The future of LBS continues to find traction

Gpsaction_actionsEver since the Android Developer Challenge awarded one of its Top 10 prizes to Locale, I’ve been intrigued by handset apps that smartly use location based services. Locale offers something that I haven’t yet found on my iPhone: it changes phone settings and takes other actions based on the phone’s location. Ever since my iPhone purchase nearly 18 months ago, I said that such an application could help offer me better battery life as I’d use it to automatically have my WiFi radio turned off or on when I leave from or arrive at my house. Yes, my first-gen iPhone switches over to EDGE when it can’t find a WiFi signal, but that’s not the same thing. In that case, the WiFi radio is still on and actively seeking a network.

As if it weren’t bad enough that this one intelligent bit of software was giving me Android envy, a similar application now supports the Symbian S60, 3rd Edition platform.

Jonathan Greene tipped me off to GPS-Action and it’s sure to have a wide audience since there are more Symbian S60-based smartphones than on any other platform. At least at the moment, since Apple and RIM are quickly catching up. GPS-Action works on nearly four dozen Nokia devices, including the high-end E-and N-series. But even the lower-end Nokia handsets that don’t have an integrated GPS radio can benefit as GPS-Action will triangulate approximate positions using cellular towers.

Using the $10 software, you can configure personalized Actions, Alarms and Landmarks. Each of these are triggered by the handset location, so it’s simply a matter of a one-time setup for each. After that, your phone and the software manage the rest, based on the handset location. In this release of GPS-Action, the Actions are limited to changing the phone profile or Bluetooth status, and launching applications, opening documents or navigating to a specific web page.

Gpsaction_alarmsWe’re really just getting started with LBS, or location based services, like this. Geotagging photos is fun and useful, but I’m envisioning an advanced future for LBS devices. Wouldn’t it be great if your spouse could create and send a "quick shopping list" alert? As you near the local supermarket on your way home, your phone recognizes the location and pops up a "Get milk and bread" alert? OK, maybe that’s a bad example because you really wanted to get home and relax after a long day’s work. How about tying your personal on-line product wish-list with a price tracking service and LBS? Might it not be handy to approach the local Best Buy on that ride home and have your phone tell you that the new DVD you wanted was the now the lowest price there, so you’re alerted to swing in and save a few bucks? What scenarios do you envision?

Since there are now 10,000 or so applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch, it’s very possible that I’ve missed a comparable software solution for my handset. It’s also worth a mention that we’ve seen some applications like this for the Windows Mobile platform for some time, but it’s only just now that LBS appears to be gaining momentum. 2009 should be a big year for LBS to find to the spotlight.