MoMo London: Enabling Location In Applications

This week’s Mobile Monday London on July 14th, ‘Enabling Location in Applications’, was a heavily attended affair. Speakers included Ted Hook CEO of Skyhook Wireless, Andrew Scott of rummble fame, Ben Ward from Fire Eagle, Justin Davis from BuddyPing, Charles Wills of Google Gears, Mark White of Locatrix and Matt Womer from W3C.

Debate was all about the three Ps - privacy, proximity and persisitence that is – in the realms of geolocation and the mobile web.

Ben Ward, of Yahoo’s mobile web brokering system, Fire Eagle kick started proceedings by telling us you must, “make location work for the user”. Fire Eagle collates mobile web apps, handles gps coordinates and returns these to their consumer applications. In his words the service is as “slim as it is unobtrusive”.

Justin Davis from BuddyPing talked about the potential of geolocation on mobile when used in conjunction with social media applications. You get alerts on your phone when friends are near, asking you if you’d like to meet up, go for a pint or go to the cinema that’s also near the both of you. Hey presto - you have your own hyper local social network!

In mobile, the pressure to deliver is even more intense than on the web. For Andrew Scott of rummble “It’s all about instant results for the user”. Content has to be trusted, relevant and available immediately.

Mobile users are even more impatient when they’re using the mobile web, “You have a lot less usability to play with”. With only one window able to be opened at once you’ve got to make content relevant and specific to make it stick. For content to be truly successful, the panel agreed, content and the network had to go, “beyond the users’ phonebook and touch all their other social networks.”

It’s only in the last 3 or so years that people have started to understand the concept of geolocation with GPS systems now common in cars. Previous attempts at geomapping hadn’t really taken off because either the technology wasn’t up to it or people hadn’t really grasped the concept.

Pacmanhattan, when grad students turned the streets of Manhatten into a virtual Pacman game in 2004 was cited as a modern-retro game based around geolocation, and Andrew Scott’s previous company Playtxt as a mobile company in this space too far ahead of it’s time.

Mobile web apps have come a long way from the dark days of Inky, Binky, Pinky and Clyde racing through the streets of New York. But – Mike Butcher of TechCrunch UK asked - if location is to be commoditized in a couple of years, which it certainly will be, what will happen then? In turn, are these companies ready to speak to the advertisers?