I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of location-based services lately. The first thing that occurs to me: nobody talks about location-based services anymore. There are just ‘services’.
It occurs to me that Location, in and of itself, is not an ‘experience’, per se. It is an enabler of experiences. Allow me to explain.
There are two critical aspects that make up a location-based service:
- The ability to accurately detect the real-world location of the user (or, more specifically, the user’s device) and communicate this back to a service in real-time.
- The ability to accurately place this, and other, locations of interest on a map.
Take a classic “location-based service” such as Foursquare, where users ‘check-in’ to venues, stores or other locations with the app on their smartphone when they visit the store physically. The location of the user is the enabler that allows the check-in to take place, and the rendering of a map of the area is the enabler that allows the check-in to be viewed and consumed later.
Location itself isn’t the point or motivator for the experience. It’s just what makes the experience possible.
Hence the term “location-based service” has fallen a bit out of favour. Location is no longer an exciting differentiator among mobile experiences, and the location is very rarely the real point of the ‘service’. The point is always something else: find out how good a hotel is (TripAdvisor), review a restaurant (Yelp), find a new place for lunch (Foursquare), find deals nearby (Groupon, iBeacon), etc.
So the thing to remember about Location: it’s not an experience. Location is an enabler of experiences.