4 GEO-Location Examples – can it benefit your business?

Firstly, for those of you just getting a grip on the geo-location social Media explosion element, spare a thought for those who simply aren’t aware of some of the product out there and what opportunities exist once learnt, understood and adopted.

Let’s leave my mum out of this for now….

What is it?

The simple explanation is this – take one GPS enabled mobile device like an iPhone, select an application that functions with the in-built gps and the next thing you know you enter another world of possibilities. Much like a pda (Personal Digital Assistant – yes they still exist) Smart-phones account for the bulk of mobile telephone sales across the globe.

Most people opt for smart-phones as an extension of their office, email, social circles and general airport waiting lounge time killers – cue Angry Birds.angry birds

Adding applications (app store stuff) to your applications repertoire that requires the use of the inbuilt GPS and you begin to use functionality like mapping and other location-based assistance tooling like www.CarSales.com.au adopt.

Carsales.com.au (an example)

carsales.com.au

In this example a user to the website on a desktop enters a completely different experience to that of a smart-phone user. If the user on the mobile visits the www.carsales.com.au website on the mobile phone the first thing that instantly happens to the user is a re-direct to a mobile specific url www.carsales.mobi

Visitors to this site normally jump in to research their next car purchase, be it new, used or demonstrator. Once the basics are filled like vehicle type, brand, type of purchase, he or she then gets a pop up warning asking them to allow ‘Carsales.com.au’ to use their current location.

This little element improves the user experience and will only shortlist geographically ‘close’ vehicles. The idea is to remove vehicles listed in distant locations.

Carsales is one Australian based success story and an early adopter of technology so its no surprise that geo-location abilities are starting to shine through.

The inside word is that the organisation have a massive network and development team spending plenty of time redeveloping their internet persona.

The plans are ‘huge’ thanks to funding made available through a recent IPO (Initial Public Offering) Stock exchange listing

Whilst the Geo-location adoption is only minor it could be the start of some interesting user experience products.

My tip is to keep watching this space.

geocache.comGeoCaching – example 2

Ok this next example gets a little more interesting and the fun starts to shine through.

Geocaching is by all accounts a worldwide phenomena. Apologies to those addicted to the concept – I have only just started to have a play, so I can understand if you want to skip this bit.

Geocaching.comUsers of the Groundspeak.com application have the ability to use the in-built GPS on their phones, iPads and traditional handheld GPS type units to hunt for ‘treasure’ as my kids call it.

Essentially people from all walks of life go out and use online clues posted on the website to find little ‘caches’ which are cleverly hidden in everyday suburbia, open reserves and in one example for me a floating pontoon in the middle of a bay (you needed a boat to get to it!)

The hunt for the cache is part of the fun and it involves the family. Using the iPhone (as an example) users get to plot a path then use the GPS to find a little box, canister or other container which will contain the described cache.

Its incredibly fun and potentially addictive.

Once found you open the container to find lots of trinkets other Geocachers before you have previously left behind or swapped over.

Inside the box or canister will usually house a little notebook and pencil for Geo-cachers to leave notes and their screen names an an invite to replace a trinket with one of your own.

Users then update the find on the website and aid others with tracking notes and clues including photos taken by the phone handset in-situ. Difficulty levels can all be uploaded and described for others to read and share.

To me this is social networking with a difference and I must say once attempted can result in yet another use for your iPhone.

Under arrest??

I will share with you my first experience at Geocaching, which nearly ended up in questioning based on my obvious intentions to ‘Loiter’.

Geocache found in Hobart TasmaniaI had downloaded the app and had about an hour to kill in the Hobart CBD. The nearest Cache to me was 700 meters from my then current positioning. I hit navigate to the cache and I began to follow my phones radar and directional markings all of which changed as I stepped closer to the cache.

In order for me to set the scene a little further; the temperature was hot, Hobart was in the middle of a beautiful summers day, the city is busy with workers chasing their lunch orders, the shoppers are madly trying to fulfill endless Christmas shopping lists and kids are driving parents nuts as school holidays had reached fever pitch.

Enter myself, respectfully dressed (between meetings) and wandering around the back of a major shopping centre. The cache simply could not be found…I referred to the mobile application for clues and even viewed the pictures.

Needless to say I was walking around the same area for a good 10- 15 minutes and unbeknownst to me the CCTV system 3 meters above my head had watched and recorded my every move.

