What are Location-Based Services?

As of today, there are over 500,000 apps in the App Store for iPhones.

From the crazy and fun games to streaming music apps to social networking apps, I find myself having trouble deciding what I want to download. The problem is, there are just too many apps to choose from!

Which ones are good, which ones are bad, and how in the world am I supposed to know what to look for?

Now many of these apps are using “location-based services” (also known as LBS) to make your app experience better. But while LBS becomes more and more common, to many people, it is still a relatively unknown feature.

In order to help answer find out more about location-based services, I looked to Feng Guo, a product manager here at Telenav, to help me figure out what LBS really means and why it’s something to be excited about.

Location-Based Services
In simple terms, LBS is technology used in smartphones that uses information based on the phone’s geographic position. For example, LBS  apps on my phone will let me share where I am, find what’s near me like restaurants or stores, and of course – as in the case of Scout – use my position to help me navigate to any destination .

Or imagine this – Let’s say I am at a sushi restaurant with Kenji over the weekend. On my phone, I can pull up the Facebook app and go to the “Places” feature. Using location-based services, Facebook will obtain my specific location based on the phone’s GPS and will learn where I am – in this case, near Momiji Sushi in Seattle. From there, I can then select the restaurant from within the app and share with my friends on Facebook that I’m actually there. I can also add a comment about how delicious their dessert rolls are and even tag Kenji in it, so our friends can see that both of us were there to experience such amazing sushi. (For the record, Momiji did not pay me for this blog post – their food is just that good).

But this is just touching the surface of what LBS is and what it can do. And since Feng has worked on our newest Scout app from its earliest development stages (as well as many other Telenav apps), I figured he’d be the perfect person to sit down with to talk about what LBS is.

Who is Feng Guo?
Feng has been with Telenav for almost 4 years, and during that time, has played a big role in the development of Scout, Telenav GPS Navigator on Android, as well as many of our white-label products.

In the early stages of product development, Feng worked with the Scout team to design the look and feel of the app.  Later, he worked with the project team to launch the app and was part of our team at CES.

When he’s not at work, Feng likes to travel and take road trips. You may also find him out hiking, playing tennis or reading a good book. And when he’s hungry, he’s typically scouting for Pho, sushi or good tapas.

Location-Based Services Q&A with Feng

Q. When people talk about location-based services, what do they mean by it & why are people using them?

Feng: I have a very broad definition for location-based services. I define them as services that benefit users based on their whereabouts. For example, let’s use your example about being at a sushi restaurant in Seattle with Kenji (mentioned above). In the mobile phone world, LBS helps an app on your phone determine where you are, where you want to go and even give you driving directions. If you’re planning a trip, the use of LBS can provide the best times to go based on traffic patterns. And once you’re there, it’ll also let you discover where to go next, based on hot spots, entertainment or events nearby.

What makes LBS even better is that it will even let you share all this info with anybody you know – via e-mail, text or social networks. All in all, location-based services makes planning a night much easier and also makes sharing those experiences with friends and family much easier.

Lastly, LBS technologies make it super useful to discover things near you like restaurants, cafes, or events that you’ve never been to before.

Q. How does using location-based services benefit people?  

Feng: This will be really relevant to a mobile user.

Imagine I'm lost or in a new area. In this scenario, location-based services on my phone can provide me with directions to any destination rather quickly. Whether you just moved to a new city or are on vacation, having the ability to know where you are and discover different things around you can be great peace-of-mind.

Lastly, knowing where I am and what my interests are, location-based services can proactively offer suggestions on things I might want to try near me.

Q. What are some of the coolest things you’ve seen done with location-based services?

Feng: There are plenty of apps that give you rewards just for being at the right place at the right time. One app that is catered for the shop-o-holics that I love is called “Shopkick.” It’s an app that makes the shopping experience much better and gives you rewards just by visiting the store. When inside a store like Target, Best Buy or Macy’s, all you have to do is open up the app. It’ll use LBS to find out where you are and reward you for being inside the store.  The more rewards you get for being at stores you love gives you better chances to earn gift cards, movie tickets and other bigger prizes!

Q. Other than Telenav apps like Scout and GPS Navigator, what are a couple of your favorite LBS apps that you use?

Feng: FourSquare: This app allows people to share their location via GPS, which is usually done on a mobile phone (or tablet). FourSquare and Facebook now call it a “check-in.”

Using Foursquare, people can also discover nearby friends, share/get tips and rewards for the venue, and earn bragging rights for being the “mayor” of specific locations.  I like it because it is fun, helpful, and social with sufficient controls over what I share.

TurfWars: I just started to play this game. It is like a monopoly crime game with real world territory. I am now working to claim turf around my home, and expand. First, you have to compete with your neighbors to grab more lands. One of these days, I hope to own property along my daily commute and start collecting fees. :)

Q. What is the future of location-based services?

Feng: I expect location-based services to be smarter and more personalized in the future. An app using location-based services will be able to provide highly relevant recommendations and services to people. I also expect LBS to be more popular – almost universal. More and more services delivered via our mobile phones will have location-based elements.

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Did this help you? Have more questions? I’d love to see any questions or comments you guys have for Feng and the rest of us at here on the Scout team. Like always, your thoughts are always appreciated in the comments section below. Or you can always ask us on Facebook or Twitter.

While Telenav grows with our newest app, Scout, we definitely want you – the app using, adventure-seeking consumer – to know what is really going on behind the scenes. And LBS technology is definitely a big part of it so hopefully this post helped to answer a few questions about it.

And if you haven't tried discovering a new things to do in your own city, we suggest downloading Scout and trying it out.

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