Location-based services are not new. We've had Foursquare long enough that they've had time to pivot and rebrand their service into Swarm. Some observers believed it would be the Next Big Thing after Twitter, but somehow it never fully caught fire. (Although I confess that I'm a dedicated Swarm player and I do appreciate my friends who participate. I get an interesting and unique perspective on their adventures in life.)
Here's what happens next in this world...
I explored Gowalla some time back when the Austin-based company threatened to give Foursquare a run for their money. I wrote about it here prior to its demise. (They ran, but no money apparently.)
The tipping point might have been the introduction of Pokémon Go this year and the viral uproar that accompanied it. Within days of launch, the game set records for revenue and engagement as hordes of players set to the streets to play the virtual reality game.
Although it might seem frivolous, the game points to the possibilities offered by location based services and a lot of technology leaders are sitting up and finally taking notice. The perfect storm of nascent nostalgia for a widely popular game combined with the ubiquitous spread of IOS and Android devices made it possible for the outbreak of this new game that is beginning to enter its next phase of expansion.
The principle is this. It's possible to create engagement with customers/advocates/subscribers using apps that factor in the location of the participant. Google has been using this in search for a while, Facebook added a check-in action years ago to allow users to get their toes wet in the world of location-based services. But no one has really harnessed the full power yet.
One force that has inhibited growth of the technology trend is rooted in the vestiges of lingering obsession with privacy. Many people cling to the fear that allowing their phone access to location data might compromise their personal safety and certainly their privacy. While this is not completely unfounded, it also ignores the possibility that more data about location and movements works powerfully against criminals more than it does against everyday people.
The trend that may overcome this concern is that younger participants in the marketplace put less emphasis on privacy and more on service and opportunity. Games and obsessive microblogging aside, one development that may increase adoption of location-based services is the emergence of location-aware microjobs.
Two players in this marketplace are Mobee and Field Agent. While both of these services are embryonic, they are both more mature than Pokémon Go and they have more potential staying power. They each offer "players" monetary rewards for taking on micro-audit missions in businesses near their location.
For example, Mobee might ask a participant to visit a store, take some pictures of a product display, take note of how employees are able to answer questions about it, or scan the shelf tags for a price check.
It's just a starting place, but it's a perfect example of how a company can use the power of crowdsourcing along with a system of micropayments and a location aware app. There are likely to be even more interesting developments in the coming year as this class of companies begins to show results.
And you can be sure we'll talk about it here.
Vincent Lowe is a professional technical educator and a veteran road warrior. So you can bet he's been hoping for location aware services to mature for sometime. He remains hopeful.