Google Latitude - the what, why and where next? Thursday, February 05, 2009
Image by thms.nl via FlickrMany of you will have read elsewhere, including via mainstream media about the launch of Google's Latitude offering, which introduces location based information that can be shared with nominated friends at your discretion.
It means that if you choose to expose your location, a decision over which you have constant control, then you can choose who you share that info with.
Your location can be set manually via your browser, which involves typing your location or moving a "pin" around over a google map. However, if you have Google maps on your phone then you can choose to automatically update your location using either the phone GPS or base station information, which is far easier, albeit it will continually consume data on your phone plan, not to mention gobble up your phone battery [I’d like the ability to configure how often phone updates occur for that latter reason].
You can also define how much detail those chosen contacts get since Latitude settings mean you can publish at city-level, general area or actual location.
So, using this service now means you and your chosen friends can share locations updates with each other most of the time [exceptions being when you/they turn off details].
This is not a new concept. Latitude is similar to services such as Loopt, Brightkite, Whrrl, Buddyping [now defunct it seems], RadiusIM and Buddy Beacon, most of which focus upon the intersection of "social mapping" and communication. However, all of those services don't could close to touching the might of the Google Brand and its reach.
So now comes the "why" anyone would choose to opt into this, given that it immediately throws up privacy concerns/fear in a "big brother is watching you" sense to many people.
Well, most obviously this increases the likelihood of chance meetups because you can now see which of your friends happens to be in the neighbourhood. Hence, seeing I am nearby you may choose to avoid the area or call me if you are nearby to arrange to meet, which is actually something likely to be of interest to a wide range of people for business and social reasons alike. To that point, I'd actually like to be able to group Latitude contacts into categories which would give me the option to tailor the information I share with others e.g. friends, business, which isn't possible in this first incarnation.
Of course, some parents may hope to use the service to keep track on their kids as the newspapers suggested, but given that kids can turn-off location sharing, it may prove ineffective unless they are so desperate for their friends to also see the information that their parents see it by default. Sadly I was immediately entrapped yesterday when my wife was immediately able to spot on Day One of this service that I was near a shop she wanted me to call into!
This being Google one can easily speculate on how this service could evolve i.e. where next. It's not a unique insight but there is a clear route to the three way intersection of mobile, social, and local. The last of these quite simply refer to location aware or based services. Hence, similar to the famous scene from the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report, you could begin receive news, travel, announcements and adverts all related to your present location.
On its own, "local" probably isn't inspiring enough for large numbers of people to sign up to service which discloses one's location, since the benefits are less obvious. Hence, offering the social element first is a better "bait". Having attracted a large user base, it then becomes attractive for firms/services to participate in "local offerings" e.g. offering targeted ads and coupons to people in the vicinity of a store.
Here's a scenario that I put together with a business a couple of years ago, but have substituted Latitude's name
- A national coffee chain head office create a series of offers that are hosted by Latitude that may be used by their local shops when those stores are quiet to try to drum up business e.g. coffee half price for the next hour or "buy one and get one free". Local managers may activate these at their discretion perhaps via a text, phone, or web activation with Head Office able to possiblly control the times that offers may be used e.g. only offpeak. Head Office also agree the price that is paid to Google for distributing these "coupons" in a similar manner to Google Ad-words.
- Latitude's [future] ad service offers to either broadcast offers/coupons or be paid a higher price for redeemed coupons [assuming a mechanism to identify redemptions can be implemented easily].
- Latitude users would have the option to pre-set their profiles to indicate whether they are willing to receive offers and the types they will countenance. Likewise they may search for local offers on an ad-hoc basis e.g. bars offering deals now.
- Google Latitude broadcast the offers either as adverts or coupons to Latitude users who are in the local area, which drives custom to the stores. Google could choose to broadcast all ads or similar to Ad-words running a bidding process in given time slots which would allow them to extract the best price and ration/manage the number of offers issued so as to minimise the perception of spam.
In this scenario, all parts of the market are satisfied, namely
- consumers get alerted to cheap deals for relevant goods/services
- retailers increase traffic and revenue at slack times, whilst only incurring ad spend when relevant/appropriate, in a setting in whichcompanies can delegate authority within parameters for local stores to tune their offering based on conditions
- Google increases its' revenues by connecting the market paticipants, as a consequence of providing a social service
Timeframe for this to become reality? Well, there are no technical limitations to what I've described, albeit Google need to build the "ad-words like" infrastructure and tie this into the Latitude user data. So I think its' about Google choosing its' optimum moment to launch the "local" element once enough consumers are on-board or trend evidence of wide-spread adoption exists.
- At 6:01 AM, said...
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- At 6:33 AM, John Wilson said...
Anonymous. Thanks for the comment. If you check the blog post date, you will see I wrote this in 2009. Hence it isn't a current snapshot but reading it again, it looks like firms are heading in this direction such as Groupon.