Location Based Services

The concept of "Location Based Services" is a spin-off from the introduction of GPS technology into common consumer items such as cars and cell-phones.

GPS systems in cars allow a variety of new features to be incorporated. For example, on-board navigation aids and emergency services such as General Motors "On-Star", which, according to the TV commercials at least, allows a cheerful operator to assist you by unlocking your car doors when you've locked your keys inside or reccommending a restaurant in the area you happen to be. Currently, GPS is only supplied as an option in luxury cars, but it will become more common as the technology becomes accepted and, imore mportantly, cheaper, (remember, electric windows and even heaters were optional extras in cars at some point in the past).

Similarly, the promotion of E911 by the US government means that GPS will soon become a mandatory feature of all new cell-phones sold in the USA. This initiative should help emergency services locate callers who have made a 911 call but are unable, for whatever reason, to give details of their location.

Location Based "Services"

Aside from the benefits outlined above, there is a down-side to having, say, a cell phone with built-in GPS, (indeed, some might say there were disadvantages to owning a cell phone period). Location Based Services means that your cell phone will be inundated with advertising messages specific to your location at the time:

  • "In the baggage claim area at the airport? You must need a rental car - call us now!"
  • "STOP!! Did you know you've just walked past the best pasta place in Dallas?"
  • "Twenny dollar - love you long time..."

Just in case the Europeans thought they'd got away with it, Location-Based services isn't totally dependant on GPS technology. Non-GPS equipped handsets can also be located via base-station triangulation. The higher the density of base-stations, the better the resolution.

So, whether it's intended to enrich our already cluttered lives or provide a last call for the 3G 'killer app', I think we can all see where this will lead. You won't be able to go anywhere without the feeling that somebody's watching you.

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