It did not take long for the suspicious activity to be passed onto the right authorities.

When I finally found the cache (and no I wont tell you where it is!!!) I looked incredibly excited only to have my enthusiasm curbed by an

‘Oi what are you doing’

I looked up to see two police officers wanting to know about my intentions.

They had received reports of a man loitering with an ‘intent’ at the back of the shopping centre. I was a little speechless as I must admit I have never crossed the illegal line. Once asked all I could respond wa with swift

“I’m geocaching

with police radios abuzz with a shoplifter (think Hollywood A-listers ‘borrowing’ merchandise – ahem Miss Lohan??) both of the police officers stood there whilst a newly baptised Geocache virgin tried to explain to them how the concept worked.

35 minutes later the coppers left and I can confidently report that Groundspeak has another two Geocachers among their members.

For those of you interested to know the ‘cache’ was returned to its humble place of residence and I walked away from the scenario with not even a caution.

Trackable’s and geo-location

Another excellent addition to the Geo-cache phenomena is the use of Trackables. These are caches with a slight difference. Essentially the hard-core among the geo-cache community spend a few dollars to buy a metal tag that has a unique serial number. This number together with a cache are married together and details left on the main website.

geocache.com

Geocaching.com

This is where it gets creative. The cache is now registered and deposited somewhere in the world. geocachers then log into the website / application navigate to the closest cache with a trackable icon and if lucky enough can find it. The idea is to then go home with the trackable and enter the details of the listed serial number. Users can then track where the cache has travelled – using Google Maps.

geocaching.comThe current owner of the trackable is then responsible for the ‘re-location’ of the newly acquired cache. I have in my current possession a trackable that has currently travelled from NSW to Queensland to South Australia and eventually ended up in Tasmania – less than a 5 minute walk from my house.

The idea is to see which of the zillions of trackables have travelled the most. My intent is to ‘replace’ the this trackable on my trip to Western Australia. I will also plot and update the website – then set up a new geo-cache for others to find – all this some 3500 kilometers from where the cache was last found.

Go on hopefully by the time you get to this line you are just busting your guts to try it out – geocaching.com/

So what are your experiences with Geo-Location and its association with the modern technology platforms like iPhones and iPads? I would be keen to know if you are using any tooling that incorporates geo-location technology.

foursquare.comFoursquare – checking in for others to see.

Foursquare for me, means an ability to ‘check in’ and let others within my network know my whereabouts electronically via a mobile app on my iPhone.

Those that follow me and or know me can use their application either on their phones or on the web. A great example is my up and coming trip to Perth Western Australia (my mate Danny is getting hitched…again) I can check in at the Perth Domestic Airport, The hotel, the wedding reception, the photo session ect.

The summary descriptor from the company’s website is simply put;

…a location-based social networking site, mobile device application that rewards users for their comments and usage.

The more a user interacts with the application the more this is acknowledged and in some instances rewards such as ‘badges’ are dished out.

Only online since 2009, the concept has drawn plenty of users and has an interesting rise through the social media maze.

My summary is simply a way for people to both interact with their surroundings whilst also updating friends and socialising.

Ok…so Foursquare has new stuff….What it means to you

The recommendation engine has extra Jedi powers – the summary of this concept is simple, of all the zillions of recommendations around the globe users will be able to delve into recommendations from others easily when visiting an area.

4SQ has improved the recommendations and are better recycled based on the users preferences. For example I’m a carnivore and love my steak – within reason the app will show my preference for meat as opposed to an omnivore based list (vegetarian restaurants) – the engine will also consider your past history within the application, places your friends go and a heap of other variables – all designed to give an awesome user experience – or is it?

foursquare.com Additionally there are new merchant facilities that allow more interaction between consumers and businesses. These include check-in specials, Group specials including Swarm such as specials after 5pm, New user specials, and a host of other goodies due out soon.

I’ll be the first to admit the concept is a little slow off the mark here in Australia, but my recent trip to Bangkok, India and South East Asia revealed a bucket load more users and associated recommendations.

For me the idea integrating user specials is great – take one of WebTragics current clients – Maro Fashions in Salamanca. They could give a ‘check-in’ specials with alternate daily and as the shop is smack bang in the middle of Hobart’s famous tourist hub incoming visitors more conversant with the technology could indeed take advantage of the technology.

