Qualcomm's Xiam Tells You Where It's At

xiam-qualcomm-logo-150Updated: On Monday, Qualcomm announced a location-based recommendation engine powered by Xiam, which it acquired last March. The service (offered through carriers) takes demographic information, a user’s personal preferences and geographic location, and serves up lists of places and events that the user might enjoy. For example, if I’m visiting San Francisco, my Xiam-equipped carrier could use my location to show me Indian restaurants (a favorite of mine) near my hotel from Yelp, or concerts I might like to hit based on my ringtones. Xiam combines my preferences and data consumption to build the recommendations. It also can be used to offer ads.

It works with any GPS chip and has open APIs, which means location providers such as Skyhook and local information services such as Yelp can work with the platform. Update: However, today’s launch of Google’s Latitude mobile social mapping service could end up competing with Xiam and its carrier customers by offering ads based on location as well. Still, this is Qualcomm’s effort to join companies like Apple (s aapl), which pioneered touch, and Nuance ( s nuan), which has pushed speech recognition, in improving the way we navigate mobile phones.

The service seems like a handy way to squeeze the infinite content of the web onto the tiny real estate of the mobile screen fast enough for impatient mobile users. It would be an obvious benefit for people who travel, but it also poses some privacy problems. It’s more akin to firms that look at recommendations to offer ads such as Phorm or NebuAd, than a location service like Where. Colm Healy, VP and general manager of Xiam, says he thinks the service could help deliver better-targeted ads, which is important on mobile phones since consumers resent an influx of advertising onto their devices. However, increased relevance of advertising comes from the carrier noting your location and user-provided personal preferences, as well as preferences logged by the software as someone surfs the web on the device.

Healy says users opt into the service, but I’m still creeped out by my carrier tracking my sites and using that to offer services and ads.

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