Or perhaps a more pertinent question is: where have I been? Well last night I attended a talk at the BCS offices in Covent Garden about mobile location-based services. Overall the talks were quite interesting; ironically the speaker that I thought would be the least interesting turned out to be the most interesting!
There were lots of examples of mobile location services shown throughout the evening – I’m not going to list them as there were too many. One particularly interesting service one was Yahoo!’s Fire Eagle. It was described as a location brokerage service that allows you to update and share your location with services and applications that you have chosen and authorized. An example that was demoed during one of the talks was updating your location from Fire Eagle that was then automatically picked up by blogloc, a service that allows your readers to see where you are; apparently Dopplr also has support for Fire Eagle. I haven’t looked at it yet but OpenStreetMap got a lot of mentions by all of the speakers given that, apparently, the main aggregators of map data, TeleAtlas and NavTeq, have data black holes, e.g. there are some areas on the planet that they just don’t have data for.
What else? Well it turns out that navigation is still the biggest use of mobile location services followed by search. According to a Gartner report the mobile user location space will be worth a cool $8 billion by the year 2011. In terms of actually locating a user the main ways are: cell ID, GPS and – more recently – WiFi network finger printing. Oh, and GPS doesn’t work inside buildings 🙂
Finally, there was an amusing anecdote about one of the founders of Skyhook Wireless who received a message on his mobile saying that it was Steve Jobs and could he call him back; they thought it was a crank call. Well it turns out it really was Steve Jobs – Skyhook provides the “Locate Me” (?) functionality on the iPhone.