Loopt today announced a new location feature that allows you to share your position automatically in the background to alert nearby friends where you’re at. It seems to be the start in a movement towards “automatic check-ins,” which we covered a few days back.
It’s now possible to know where you’re friends are at, regardless of whether they checked-in or not. The addition takes advantage of the background location feature of the iPhone and Android platforms, and comes with explicit sharing options to manage what’s shared and how often. Only users that mutually share data with one another can receive alerts. Alerts and background location are all opt-in, so a simple settings change can turn the feature on or off. You can also choose to exclude some of your friends from your background location sharing options.
The new functionality is called “proximity alerts,” and it’s definitely the way of the future. I don’t see the act of “checking in” making its departure anytime soon, but an automated means as a way of a backup will definitely become mainstream in most LBS apps.
People like checking-in. Whether it’s for the gaming aspect or otherwise, people enjoy the simple act of manually checking-in using their favorite LBS app. Those with a gaming aspect, such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Booyah, will always need to retain some form of a manual check-in, but Loopt and a few others are more centered on the networking side of LBS, where automated check-ins and proximity alerts makes a lot of sense.