and deploy the technology, scanning and retrieving information and offers via barcodes and QR codes will be as easy and commonplace as reading a brochure or package
7. Very likely: LBS will be integrated with social networks, enabling users to share their real-time location with the appropriate people. For example, family members (spouse, kids, parents) will be able to view my location at any time; co-workers will know my location during work hours; friends in my inner networks (the people I connect with the most) will be alerted if I travel to their city; etc.
8. Likely: Location will enable and foster better communication, stronger ties and interactions among individuals and their communities - e.g., neighborhoods (citizens, news sources, government, etc.), local merchants, cities, hyperlocal news, etc. The equivalent of a "local"worlds wide web will emerge
9. Likely: While location is an integral features of mobile apps, consumers will be reluctant to pay for any location-based services - they expect location to be a "free" value-added feature. However, where location is relevant, consumers will strongly prefer apps and content that are location-aware over those that are unaware
10. Likely: Nearly one in two consumers will remain skeptical, even reluctant to disclose their location, due in part to highly publicized incidents resulting from location-sharing apps (including a series of robberies, homicides, kidnappings)

Interesting data

• 20% of Google Searches are geo based (Mark Silva, Real Branding)
o 3M users
o launched hyperlocal ad network earlier this year and they are up to 1B impressions
o working directly with publishers to extend reach from 3M to 50M as advertisers care about reach
• Yelp
o 2.5M uniques on their mobile app (vs. 35M uniques on
o 1/3 of total searches (including mobile and fixed) are coming from iPhone, but Android is growing faster
o 1M clicks per month, 500k calls ==> they are still not monetizing
• Jiwire
o seeing 6 figure deals every month for brands interested in a very targeted audience based on location data
• 14% of mobile users in the US accessed maps on their devices in April (34M people according to Comscore)
• Foursquare has 800k active users (2.1M registered) and 100k-200k active in any given day ==> 1M check-ins per day