With all the talk about mobile location, little is said about gaining access from the one source that would matter the most; the carriers themselves. Carriers possess the most accurate and detailed geo data available, but has so far been scant on allowing outside developers the opportunity to access it.
WaveMarket, a company that was first introduced back in 2002 has just rebranded itself “Location Labs” and is offering developers a new way to gather location data from any phone — smartphone and even feature phones — directly from the carriers themselves. Location Labs, in essence, provides the missing link between carriers who posses the troves of location data and the mobile developers who need/want it the most. The company now offers geo-location APIs which tap directly into the cellular network infrastructure, and so far works with AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the U.S., but not yet with Verizon.
Through its newly minted remote API, Location Labs allows developers to tap into server-based location data and the ability to locate over 180 million phones with no downloads required whatsoever. In other words, this is a big deal for developers wanting to incorporate location into their apps, etc. without having to develop different geo apps for different platforms- Android, iPhone, Blackberry, etc. More importantly, it allows developers to access location data on feature phones without requiring end-user downloads of any kind, something that was hard to come by in the past. What this also means is that location-based apps can be delivered via SMS or the mobile Web as well.
In addition, the company is also launching a second geo-fencing API which can be triggered whenever a user is near a certain location, or a friend is nearby, for example. Acting as a so-called “geo-middleman,” Location Labs extracts longitude and latitude from the carriers it works with and then delivers it to the app developer via its new APIs. TechCrunch gave a great example of how geo-social apps could utilize the new APIs for enhanced services; “Foursquare or Gowalla could create SMS or mobile Web versions of their apps allowing people to check in via text message or old-school WAP browsers, for example. The downside, of course, is that they would have to pay for each check-in. For apps like roadside assistance, teenage monitoring, or fraud detection where people are willing to pay or there are cost savings involved in knowing someone’s exact location immediately, it might be worth it.”
From the company’s press release, issued yesterday, Location Labs details the new solution:
The platform is a product of many decades of cumulative research by the company’s UC Berkeley PhD-heavy engineering team, led by Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Scott Hotes.
“The continuous stream of location data now available on many smartphone devices presents both a tremendous opportunity as well as a unique challenge to mobile developers,” noted Tasso Roumeliotis, CEO of Location Labs. “We have created useful tools that help developers capitalize on the power of background processing of location data on multiple platforms.”
The Location Labs Platform includes the following services for developers:
- Geofencing Service: Allows developers to leverage background processing on smart phones to create location-based triggers for their applications. For example, developers can create a Geofence around a favorite place and automatically “check-in” subscribers when they enter the place.
- Universal Location Service: Allows developers to locate over 180M devices in real time through a cloud-based API. There is no download required for the end user, and the service can locate ALL types of devices: both smartphones and non-smartphones.
- Location Privacy Service: Provides developers a simple set of user interface widgets that lets users control how their location is shared, offering end-user control and transparency in sharing location. The Location Labs Privacy Service lets users opt-in or out of location sharing via SMS, mobile web, or even a web portal. Leverages industry-standard OAuth for easy integration.
Developers across the board are already using Location Labs’ services to enhance and build innovative location-based applications in a variety of vertical markets including social, marketing, gaming, and logistics tracking. Location-based applications continue to explode in popularity among smartphone users; in fact, as indicated by a recent Apple iTunes report, an estimated 12% of the apps in the iPhone®App Store had a location component.