The growing popularity of location based services applications

GIS location based services apps are making geo data more available Have you used your GPS lately? If so, you’ve just tapped into the very fast-growing niche market of location based service applications.

What are location based services, or ‘LBS’? These GIS (Geographic Information Systems) enabled applications find location data to control or enhance features of mobile and web apps and make our lives easier.

What are location based services?

Some are made for personal mobile smartphones, while others are made as end-to-end IT solutions to fit into business’ internal software networks. All location based services applications offer their users real-time information on what they might find interesting in their own immediate surroundings.

While the exact definition of location based services might vary for companies, providers, and users, some examples of location based applications include things such as apps used for local mobile marketing, location based advertising, mobile transportation management, or wireless land management. The rapid growth in use of location based services apps is due to the fact that it’s one of the best ways to organize and utilize geographical data for business gain.

How are companies using location based service applications?

Transportation is one of the areas where mobile location based services come in handy for consumers. A survey by market-research firm TNS Global found that nearly 1/5 of location enabled mobile smartphone users consult wireless location based services apps to find out when the next bus or subway train is coming. Another 1 out of 10 use them to get a taxi.

Many more location based services apps are in the business of transforming retail shopping and healthcare. For example, the wildly popular Foursquare, which city residents across the globe use to look up the best coffee shops or bars in their neighborhoods, can save money in the process: users who frequent an establishment and “check in” on Foursquare often win discounts.

Many more businesses offer similar discounts for check-ins via other location based service applications. They include Gowalla, which awards users “virtual passport stamps” for visiting new places; Groupon, which emails its users daily deals from retailers in their own neighborhoods; and SCVNGR, which gives visiting new establishments a scavenger-hunt game-like feel and awards users “points” for visiting new places and completing designated “challenges.”

Location based apps are great for local mobile marketingFrom the companies perspective it’s clear why they might give all these deals away. The customers who check-in to a place via an app alert their friends that this place is on the map and is worth visiting. Location based apps thus become an easy source of word-of-mouth publicity and promotion. Because of its powerful ‘share and discovery’ factor, companies have found location based apps to be a powerful and extremely effective tool to supplement (and sometimes replace) traditional advertising methods. They are starting to invest more and more in GIS location based service apps to reap the benefits of location based marketing and geo-data reporting.

Some businesses are putting location based services to use internally, as well. Software systems that can track individual hardware items and their locations are a great way to keep track of inventory and screen inefficiencies out of the distribution chains. Companies now offer even mobile inventory platforms, others offer both government and private-sector clients of all kinds a suite of electronic RFID-tagging and geospatial mapping services that enables them to know where any single asset or hardware item is at any given moment.

What is the future of location based service apps?

Pretty soon, vital services such as health care and medicine will be getting their own Foursquare-like apps. Consumers might consult location based service apps to find pediatricians, emergency clinics, or restaurants that cater to their unique health needs. Marshall Kirkpatrick, writing in ReadWriteWeb, noted some precedents: Medical providers have started offering Google Maps presentations of the best facilities for seeking appropriate care, and a Dutch hospital created an emergency augmented-reality display, with which mobile smartphone users could look up the nearest automatic external defibrillators facility on his or her mobile phone.

ABI research forecasts a quadrupling in the location based services market revenues by 2019. Much of this growth will be in North America and Europe. But market forecasters say that demand for location based services is on the rise in Brazil, China, India, and Russia, too. For example, Dianping, a Chinese company that resembles Yelp, scored $1.2 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2014. And Chinese Internet giant Tencent recently spent $200 million to acquire an 11.28% share in the mapping company NavInfo. The potential benefits of location based services are attracting companies across the world and across industries. It is no surprise that the development of location based apps will rapidly increase in the coming years.

Images courtesy of krilm and lusi via Free Images

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