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Google's Latitude

Google's Latitude
2009-03-102013-02-11mobilityen
Over the last few weeks I've been testing the new Google Latitude application, and have found it to be a useful tool. It allows users to locate 'friends' - other contacts- and display these locations on their mobile phone via Google Maps. Latitude also allows the user to quickly get directions,...
Published March 10, 2009 by Rob Evans in mobility

Over the last few weeks I've been testing the new Google Latitude application, and have found it to be a useful tool. It allows users to locate "friends" - other contacts- and display these locations on their mobile phone via Google Maps. Latitude also allows the user to quickly get directions, and to search for nearby services.

Google has invested heavily in maps and location services, and in my view is trying to become the go-to place to find (and get directions to) just about anything. Moving this functionality to mobile devices will allow Google to generate revenue by providing "sponsored links", or paid-for adverts, in response to your location search. For example if I'm wandering around Covent Garden, London and I fancy a pizza, entering "pizza" into the Google maps application on my mobile will generate a list of nearby pizzerias. The ones at the top of the list will be sponsored links, as they are on the standard Google results page.

Providing search results and subsequently directions to shops and restaurants has to be a marketer's dream. Most adverts are passive- you see the advert on your PC and you probably aren't close to the shop or in this case pizzeria, or even thinking of pizza. However, when you're mobile and hungry that advert is much more likely to make you turn up and buy the product, especially if you're also given directions.

Location based services also work the other way round. By knowing your location, advertisers can target specific products towards you- for example, if you're walking down the high street at approximately lunch time, marketers could post an advert for a local restaurant on the webpage you're viewing, even if you're not directly searching for food outlets.

A recent application for Google's Android platform of mobile devices (e.g. Google G1) allows users to scan a barcode of a product- for instance an LCD TV -and the application will provide the price of the same LCD TV at the major on-line retailers. That's great, but it becomes much more powerful when you add location into the mix- not only could the application tell you where to buy the TV and its price, it can then direct you to nearby stores.

As location-based applications become more commonplace, services can be adapted to utilise them. One example could be to arrange taxi pick-ups- I could call for a taxi and then just carrying on walking or shopping. Using a location service, the taxi driver could find me and let me know when he (or she) is ready to collect me- I'd no longer need to wait in one place for the taxi to arrive.

Google Latitude isn't the first location aware service, others include FireEagle (Yahoo), Brightkite and Plazes (owned by Nokia). As the Market wakes up to LBS I'm sure it won't be the last.

2 Comments

  • May 10, 2010
    2010-05-10
    by
    Your penning manner is pleasing and also the way you managed the subject with grace is commendable. I'm intrigued, I presume you're an expert on this subject. I just sign up for the RSS feed. :)
  • March 12, 2009
    2010-05-10
    by
    I like the idea of using Latitude as a commercial service and the taxi idea is interesting, but a better use might be for tracking moving public service objects, like municipal buses or trains with a pop-up bubble telling you which number or route you are seeing. Creating a live transportable service map instead of stopping at every post or station to see which route goes by where you happen to be. That would be more acceptable to a privacy centric public than a taxi service knowing where I am. You could turn on the service much like Google maps turns on traffic.

    As a side note, I installed LoopIt several months ago on my iPhone, which does very similar things as Latitude. But to see the real workings I needed someone else with the service so I asked my wife to install it on her iPhone. You can guess the response "why do you need to see where I am all the time?" This might be a flaw in the Google Latitude deployment plan, maybe I should send them my bus idea......

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