What are Location-Based Services?

Location-based services provide content that is dynamically customized according to the user's location. These services are commonly delivered to mobile devices, but almost any Internet-capable device can make use of most location services. (Cellular tower coordinates are often refined with GPS data to ensure a high level of accuracy in locating mobile devices.) Current common applications for location-based services include advertising, news, social networking, and similar services. For example, users are able to access popular social media sites Facebook or Foursquare to see which friends are in close proximity and to “check-in” to places based on their locations. Similarly, many news outlets deliver stories targeted to a reader or viewer’s physical location.

In the consumer sector, many businesses are capitalizing on this by rewarding users who check-in to their locations; a discounted meal might be offered from a nearby restaurant, for example, or information on a museum exhibition that is currently on display. Location services have become an almost transparent way to generate actions triggered by a user’s interest data and his or her location. The next and most compelling development for location-based services is the prospect of indoor GPS, which could provide visitors or students with very specific information about buildings they are in, or even rooms. It is not unimaginable that a student in a science course would be able to locate a specific piece of equipment in the laboratory using a mobile application that might also track his or her experience levels with that type of equipment.