Market for Location-Based Services is Heating Up for Startups

Sure, it may be obvious to point out that location-based services (LBS) are growing in popularity and may be a great gravy train for young entrepreneurs to hop on, but the recent evolution of the platform has broadened the opportunities for startups. With the opening of Google Latitude’s API earlier this week and other developments in the mobile space in recent months, the number of niches for startups to fill is quickly expanding.

This week, much of the Google I/O talk centered around Google’s new open source video codec WebM and their fancy new Google TV product, but some interesting location news came from the event as well. Google’s location tracking service Latitude now features a robust API on which startups can build products that leverage its technology. While Latitude’s “always on” technology can at times be a bit of a battery drain, the opportunities for innovation on this new API are numerous.

“By making [location] programatically accessible in the cloud, Google could enable an entirely new class of applications.”
– Josh Kopelman

Josh Kopelman

, managing director at

First Round Capital

and author of the blog

Red Eye VC

, says that with Google Latitude, mobile devices are becoming

more and more like personal location beacons

.

“How often does someone go more than 200 feet from their cell phone? In my experience, not often,” wrote Kopelman this week. “By making [location] programatically accessible in the cloud, Google could enable an entirely new class of applications.”

Other services are easing the process of entering the LBS game for startups as well, including SimpleGeo and Google’s Places API. With the Places API, a service that returns the most popular establishments in a users given location, LBSs won’t have to build their own databases for points-of-interest the way Foursquare and Gowalla have done. Popular check-in service MyTown announced Wednesday that it is the first web service partner that will use the Places API.

“We believe that the Places Web Service integration into MyTown will provide our users with a richer, faster, and more relevant experience. Search results will be more accurate as they’ll be pulled from Google Maps, and the load times will see a boost in speed as well,” the company said in a blog post Wednesday.

SimpleGeo, a cloud-based back-end location infrastructure, is another tool startups can use either independently or in concert with other APIs to create some interesting mashups. SimpleGeo makes it easy to launch an application that takes advantage of LBS technology and cutting edge tools like augmented reality. Using SimpleGeo technology and Google Places API, a startup could easily create a nice Yelp-like augmented reality view of the most popular locations nearby.

“The Google Latitude API, being the presence engine that it is, is a great source of location data to feed into SimpleGeo,” wrote SimpleGeo CEO Matt Galligan earlier this week. “If you have an application that wishes to store Google Latitude data, combine it with other data, and leverage that data to create a new experience, SimpleGeo is a great way to glue that all together.”

As more tools like SimpleGeo make the incorporation of sophisticated technologies and infrastructures faster and more cost-effective for startups, the opportunities to create truly innovative location-based services will continue to grow.

Photo by Flickr user kozumel.

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