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Location-Based Services Poised for Rapid Growth - Part 2

Location-Based Services span everything from tracking the location of assets and shipments, to safety, location-aware marketing, locating vehicles, navigation, location-based social networking, and much, much more. Here's a look at who's providing these services.

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As described in Part 1 of this article series, the range of location-based services is practically boundless. Here are some areas where we are seeing these services being offered and some of the companies providing them.

GPS deviceTracking and Locating Assets and Resources

Locating assets and resources is one of the most established categories of location-based services (LBS). People have been using GPS for navigation for decades. The military started using RFID to track the location of their containers almost 20 years ago. GM’s OnStar was launched in 1996, offering turn-by-turn navigation, remote diagnostics, stolen vehicle tracking, and a red emergency button that sends the vehicle location data and connects the driver to an OnStar call center. Over the past decade, GPS volumes have skyrocketed and prices plummeted so that now many individuals own GPS-based navigation systems as well. Now we are seeing many different types of asset tracking in hospitals, manufacturing plants, highways, railways, ports, distribution centers … really just about everywhere.

Tracking and Locating Assets and Resources

Tracking shipping containers and their contents as they travel across the globe.

Tracking the location of shipping containers within yards and other large sites.

Locating mobile assets within a hospital, such as IV pumps, beds, wheel chairs, as well as assets in manufacturing plant, warehouses, and yards.

In construction, surveying, agriculture, fleet management and field service—guiding vehicles and equipment (tractors, graders, pavers), positioning & aligning building, road/rail corridor before and during construction, tracking vehicles, navigation, etc.

  • GiSTEQ, and most major cameras and smart phones

Photo Geotagging (latitude, longitude, altitude) and Geocoding (street address etc.), adds location information to photographs. Many of the smart phone applications are consumer oriented.

  • Garmin, Magellan, Tom Tom

GPS-based navigation for all modes of transportation (cars, trucks, boats, planes, trains)


Inertial and RF-based geolocation technologies and navigation solutions for first responders, soldiers, and others working in GPS-denied locations.

  • Navtrak, Dispatch GPS, Track Star, HunterPro

GPS-based systems for dispatching, routing, and tracking trucks, taxis, patrol vehicles, utility vehicles, school buses, delivery vehicles, etc.

  • CHEP

World’s largest pallet leasing company; embeds RFID in their pallets, containers, to track location as those assets move around the world.

  • Helveta

Tracks lumber all the way from the original tree to the mill to the manufacturer to retail outlet, to assure that it came from legal forest operations. Also product tracking.

  • Ekahau, Ubisense, Aware­Point, Time Domain

RTLS (Real-time Locating System) for tracking assets and people in hospitals, retail settings, warehouses, and manufacturing plants.

RFID-based (non-RTLS) asset tracking devices and systems, including high-memory tags for recording maintenance activities, condition, etc.

  • GE VeriWise

Telematics for managing global transportation assets, including trailer fleets, rail, marine.  Using Satellite and cellular-based platforms to track things like where and when a trailer starts and stops, if a door is opened en route, etc.

  • Sky-Trax

Locating forklifts and other vehicles in a warehouse


Tracking and Locating People

There are a variety of circumstances in which it is valuable to track people, including scarce resources (doctors, repair technicians, etc.), loved ones, and people in dangerous places.

Tracking and Locating People

Tracking patients, doctors, nurses, as well as pharmaceuticals, and equipment moving through a hospital.

  • AccuTracking

Tracking location of family members based on the GPS from their phone

  • Brickstream

Anonymously tracks the movements of people through stores and other venues (e.g. banks) and analyzes their behavior and customer experience - where they go, what they respond to, how long they wait in line, etc.

