Sunday, August 21, 2005

The deluge of Location Based Services (LBS)

Just the other day, I was talking to a friend/co-worker who follows Google pretty seriously. He told me about Google's recent investments into Wifi service providers, that triggered a pretty extensive conversation.

Yahoo and Google are really looking beyond portal provider type mindsets. Consider music unlimited or as a matter of fact things like "Picasa 2", and one of more recent of Google's successes which is Google Maps, which was followed by likes of MSN and AOL. The concept of not just doing maps, but adding the blend of local search on top of it, really takes the value of the concept to the next level, and that's what we thought was Google's thought process behind these acquisitions.

The primary idea here is that since, through wifi hotspots, the providers have an indication of your physical location, a slew of advertising and campaigns can be targeted to your location. Not just this, the concept can be of proactive selling. Hypothetically, if GPS devices became mainstream tomorrow, this concept can be a great fit for the GPS paradigm without really needing hookups to wifi hotspots. I think its just a starting point.

But again, come to think of the following scenarios :

- You are sipping "cappucino" at starbucks in Irving and there is a Borders stores in the same complex that is offering a steal deal on the next Harry Potter book that is coming out, and Google pushes that deal to you

- Friday evening, you are thinking of where to hang out. Google pushes to you a list of local events in your area including live Jazz bands within a 2 mile radius of your current location

- Lowest Gas Prices in the vicinity of your location

- Live Traffic Reports (something that the Acura RL offers even today)

The key here is "PUSH" vs "PULL", even today all these services are available through a zip code input. How much it would sell would obviously depend on the feasibility of such scenarios. The better fit here would be GPS type devices, where mobility and unfamiliarity of your current location are a huge constraint and can enhance the needs of such services. I am sure it would take a deep dive into the psychology of the consumer for LBS type services, but this is where the biggies are going and is something to watch out for.

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