By John Houghton on February 20, 2013
Location-based services allow apps to use device location information to open up new avenues of information, interaction, and revenue generation for app developers and brands. Users’ phones can use cellular, Wi-Fi, or GPS to find location. For example, a user might be looking for nearby restaurants after watching a movie, or she might need to find the closest tire center if she gets a flat. When you dial 911 on your cell phone, emergency services can automatically determine your location.
For custom app developers, it’s easy to integrate with a service like the Google Maps API* to:
– Show users what’s nearby (restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations).
– Provide directions to nearby attractions or services.
– Mash up location data with reviews or data from other APIs.
In addition to allowing a developer to enhance his app, location-based services also allows for location-based advertising. For instance, let’s say users are walking by a national retail store and they have the app for that store. When combined with other shopping data, the app can present specific offers to entice the users to come into the store to make purchases.
A word to the wise about using new APIs in your app – just make sure the API is reliable and scalable before you tell your development team to start using it. We integrated a free finance API from a top brand search engine and found it was unreliable, therefore making the app unreliable (a death knell for your app). We have since switched to a lesser-known but paid finance API that has been great. We also use short-term caching on our cloud server to increase scalability and reliability.
Location based services (LBS) work on Android (phones and tablets) and on iPhones (iPhones have GPS). The iPod touch and iPad do not have GPS (iPad 4 with 4G has assisted GPS), but can use Wi-Fi and cellular (iPad) to determine location. Also, through indoor Wi-Fi mapping, it’s possible to do indoor location-based services in closed areas such as at malls and inside large venues.
* API means Application Programming Interface. APIs allow your app to interact with third-party services such as Google Maps, Yelp Reviews, and any number of thousands of APIs that private companies and government organizations make available. New APIs are coming online every day, and some mobile development strategists monitor new APIs because they facilitate a first-to-market advantage with their app when a new and unique API becomes available.