Copenhagen Wheel on BikeThis belongs in its own category, but we put it here for lack of a better fitting category, since it does track where a person has been on their bike. Developed at MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, it is a bicycle wheel that captures energy from the bike's momentum when the brakes are applied, stores that energy in a battery, and then gives back that energy to drive a small motor helping the rider go up hills and/or pedal further.  But in addition (here’s the location-based part), it periodically collects data including riding habits, calories burned and environmental data—carbon monoxide, NOx, noise, ambient temperature, and relative humidity—as you ride through the city (or country-side). Apparently, it stamps the data with location information to create a map of that information along the routes you cycle.  The data can be shared, so if there are many riders, it creates a dense and granular environmental map of the city. Now that’s a cool LBS!


Safety and Security

Location information is increasingly being used to enhance safety and security – reducing incidents and responding to them more effectively when they do happen.

Safety and Security

Tracking location of people for emergency evacuation and zonal security. Also supports other functions such as trade show attendance, service, and contractor tracking.

  • BrickHouse Security

Child and/or Elder locators, with wander alerts.

  • LiveViewGPS

Variety of GPS tracking devices, including covert GPS that can be hidden on a child to track not only if they wander, but in case of abduction.

  • BASF

Uses RFID for tracking the location and condition of railcars containing hazardous chemicals.

Location Aware Safety System, precisely tracks personnel in high risk environments.

  • 911 ETC

RedConnect provides location information for emergency calls made from multi-line PBX systems that may span one or more campuses or large complexes.

  • LoJack

Locates stolen vehicles or other high-value property.


Personal/Consumer Services and Location-Based Social Networking

Location-based services for the consumer and location-based sales and marketing (next category below this one) are the hottest growth areas in LBS. Since the advent of the iPhone, Android OS, and smart phones in general, there has been intense competition and a plethora of new applications vying for the attention of consumers—helping them find nearby friends, activities, stores and merchandise, and a variety of other innovations based on the user’s current location.

Personal/Consumer Services and Location-Based Social Networking

Find nearby businesses, services, entertainment - "where's the nearest gas station, Starbucks, ATM, Hotel, etc." – based on your current location.

Predicts the density of people in urban square-block areas worldwide at any hour, any day of the week based on anonymous location data from the tens of millions of devices running Skyhook's Core Engine (including every iPhone and Dell netbook, and leading Android apps).

Place-based Social Networking: Users add "spots" and activities as they visit various locations, tell friends where they are, rate locations, get points for loyalty, become the "mayor" by visiting a location more than anyone else, etc.

Displays tweets originating nearby, overlaid on live video from the iPhone’s camera. Each tweet is represented by an icon displayed in the direction the tweet came from.

Using twitter, share your location and find people nearby in real time.

iPhone app lets you record pictures/video of your sightings of birds and other critters, stamped with time and location of the sighting, and share with others.

  • Flixster

Find theater near you, showing the movie you want to see.

  • Nearest Tube

Find the nearest subway station.


Marketing and Sales

Location-aware apps help people find nearby inventory of the items they want to buy, as well as deliver location-aware ads and coupons.

Marketing and Sales

Scan the barcode of any product using their phone’s built-in camera, then it searches for the best prices from local and online retailers. Delivers information about inventory in nearby stores, based on your location.

Mobile shopping applications to stay updated on the products, buy online, and locate and put products on hold at a nearby store.

  • TheFind

Find stores, coupons, reviews.

Local product search, based on your location, shows prices, images, maps, inventory availability.

Mobile shopping, advertising, and charitable donations rolled into one. Presents a list of nearby stores on your phone. Going to the store earns points, you choose a charity from their list, and the advertiser sends you a message saying they made a donation on your behalf.


Keep in mind, this is just a sampling of the tidal wave of applications out there and coming soon. While some of these are in their infancy, a number of these applications are mature with literally millions of users.

It feels a bit like where we were with the internet in the late 90s. We expect to see many new and exciting location-based services this year and next, limited only by people’s imagination and their appetite for these kinds of services. Many of these will fall by the wayside, but there will also be a few more “Amazons,” “eBays,” and “Googles” arising in this new category.


See also: Location-Based Services Poised for Rapid Growth - Part 1

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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