The latest numbers from eMarketer estimate that by the end of 2008 there will be 63 million global location-based service users, growing to 486 million users in 2012. We all know that LBS has expanded from the usual GPS functions such as POI search to more advanced friend-finding applications that pull off the web-based success of social networks like Facebook. eMarketer believes the next holy grail of LBS will be utilizing positioning technologies to engage users at the point-of-sale. For example, displaying relevant ads based on a potential consumers location, then making the transaction more likely be conveniently allowing mobile payment.
I’m not sure if this will be the next big thing in LBS. Until mobile payment technologies have advanced enough that most financial institutions are involved, it won’t be mainstream success. And concerns about privacy that are all the rage right now in the LBS community will become even more intense when money’s involved.
If I were to look into the crystal ball, I think I would see the next seismic shift in the LBS space come from mainstream social networks, especially Facebook and MySpace. Sure, services like Loopt and WHERE are great; both continue expanding and finding new ways to meet the needs of mobile users. Problem is, they just don’t have the user base of the Facebook’s of the world. If Facebook found a way to integrate your cellphone’s GPS receiver into the functionality of its mobile site in a usable way, what would happen?
A recent survey by ABI Research found that 46% of social network users have visited their site of choice on a mobile phone. Of this 46%, 70% visited MySpace while 67% visited Facebook. Other social networks? No other even reached a 15% adoption rate.
The good news for Facebook and MySpace is that 45% of users log in via their mobile phones to post status updates, basically where they are and what they’re doing. Prime opportunity here for them to climb to the top of the LBS mountain. Perhaps this is why we’re beginning to see mobile applications integrating into web-based networks. It you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?
A potential merger and acquisition party in the near future? We think so. World financial markets permitting, of course!