We’ve written a bit in the past about how location awareness in mobile devices like the iPhone is beginning to inspire online product development. This has been behind Mozilla’s Geode platform, which lets developers create location-based services based on the location awareness that will be baked into the Firefox Web browser.
The latest location aware application has come from Laptop Cop, a $50 security software product for laptops that lets you remotely erase data if a laptop has been stolen (TechCrunch write-up here). Its main feature brings in location awareness, care of Skyhook Wireless, to track and pinpoint the location of a lost or stolen machine. Think of it as LoJack for laptops.
There have been a handful of one-off applications that utilize the Wi-Fi positioning of Skyhook — like Skyhook’s own Loki (the dirty little secret is that Loki provides the same functionality as LapTop Cop for free). These apps mostly require developers to work with a geolocation API, and users to actively download or purchase them. Both factors have kept location awareness from getting off the ground.
But the aforementioned integration of location awareness into the browser (or the OS) will make it a much more saturated part of an online user experience. Once it’s there, developers will have a better ability to create local search apps that utilize location data. The idea is that users will also slowly accept it based on the positive reinforcement of its relevant content delivery — and the added exposure and appeal it’s getting under the iPhone halo.
Finally, these factors could lead to advertiser interest and the creation of ad units that dynamically target users based on where they’re sitting. This will require lots of moving parts, such as publishers and ad networks, but the upside is that higher georelevance could lead to better ad performance and CTRs. Placecast is already working on a similar targeting strategy (the company will speak at a TKG-run session at SES Chicago next week on local search).
This was also a hot topic during a panel discussion on Web 2.0 community sites at ILM:08 two weeks ago, and it’s the subject of a TKG report that published today. In other words, this is a topic that’s gaining steam and could have lots of applications for finding a cup of coffee, a flat screen TV or your stolen laptop.