Update: Geolocation and Mobiles

A few months ago I published a post on a product called Fire Eagle. As I then noted, Fire Eagle is an application that developers can integrate into their software suites, enabling users to identify and broadcast their geospatial location to others on the application’s network.

With the advent of the iPhone and other easy-to-use smart phones (typically read: not Windows Mobile devices), more and more people are wanting to find where they are using the built in mapping software. Moreover, advertisers are chomping at the bit to provide ads to individuals when they surf the web with their mobiles, personalizing the ads to customers’ interests and proximate geolocation. Unipier’s family of devices opens the door for cellular providers to begin this detailed level of geolocation, and it should be noted that Bell has begun to integrate Unipier devices into their network architecture.

Telecommunications corporations can, theoretically, target individuals if they can effectively leverage their various data objects spaced across databases through sophisticated data mining. The concern that these companies face, of course, is that their customers will be ‘creeped out’ by the association of geolocation and personal interest history, and could thus drive customers away from any telecommunications provider that tries to integrate contextual advertising and subscriber location information.

Over at webmonkey, a web developer blog, they are calling for the integration of geolocation information into mobile browsers ASAP. By integrating this information directly into the browser, it will be possible to avoid the need to create applications that wrap around browsers – instead of opening a separate application, it would be possible to transmit your location while surfing the web. Effectively, by integrating geolocation directly into the mobile browser, programs like Sniff (which can provide a detailed map of a friend’s location in real-time) will be banished. Of course, this would deprive telecommunication corporations the opportunity to haul in cash for relatively simple applications, which suggests (to me, at least) that for ‘privacy reasons’ we’re going to see telecoms try and resist the wholescale integration of geolocation into browsers; I get the feeling that the profit/data use ratio for a ‘sniff’ is far, far greater than that of sending a small packet of data on a data plan.