Location-based apps

The theme for NPUC this year was The future of portable computing, so naturally there was a lot of talk about location-based applications. Ian Smith‘s talk on social mobile computing especially focused on using location. Personally I’m getting more and more skeptical about location-based apps. They’ve been right around the corner for a good decade now, and I’m starting to wonder if location-based apps are like video conferencing — something that sounds like it should be a hit but once they’re implemented nobody seems to care.

That said, I think if there’s ever going to be a successful location-aware application (outside of the ubiquitous museum-tourguide app) it’ll be one that uses location as an excuse to socialize. I’m not sure whether the final winners will look more like Dodgeball, GeoCaching, moblogs, or a cross between LiveJournal and the geospatial web (or all of these), but I’m pretty confident that when you scratch the surface the real point won’t be location, it’ll be human-to-human interaction that just happens to use location as the medium.

That also fits my general rule of thumb: The killer app is always communications. (That or sex, which is really a subset of communications.)

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