This article marks the beginning of a new series on the weekly presentations made by Lifeblue's team members as a part of our LB University program. LB University gives the members of Lifeblue the opportunity to practice their presentation skills by sharing their expert knowledge on a topic of their choice.
LB's newest team member, Derek Odell, recently took us through the world of geolocation in a presentation he called 'Geolocation and You.' As someone who uses geolocation features often via iPhone applications like Facebook Places, Google Maps and Runmeter, I realized that I knew very little about this program that has become a part of my daily life. But Derek's lecture provided a thorough explanation of how this extremely useful feature operates to power apps like the ones I and many others use to make our lives simpler.
Geolocation is defined by Derek to be a device that provides 'the identification of a real-world geographic location of an object' and determines 'where it is in the world.' As of right now, only the United States and Russia have launched satellites that support fully operational geolocation systems, but China does have an operational system that's very antiquated. The Chinese are currently launching their updated satellites and were recently in the news for getting their first new generation satellite into orbit and online. Other countries like India and those of the European Union are working to embark on their own systems for the near future.
Microchips that work under these systems can be found in everything from cell phones to automobiles to missiles. Essentially, geolocation technology is becoming extremely omnipresent in all we do. Optional equipment used to support geolocation includes assisted GPS and local positioning systems.
Assisted GPS uses a network to ask a server to interpret limited location information, so that it doesn't have to process the info itself, while local positioning systems use known, fixed positions such as cell towers, radio towers or wifi hotspots to determine location.
Google is responsible for the first popular geolocation system, which it placed under the name Google Gears. While Google Gears achieved the objectives, it was feared that this would cause software makers to create separate and incompatible geolocation systems for their products, thus what had already been created for Google Gears went towards the development of the W3C's Geolocation API, the version that is used today. The W3C's Geolocation API is device agnostic and compatible with everything. Now the de facto standard, the Geolocation API can operate with a very small, single line of code, or complex multi-file algorithms.
The common person uses geolocation often via applications like Yelp, Urbanspoon and Foursquare. With its unique ability to pinpoint the user's location, this feature creates new opportunities to connect with users on a whole other level, whether it is through providing navigation and information on locations and events nearby or by helping users meet up and connect with each other. Geolocation is an undoubtedly useful feature when it comes to enhancing the value of user's online experience.
It also provides an interesting view into the future of how brands will market to and reach new and existing consumers. Predictive analytics that could be used as a result of geolocation based information and other data could make things like 'Siri' even more powerful. Imagine the idea of your phone and it's 'personality' being able to take historical geolocation based information and develop algorithms based on past information and calculations and then cross-reference with something like weather data (as an example).
Imagine if you will…you live in Manhattan in a high rise, every day as you leave the building for work you 'check-in' to the lobby at around 8:15AM and again at the subway entrance at 8:30AM, except on the days it is raining…on those days you ring XYZ cab company. With predictive analytics and geolocation based information and technology, your friend 'Siri' could have that cab waiting for you at 8:16AM without any interaction from you, keep track of the awards program that the cab company offers and allow you to pay via your mobile wallet as you exit the cab. Too invasive? Or super cool? Either way, this technology has the power to change the way we all do business.
Next time you pull out your phone to fine directions to the nearest Chinese restaurant or look for deals online in your area, give geolocation some credit for making searches like these possible and keep in mind how cool the future of these services could become.
Where in the world is Derek?
Photo courtesy of ars technica.