Location, Location, Location

Location-based services are – so they say – the next big thing. In essence, LBS capable devices can use GPS (or cell tower location if GPS isn’t available) to provide tailored information based on where you are. This could be the location of a cash machine, games or where your friends are.

In the last few weeks Google have introduced a couple of new services for the latest version of the iPhone operating system.  The first of these was search with location where a standard query could contain results relevant to where you are.

Google Latitude on iPhoneThe second news was the long awaited announcement of Google Latitude being available for iPhone. Latitude was announced earlier this year for several different platforms but iPhone was notable by its absence. It allows you to share your location with friends and see who’s near you.

The interesting thing about the iPhone version of Latitude compared to that available for other phones is that it is browser-based instead of a dedicated application.

It sounds to me like Google and Apple had a bit of a disagreement over this!

After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone

The blog post goes on to lament the lack of background processes on iPhone OS which results in your location only updating when you have Latitude open in Safari.

The decision to use the browser shows the power of the W3C Geolocation API and I suspect use of it will grow massively now that it has a large installed user-base.

Using it within web applications is easy too. This demo uses just a few lines of JavaScript to try to work out where you are. It’s not supported by all browsers, but the Google Gears extension adds support to desktop or laptop machines by using wifi hotspots and IP addresses to determine location when cell tower or GPS information isn’t available.

So now you all want to know when you can see it in action. I’ve still got a few details to finalise but I’m hoping to do some location tracking for my road trip across America. We leave on Friday so I’ll try to post more details before then.