Location Based Services – A Forray


Location based services (LBS) is creating quite a buzz and continues to raise a number of questions about data privacy. The only LBS I have experienced is the iButterfly campaign – a concept developed by the advertising agent Dentsu (http://create-sparks.blogspot.com/2010/06/dentsu-ibutterfly-launched-in-adtech.html). Via augmented reality users can go into an enabled area for example a supermarket turn on their phones and butterlies will flit pass the screen – with one swipe users can catch a butterfly which might represent a coupon for sushi or discount for a popular brand. This innovative marketing approach brings the virtual into reality, making the virtual web tangible and applicable for day to day use. One issue that arose is that users in Japan (where Dentsu orginally came from) were hesitant about going around randomly waving their phones around to catch virtual butterflies, this issue did not arise in the UK!

iButterfly goes one step further and allows use to share and swop your caught butterflies with others – bringing in a social element.

LBS fences areas that will ellicit a digital interaction to registered users, using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to position the mobile user then there must be a location management function (LMF) to process positioning and GIS data on behalf of LBS, see http://www.mobilein.com/location_based_services.htm for more information.

This is a highly valuable tool for marketers as positioning is key to a consumers decision making process and allows real-life and real-time engagement with the consumer. However I would be hesitant in openly declaring where I am at any given moment, partially I don’t embrace this big-brother culture and also will these alerts become like spam invading my life at every turn, quite literally. Relevancy is the only way – users must have complete control over whose LBS they sign up to I don’t want to walk into any shop and have my mobile buzzing at every aisle turn.

LBS is growing slowly and with predictions of LBS grossing $12.4billion by 2014 this must not be ignored. (http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/23/location-based-services-revenue/) However time and money must be invested into developing the security around its use. The fickle users of today will not take kindly to ill-timed inappropriate intrusion, companies need to think about how LBS will add value to their customers first and only then look at how it can add value to them.

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