Location, Location, Location

Erica Kastner · March 22, 2008

One of the exciting technologies that’s getting a lot of attention is location-aware devices.  The ability to post location data to the Internet is creating some very interesting applications. A few years ago, a company came out with a device that can be embedded in a child’s clothing or backpack.  While this was a prime example of how real-time location information could lead to invasion of privacy, there have been some benign uses of the technology. One such use is GPS-enabled cameras.  Photographers can easily keep track of exactly where each picture is taken.  Flickr added location data to photos allowing you to browse for photos from a world map.  Lately, a lot of buzz has surrounded Yahoo!’s Fire Eagle.  It’s basically a location updating service and it’s opening up some great possibilities, one of which is wikinear written by Simon Willison.  You can use your location to fetch Wikipedia articles that pretain to landmarks and events that surround you.  A blessing for history geeks! Another commonly foreseen application is being able to hook up with (or avoid) friends that are nearby.  Some have also suggested using individuals’ location data to measure traffic on highways and in shopping malls.  I can only imagine the sort of alternative reality games that will crop up now that developers can track players’ locations. Of course, the major impetus for all of this is the iPhone.  Not that the iPhone’s locator technology is new, but it’s finally available in an easily usable (and easy to develop for), tight package.

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