Now reading through some of the company’s press releases / Mashable postings, you will find some interesting case studies of businesses that have adopted the technology.

As a sceptic of some stuff on the web and the major downside I find is that Foursquare is yet another Social Media application that needs my attention – I’m lucky as I choose to spend my day working on the web and have plenty of SM time allocated.

I’m also a little disappointed that if you do register and want to engage the uptake is Australia is pretty well…limited.

Some users engage with it constantly, almost to the point of ridiculous, whilst rarely login.

However if your take Maro as an example the three girls are constantly under the pump and rarely see the light outside.

Jess is true camper and is making some great changes to her management of the store. She is busy assisting WebTragics to finalise the strategy and managing the creative process and the photography part.

Her aims are to eventually hand the reigns over to the girls in-store whilst she begins to concentrate more on here ‘Net’ presence. Social Media commentary / blogging being the priorities.

What do you think? is Foursquare for you? If I was to surmise the concept with a badging theme then I think its like Scouts – you only get out of it what you put in.

Final example – Find my iPhone

iphone

This example is by far one of the most recognisable Geo-location examples known to man yet quite possibly the least used….except for me.

Let me set the scene. I wanted to buy a new car (actually a Landcruiser ute for the property) and took to the sales yards in Southern Tasmania. With kids in tow and the sales people looking super slick, I managed to narrow my choice down to one example in under two hours.

I loaded the kids up into the new ute, cranked up the engine – which sounded like angry bull on steroids, and began shifting through the gears as I drove out of the yard for its test drive.

Now as I didn’t have any way of holding the phone or storing it easily, I placed the phone on the dashboard…visible for all to see and remember to take back after the test drive.

Now the test drive went ok….the ute was a monster of a truck and could be heard for at least 5 blocks…putting fear in old women and sending out subliminal messages to bored police officers in the local vicinity.

We drove around, the kids had a ball – even though they could not see over the dashboard, and we collectively decided to test the suspension which made the truck sit sky high.

apple.com/mobileme/features/find-my-iphone.htmlFor those of you not familiar with customised 4wd utes, the experience is interesting….unfortunately the vehicles suspension was tuned in such a way that dental tweaking would need to be carried out at the same time as the scheduled oil and filter change.

So hopefully with this picture firmly entrenched in your mind the bumps, narrow roads and massive inclines all took its toll on my iPhone which by now had managed to move forwards off the dash and fall behind the gauges console.

There it sat until that afternoon. Well after we had decided to return the vehicle and call it quits to the negotiations.

BTW Kids are a blessing when shopping for cars – my tip is; if your negotiations are not going anywhere dose your kids up with a couple of sugar infested lollies and wait for them to start running amok in the sales persons office. You put your most distressed look on and pretty soon you have an exit strategy in play.

anyways – by 2pm I had realised that the phone was missing and could not recall seeing it within the last hour so I looked up the application from Appple called Find My iPhone….low and behold there was my (pre-registered) iPhone, on a map with a bright blue flashing symbol some 7 kilometers from my place. The used car lot.

I drove straight down only to find the yard all locked up – several calls were made to the after hours numbers. My mistake was telling the messaging services of so-called after hours sales number listed on the doors that I had left my phone behind in a car….as expected no one called back.

I took photos of the car and the phone on the dashboard and sent a message via the iPad stating that phone was locked and that it would be collected asap with an option for the finder to ring an alternative number.

It sat there all weekend until first thing the following Monday when it was collected.

No I didn’t buy the car :)

So if this example is not one that motivates you to investigate the application further or indeed consider hooking it up as part of your renewed interest in Apple products I’m confident nothing will.

Now back to you – how could your business apply the technology in its offering? Could you hide a cache near your store (you can’t participate as a business spruiking product but you could get creative) could you work with platforms like Foursquare.com?> could the next mobile device app you develop and skyrockets up the App store charts include some sort of GPS guided tooling?

The possibilities could potentially be endless.

Thanks for reading – I had fun remembering some of these examples :)

About jose

José started his (On-line) entrepreneurial journey back in 1995 and since then has amassed plenty of experience in business management, web technologies, e-commerce, web strategy, usability, mobile web application development, online wagering industry, operational management, strategic planning, building great teams, motivation, mentoring and overall big picture thinking. José loves to plan and more so continuously focuses on the rewards associated with successful implementations. View all posts by jose →

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