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one from the cutting room floor

It’s one of my favorite times of year: the last few days before the official release of the 2010 Horizon Report. The writing is done, the excitement is building (okay, that’s probably mostly happening in my head), and I have actually seen it in layout. The cover’s lovely this year, by the way. You have to wait a little longer to see it, though: it won’t be released until January 19.

I’ve spent a lot of time now with the six topics in the report, but I haven’t forgotten that those six came from a list of twelve, and those twelve, from a list of (this year) 111 different possible topics. One of the topics that made the short list (the list of 12) but not the final cut is location-based services:

Location-based services provide content that is dynamically customized according to the user’s location. These services are commonly delivered to mobile devices, but can also be accessed from other portable computers, handhelds, or any Internet-capable device. Current common applications for location-based services include advertising, news, social networking, and similar services. (2010 Horizon Report: Short List)

My iPhone is loaded with location-based services. I have one whole screen devoted to apps I use when I travel, to give me local information about whatever city I happen to be in. Admittedly, I can’t use most of them at home, since I don’t live near a major urban center, but they’re extremely helpful when I travel.

A sampling of some of my favorites, in no particular order:

  • Where – Indicates where to find cheap gas, Starbucks coffee, or the thing I use it for the most: drugstores that carry Nyquil and saline solution, two things I seem to run out of while in strange cities.

  • WikiMe – Shows wikipedia articles related to wherever you happen to be. Useful for those spare moments when you want to know something, anything, about wherever you find yourself.

  • Come Here – Send your coordinates and a map to another mobile user so they can find you. Very helpful when most of your group has already walked to the bar down the street and the last few folks text you from the hotel asking where you went. (Look this one up in the App Store; the website is not really functional.)

  • Layar – Launch the app and pick from a list of layers, such as World Peaks (mountains near you), H1N1 flu shot locations, In & Out Burger locations, and so on. Layar overlays the information on the image from your camera’s screen, showing the name of and distance to nearby features. One tap gets you a Google map from here to there.

  • Foursquare – Foursquare’s fun, though maybe not as fun as it could be; I have to agree with some of the criticisms that have been voiced about its bizarre reward system and limited applicability outside of large urban areas. I mostly check in from airports. The idea has potential, though. Essentially, you and your network of friends “check in” from different locations, earning points for doing so. Some merchants offer incentives for people who check in repeatedly from their location, which is an interesting idea because it combines the game with real-life things that people do anyway, like going to bookstores or coffee shops (or airports, I suppose).

Personally, I love the kinds of services and games that are possible with location-awareness on my phone. It’s very empowering to have a BART map that knows not only where all the stations and lines are, but where I am in relation to them: I suffer from public transit anxiety and am always certain I will miss my stop and wind up lost. iBART goes a long way toward reassuring me that I’m on the right track, so to speak. I don’t have a lot of occasion to use BART, since I don’t actually live in San Francisco, but it has come in handy once or twice.

Although it didn’t make the cut for the 2010 report, location-based services *did* make it into two editions in 2009 — the Australia-New Zealand Edition (as Location-Based Learning) and the Economic Development Edition. Interestingly, it appeared on a nearer horizon in the Economic Development edition (mid-term; it’s on the far-term horizon for Australia-New Zealand). It’s much easier to find commercial applications than educational ones at this stage. There are several schools that are experimenting with ways to use location-based services for fieldwork and campus information, and a few that are developing augmented-reality games that have location-based aspects to them.

Based on the amount of development that’s going into apps like these, location-based services are going to be big in the coming year. TechCrunch’s Ten Technologies That Will Rock 2010 lists geo as an essential ingredient for killer apps, and I think they’re right. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

One Comment

  1. Thank you for all the work you’ve done on this year’s Horizon Report, Rachel!