The 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show is underway. The Ford Evos concept car is having its debut and overtakes the company’s Sync offering, with a high level of social networking and connectivity features. A departure from the Sync approach of vehicles as smartphones on wheels, this plug-in hybrid is designed to always be connected to the cloud. Some of the distractibility found in the Sync has been diminished. The driver’s “personal cloud” makes automatic adjustments to music, temperature, traffic checks, and navigation that reflect learned personal choices of the driver and her schedule. Hooking a car up to the cloud comes with significant risks. Moving from stand-alone isolated in-vehicle systems to the connected network world carries the threat of being hacked and exposed to viruses. iSec researchers demonstrated unlocking and starting a car by sending text messages to its alarm system. The problem, however, is much broader than having a car stolen.
White Flag. The industry has surrendered mobile check-in to Foursquare. It isn’t often one gets to report on a Facebook failure, but after one year of disappointing traction, the company has abandoned Places. A location-based social network offering, Facebook Places allowed users to share location at venues, and see who among their contacts were checked in nearby. When Places launched a year ago, it wasn’t clear if start-ups like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Whrrl could compete with Facebook. Yet the day following the Facebook Places launch, Foursquare sign-ups swelled with a record number of new users. Dennis Crowley of Foursquare asserts that they have captured 10 million users by “being about what people are currently doing,” while Facebook records what people have done in the past. Facebook users won’t be able to check in, but can add location to a tag.
No More Gowalla Badges. Unable to compete with Foursquare on check-ins alone, Gowalla is shedding some of its check-in bells and whistles and adding social travel guides for travelers. These location-based communities emphasize image sharing and storytelling and are now available in 60 cities worldwide. Gowalla is also featuring content from National Geographic and other travel-oriented sites.
Looking for Metrics. Local, location-based search is a key driver for mobile advertising. Google has 200 million active mobile map users in more than 100 countries. Navigation is search’s bosom buddy. “In general, I think you can look at navigation as a type of conversion, for example, after searching for directions,” says Suroijit Chatterjee of Goggle, as reported by The Where Business. “Better attribution models are needed, however, in order for revenue generation to develop further.”
Fourth Amendment and Location: Law and Order Edition. In November, the Supreme Court will hear the most important fourth amendment case in years, and it is all about location. The question is whether the police need a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s vehicle and track movements. The court case arose from an investigation of a Washington man who was suspected of being part of a cocaine selling operation. The police had obtained a search warrant, but installed the tracking device one day late.
Literary Location Judges. Recent rulings from judges across the country that have included tracking of cell phone locations have sided with protection of privacy. It is common for judges to invoke George Orwell’s 1984 and its depiction of a futuristic police state that keeps citizens under constant surveillance. In November, the Supreme Court Judges will address the specific question of whether the placement of a tracking device on a vehicle qualifies as a search, and if the surveillance by location technology is different from conventional methods such as tailing suspects and stake-outs, which do not require a warrant.
Navv Revamps. Navv has recreated itself in the navigation industry by adding social networking into its personal navigation offering. Users can share their locations, itineraries, or current routes to their Facebook wall, directly from the app. Check-ins via Foursquare are automated. In March, the Navv navigation app was removed from the Apple App Store in a now-resolved argument with Apple over rights to the navigation app’s name.
Mark your Calendar. Don’t miss LocNav 2011, October 18-19 in San Jose. The Where Business has co-located its annual Location Business Summit and Navigation conferences to create an even bigger show. I’ll be moderating the panel, “Connecting People Places and Things: Advertising and Social Networking in the Location Ecosystem.” My guests include executives form Expedia, Nokia, Yahoo, and A&G. See you there.
The October issue of Wireless Pulse will be published one week later than usual to allow reporting on the LocNav show.