Location, location, location

Following on from Sam’s excellent post recently I thought I’d take a look at where location based services might go in the next few years.

Before I start I should add that there are a plethora of really good location-based services out there including FourSquare, Gowalla and Twitter but these are really just the tip of the iceberg. In fact everything from Google maps to digital cameras with GPS are utilising location to enhance the experience of the service or product offered and with GPS chips now costing a few pence you can easily see GPS being available in every device that could possibly expect to use physical location as a useful tool.

What does location recording give us?

At first sight people are put off by the idea that they are being “tracked” but once over that irrational hurdle you can see there is a great deal of value in knowing where you are, where something happened, who and what is around you and how far it is to something you might desire.

Put simply GPS allows for an event or object to be located to within a few feet anywhere in the world. This is the basics of location services but provide little by itself. It needs applications layered on top of this to provide a richer experience such as augmented reality browsing. The reality is that very few services or applications would NOT benefit from location services. Time and distance are related, so tying location to, for example, a photograph together with a normal time/date-stamp gives you, as the photographer a great way to sort, find, tag and share you photographs. Add a sharing element to this hypothetical photograph and now you can see photographs taken at the same location, same time, one year ago, pointing the same direction etc.

This, naturally, doesn’t just have to apply to photographs. You could tag other documents the same way and enhance the data so it includes not just where and when the document was created (not always the most relevant use of location data) but also where and when it was consumed. I’m sure its more relevant to know which venue Bill Gates first presented the future of gesture computing rather than knowing which of his houses he wrote the presentation in.

So, location computing is not just about creation but also about consumption and, obviously, editing. In fact, the best way to explain this is to use the word CONTEXT. Location, time/date information should be used in the most likely context that serves the best purpose to the user at a given moment in time. Its not then location computing but context computing that matters and location is just the latest tool in the context toolbox since GPS has become ubiquitous.

At it’s simplest it is another form of meta-data and a bloody useful one.

What next in context meta-data?