Now that GPS chips are becoming must-have hardware on cell phones, location-based services for mobile devices have finally arrived. They’re even infiltrating the desktop. So it’s time to start sifting through the location-aware company pitches, from newly launched apps to platforms (there’s always a few platforms). We’ve all heard about Google’s Latitude and Loopt, but here’s a quick rundown of some of the other interesting LBS efforts out there:
FourSquare: This company launched at SXSW earlier this month along with three other LBS startups. Founder Dennis Crowley, the guy behind Dodgeball, and the narcissistic appeal of being able to post unusual locations or best recommendations about a place in the guise of a game makes this one a contender.
YellowPin: This service is unusual simply because it tries to make GPS available to all by letting people text their location. This is great if you have a phone without GPS (or are concerned about privacy and want your location updates to be intensely proactive,) but texting your location with the early adopter crowd seems kind of like the equivalent of Marge Simpson doctoring her single Chanel suit to fit in at the country club.
3deep: LiteScape Technologies today unveiled 3deep (it launches this summer), which integrates location info with calendar availability and presence awareness. If it can get built into unified communications efforts coming out from Microsoft or Cisco, such a platform could be incredibly powerful. It has some relationship with Microsoft on the mobile side, but integrate 3deep with SharePoint and things get both scary (your employer can literally track you) and really useful (check out the screen grab).
AirSage: This company has been around since 2002, but today it announced $2.5 million in funding to help manage a contract it won last week to deliver real-time traffic information to Google’s Maps service in 20 markets. AirSage grabs cell phone location data (currently from Sprint) to track traffic patterns and will soon use its real-time location data to track roadside advertising exposure based on the number of people driving by billboards. Billboards are low-tech, but PricewaterhouseCoopers, said last year that “out-of-home advertising” which includes billboards — is expected to grow by more than 8 percent a year until 2011. That’s the fastest-growing category next to the Internet, but still a mere 4 percent of the annual U.S. ad spend.