Google has surprisingly sat back quietly while other startups have been hard at work dominating the mobile social and location space. That’s all about to change, however, as Google announced yesterday the introduction of the Latitude API.
Since the beginning, Latitude has failed to catch on with users due to the fact that it hasn’t quite catered to what most users want in an LBS service- which primarily means the ability to “check-in” and other social functions made popular by the likes of Foursquare, Gowalla and MyTown.
With its new API, Google can now allow third-party developers to come up with their own apps that take advantage of Google’s immense location services- which could end up spelling trouble for similar startups that have had to build their location database from the ground-up.
As many have noted, an inhibiting factor to Google Latitude since the beginning is the fact that it’s continuously updating a user’s location instead of basing it around the concept of checking-in, which users (and developers) seem to be much more keen on. Through the new API, Google allows this to change if a developers wants it to.
“We’ve also learned that making your phone’s continuous location available in the background is tricky to do accurately and efficiently — just imagine your phone’s battery life if several apps were continuously getting your location in different ways,” Google explained in a post on the matter. “With this in mind, we built a free and open Latitude API that lets the third-party developers you choose start using your updated location in new ways without reinventing the wheel.”
What’s interesting is that Google is using the new Google Places API that assigns IDs to individual places, which positions itself perfectly for check-ins. As TechCrunch notes, this could be an early indication that Google is for building a unified place database that so many have hoped for.
It’s apparent that Google has more up its sleeve in the world of mobile location and social networking, as it definitely won’t tread lightly once it gets the ball rolling. It should be interesting to watch what happens, that’s for sure. As a glimpse into what Google envisions for its new Latitude API, it gave some pretty cool examples during the announcement;
- Thermostats that turn on and off automatically when you’re driving towards or away from home.
- Traffic that send alerts if there’s heavy traffic ahead of you or on a route you usually take based on your location history
- Your credit card accounts to alert you of potential fraud when a purchase is made far from where you actually are.
- Photo albums so your vacation photos appear on a map at all the places you visited based on your location history.