Whenever people ask what I'm excited about in technology these days, I sheepishly answer "mobile location". Somehow it feels like it isn't edgy enough or it doesn't have the multiple word power of something like "mobile social photo sharing," but it sure feels like the future to me.
Next week, I won't be alone as the Where 2.0 conference - in its 7th year - brings the best and brightest in location technologies to San Francisco. I got a chance to speak with Brady Forrest, co-chair for the conference, about what we could expect this year.
When Where 2.0 launched in 2005, explained Forrest, the location industry was all about mapping and geo data suddenly becoming successful.A short time after the event, Google launched Google Maps and the big question in location technologies became how to get a user's location.
"Now, getting a user's location is just plumbing," said Forrest. "The next wave is about context and what's happening around the user."
According to Forrest, the hot topics at this year's Where 2.0 are going to be crowdsourcing, context and open places, with proximity edging its way in as the trend to keep an eye on in 2011. If you do a quick run-through of the panels at this year's three-day-long location-centric event, indeed these words pop up all over the place.
First, it was about maps and accessing data. Next, it was offering information around that data. Now, it's offering information around that data but also around ideas like "known strangers" - such as the person your ride the bus with, or eat at the same restaurant as, three times a week. Through proximity, apps will begin to offer a new layer of context, and thereby a new layer of interpersonal interaction.
"The wave right now is context - 'How do I tell people more about themselves?'" explained Forrester. But what's next? "Proximity is the next thing," he said, citing companies like Color, NeuAer and Foursquare.
Color approaches context through gathering location data and quickly pairing nearby users. NeuAer deals with proximity according to wifi or bluetooth signals and allows users to create predetermined responses - such as dropping a pin on a Google Map when they turn off their bluetooth enabled car. Foursquare, on the other hand, still has the check-in to work with and can deal with proximity by way of willing users intentionally submitting their location as they go about their day.
If you're attending Where 2.0 next week, this is where I plan on being - there's a good smattering of events in there for you location fiends and I hope to find some good stories to bring back to you. In the meantime, let us know - what gets you excited in the mobile location space?