Home What Background Location Brings to the iPhone

What Background Location Brings to the iPhone

In the midst of the SXSW festival last month, we reviewed a mobile social network called LoKast. Our one lingering question about the app’s utility, at the time, was were we really going to run around town staring at our phone to see if someone else nearby was running the same app?

The answer was “no” then and is “no” now, but the difference now is that the iPhone OS 4.0 that was announced yesterday allows for background location multitasking. This opens up a whole new realm of experiences for the iPhone.

First, LoKast. LoKast is a self-described “disposable” social network. That is, as you move about and come near other people running LoKast, you can quickly interact with them. Then, when you move ot of range, you may never see them again. It is social networking based on location, without a persistent friends listing.

So now, with background location monitoring, an app like LoKast is actually feasible. I can turn it on, leave it running and wander around town and perhaps have it notify me when I’m within range of someone.

As Kim-Mai Cutler notes, background location also brings up some “slightly creepy” privacy concerns relating not only to applications running in the background, but also location based advertising. But what if you think about location based advertising like you think of iTunes’ “Genius” function or all the other recommendation engine software you use?

It may be tough to realize that you are not quite the unique snowflake you thought you were and that, indeed, everyday around three you end up at the same coffeeshop, but wouldn’t it be nice for your iPhone to realize this and get you 20% off? Without you even having to lift a finger? Well, fine, maybe you have to lift an iPhone.

The list of ideas for background location are endless. Of course, we’ll have to see how quickly a battery gets drained with persistent GPS monitoring. Having the ability to let our phones deliver us information, as we move about the world, based on our location has some amazing potential.

Think of EveryBlock, the hyperlocal news aggregator that Marshall Kirkpatrick went ga-ga over when it arrived in Portland. The block-level delivery of news wouldn’t even need to wait for you to check it any more – it could simply deliver relevant information as you move about your day. Real-time rideshare services like Avego and Flinc suddenly become that much more feasible, in fast-paced, real-life situations.

We could go on, but we have another couple of months before the next version of the iPhone OS comes out and we’re already too excited as it is. What crazy, creepy or otherwise cool potential do you see with the new background location capabilities?

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