Services Drive Technology Execution in Smartphone GPS

Location awareness is par for the course, now that smartphones have infiltrated our masses and their effeciency relies heavily on GPS capabilities.  It’s a technology that’s finding its way into several industries, from marketing to restaurant recommendations, social games and education.  But the more the technology is adopted, the more it’s monetized.  And trends are only growing across end user demographics.

In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, the survey showed that 28% of adult Americans utilize location-based services in various activities such as getting directions, check into locations and in social networks that automatically adds their location in their feeds.

According to the survey, 4% of adult users use location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla to check in with all cell phone users at 5%; 23% of adult users use it to get directions with all cell phone users at 28%; and 7% of adult users use the automatic location-tagging on social media with all internet users at 9%.  Smartphone owners are at 12% in using geosocial services, and 55% use it to get direction.  And as for social media users, 14% use automatic location-tagging on their posts.

“Americans are not currently all that eager to share explicitly their location on social media sites, but they are taking advantage of their phones’ geolocation capabilities in other ways,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, Pew Internet Project research specialist and co-author of the report. “Smartphone owners are using their phones to get fast access to location-relevant information on-the-go.”

The survey was conducted from April 26 to May 22, 2011 using a sample population of 2,277 adults, age 18 and older.  The telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish with 1,522 interviews done via landline and 755 interviews, including 346 without a landline phone where done via cell phone.

And it’s not just adults in the US leveraging location-based services through mobile phones.  China is also experiencing an increase in the use of mobile location-based services, as consumers access these services through check ins and via daily deals sites.  According to the research firm EnfoDesk, By end of June, 2011, the number of accumulate accounts of China LBS has reached 105 million, up 60.3% compared with 65.5 million in Q1, 2011.

Location-Based Services Gear Up

TeleNava Inc., a wireless location-based service provider, is looking to niche markets to contextualize its location-aware technology.  The company acquired travel search startup Goby Technologies Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

HP Jin, president, CEO and co-founder of TeleNav, said in a press release, “We are impressed with what the goby team has built to date and are excited about what we can do together moving forward.”

Apple is also expanding their reach in the location-based service sector as they are looking to hire an “iOS QA Location Engineer,” a position that will be based out of the company’s Cupertino, Calif., corporate headquarters.

The job posting reads, “You will join a dynamic team responsible for qualifying the latest iOS products, working on exciting new features for iOS location services.  The successful candidate will complete both documented and adhoc testing to ensure high quality releases.”

Automation becoming a location-aware issue

Though most people don’t care much about these location-based services, others are quite irritated with the technology’s implementation, as some of these still access your location though users have opted not to share or use their location information.  Microsoft is facing legal charges from Windows Phone 7 user, Rebecca Cousineauas, as she accuses Microsoft of illegally obtaining location data.

According to the lawsuit filed by Cousineauas, Microsoft designed its mobile OS to “siphon geographic location information from users and transmit their specific whereabouts to Microsoft’s servers.”

There’s still a lot of sieving to do when it comes to location-awareness, and as the technology is adopted for various purposes across industries, mobile stands at the center of this booming trend.  Similar to social media automation, GPS provides a great deal of indirect feedback on consumer behavior, and as more industry players seek ways to monetize the technology, the more growing pains we’ll endure.