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May 31, 2013



Can't help myself but maps, as parent-category of locations, are one of the most useful helpers my mobile offers me. Its lesser about LBS, indeed. Its more about information like how to reach point B fastest, what food-delivers with specific options are in still open, in reach to deliver within a certain timespan and where the heck is that street, house, housenumber, shop.

I agree that useful, high profitable LBS arn't that useful, plain map informations are very very useful. I think its the later which still lets people believe there is huge amounts of money and grow in the first.


> useful, high profitable LBS arn't that useful

arn't that many I meaned. The use-cases, the things I really need and use maps (and to a degree locations) for are just very limited. They are indeed the same they where 20 years ago when using books of papers and huge paper-maps. Its usually a very concrete thing I look up. Its not really all kind of services I am using there. That means the room, the services needed and used is just very limited. Combining them to open new business opportunities isn't it. Its not like I use the out of need. I already know what I like when I use them.

Kevin P

Maybe I'm stupid, but why aren't you counting maps and directions as successful location-based services? They're one of the main functions of modern smartphones. And you even give figures that 30% of map requests are for different locations to the user, which means that 70% - more than two thirds - *are* for the user's location.


@Kevin P
Let's for the sake of argument assume that 30% of users of maps are - gosh - NAVIGATING to somewhere. Wouldn't that already make the 30% of searches to Tomi's statistics? People very rarely navigate to place they are at. ;)
So yeah, I would love to know what kind of data that remaining 70% of people were searching? Sounds like potential for the business that is nit going to take off. Ever.


I think that you guys and Tomi are just talking about different things. Tomi says that LBS is poor revinue generator - and HE'S RIGHT. You say that LBS are vital - and YOU ARE RIGHT, TOO.

LBS to mobile is what mouse is to PC. Few companies are making truckloads of money on mices (Logitech is mainly known as keyboards and mice provider - he sells them by billions but profit is measured by millions.. in a lucky year), but without mouse (or with poor mouse) contemporary PC is unusable. The same with LBS: it may be be huge revenue generator, but platform with bad LBS services suffers badly: most users have one or two usecases which are vital for them. They may not bring billions immediately, but if LBS work badly they'll switch to something else. Think Apple Maps fiasco.

Andreas Rönnqvist

Funny thing is that Tomi (and I remember you telling us this at the LBS focused X Media Lab in Malmö a few years back) is right - LBS will never make money for the mobile industry on a scale that is interesting. What it WILL do, however, is provide help for society at large. Like the above quoted 911/SOS calls that auto-ping you, to parents invading the privacy of their kids to keep tabs on them or more open-ended LBS work like Future Position X does by geotagging (via mobiles) a combination of search queries for certain symptoms, together with nurses geotagging when a patient has a certain disease to map and prevent spreading of diseases (this research is mainly done in mainland China today).

LBS is an integral part of the mobile experience, and services such as Google Now uses that to their advantage to provide a deeper integration. It is the oil that keeps things running but will not, as Tomi always says and have said, provide any form of great revenue. When its gone, we miss it like hell, but when its there - it just works.


As pointed out by Andreas, the fact is Location Based Services are... services, so it has to provide a service, to be useful.

We cannot deny that a car which airbags are deployed and which calls 911 by itself giving exact location while the driver is not able to do so is useful.

Finding a lost/stolen smartphone or car, or whatever thanks to location-tracking is useful.

Finding the nearest hospital in a city one doesn't know is useful (and any GPS can do that).

A new media mustn't be intrusive to be efficient; commercials on the radio during the rush hour are just annoying and counter-productive... too many commercial signs on roads are annoying, and can mask traffic signs, which is even more annoying.

LBS can be good only if they don't intrude our life.


Oh I dunno, Waze - a location based traffic application that follows you around has been turning out $800M buyout offers from Apple an Facebook a few months back. That doesn't sound too shabby in terms of value creation.


I use LBS almost exclusively with my car (e.g. 'direct me to my customer' or 'direct me to the next filling station'). SOS functionality is also built-in.

I guess that most people use LBS like me, to find their way to X.

But apart from that, I rarely use it. Only if I need to buy something immediately when I am underway, I ask my smartphone for the way, e.g. a few weeks ago when I realized I forgot my deodorant at home while I was at a customer's site for a few days. Of course then LBS is heaven sent :-)

But usually I inform myself about another location while being at home, e.g. 'if we drive to city X to do Y, what else could we do there?', or 'when I am in city X anyways, what can I do there?'.

Then there are a lot of things I wouldn't count being LBS, e.g. when I want to buy something and check for stores near me which have it on stock. It is only roughly LBS, because if the nearest store is 50km away, I just drive there. It's basically just like Googling.

If LBS just means 'show me something in my immediate proximity where I can go to immediately' then I agree with Tomi. In a broader sense, I think it's useful.



Obviously, location is not that important to Nokia anymore...

I think the LBS you and Tomi describe are different.

You deal with an active use of LBS' : you need something, you ask LBS' to find it.

Tomi criticises LBS' with a passive use : LBS' send you information, interact with you or whatever regardless your needs or if you asked for anything.

User should control the information (s)he gets, and not the opposite.


I don't really get this article. In the mid 90's, some carriers had the idea to sell real-time location data to advertizers who wanted to spam certain areas. This turned out to be stupid, so it failed. Moreover, these days, it is so obviously stupid nobody who commented even thought of this as the meaning of "location based services".

On the other hand, it simply isn't true that "GPS on iPhones today in America is no different from GPS on early KDDI phones in Japan in 2002." There is a huge difference, which is that, in the context of iPhone apps, and modern mapping solutions, it's really really important. (As opposed to SMS spam.)

Observe that answering the question "Where am I?" (mapping/navigation/routing) and being able to say "I'm here." (every single popular social network) are essentially core functions without which no platform has any hope to succeed. (And hence the non-Google players frantically and slightly comically trying to catch up---otherwise Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc. end up depending 100% on the goodwill of Google.)

So if there is anything to take away, the issue is that location related things are basically cost centers, since they are labor and capital intensive, and end users won't pay for them directly. (Presumably the interest in Waze is that users are providing a lot of free driving around.)


It maybe the case that Location has a longer maturation cycle. As others have mentioned, there are a bunch of apps that use location, but many of them are still in the start-up stage and trying to acquire users, but a few are scaling and growing (e.g. Uber). Yelp is arguably also leveraging on location too. Sure the growth rate is slower, but as mentioned, it maybe that finding the right mix for product market fit is taking a little longer.


As a conclusion of all the above comments, Tomi never ceases to amaze with the amount of rubbish he produces :-)


As Tomi writes, why advertise only to those within proximity of your business, when you can blast that same message globally (SMS, TV-ads, etc). It only takes a few billions per second, but you surely get sold those roses from the cancelled wedding.

Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people think about worries that they just don't know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

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Mike Rooney

This is my first time visit here. From the tons of comments on your articles, You give readers a lot to think about and I appreciate that kind of writing.

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