Location-Based Services: hard to become a mass phenomenon

The IHT has this morning a very relevant piece about Location-Based Services; not really research-oriented, it's rather focused on pragmatic and business examples which worth it. The paper puts forward the difficulty to throw LBS to the market:

Though cellular phone companies have been touting these location-based services for five years, the scenario above remains rare - so rare, in fact that some industry experts question whether the services will ever become a mass phenomenon. (...) "Location-based services have held great promise for a long time, but until now that promise has not been realized, and it's not clear that it ever will be," said Jeremy Green of Ovum, a consultancy in England. "It's a fantasy to think people will shell out money for these services. You do lots of clicks, go through lots of menus, and then you get a not-so-good map directing you somewhere." (...) "For any new service to be successful, no matter what it is, it can't require a whole new way of thinking," Hyers said. "MP3 players have become popular because they followed in the footsteps of the Walkman, which for the past 25 years has gotten people used to listening to portable music."

That's definetely true, there is an unbalanced relationship between the promising idea of location-awarenes and the poor interface we have. What strikes me in the LBS world is the lack of interesting and relevant scenarios easy-to-deploy on mobiles devices. The "let-me-find-the-closest-and-bestestest-restaurant" or the "where-is-my-friend-Joe-in-the-vicinity" are nor very imaginative.

The paper also presents how it would work on mobile devices (through GPS/WiFi with SkyHook or Ekahau/GSM). There is a good emphasis on positioning with WiFi (it's very trendy lately but it exists for a long time, I don't know why there is a burst about this, people are just aware of it now or maybe it's because there are start-ups working on it)

Why do I blog this? I think the paper summarized pretty well the situation we have: lots of technologies to do positioning but poor scenarios of use. It' always the same story: tracking stuff, find restaurant and locate things. Come on! there are more interesting projects (see for instance the physical wikipedia or familiar stranger which is one of my favorite locative media project: I like this "ambient awareneness tool" to enhance the confort in space)