A location-based service (LBS) is primarily an information service that has off late crossed over rather successfully into the entertainment arena. Accessible with mobile devices on standard networks they utilize the geographical position of the mobile device. LBS services can be used in a variety of contexts — health, education, career, social life, etc. Such services identify the location of a person or object, such as discovering the nearest ATM machine or the whereabouts of a dear friend.
In the corporate sector, LBS services include parcel tracking and vehicle tracking services and coordinating employee movements on field. Mobile commerce adds an exciting new facet when discount coupons or advertising is directed at customers based on their current location. They include personalized weather services and even location-based games. Location Based Services truly epitomize the telecommunication convergence of our times. In a bid to create differentiation and increase profits, companies are offering highly personalized services and the most powerful ways to personalize such services is based on location.
LBS makes possible search and discovery of persons, places, and things within an identifiable space defined by distinct parameters that include social networks, individuals, cities, neighborhoods, landmarks, and actions that are relevant to the searcher’s past, current, and future location.
GPS: One of the most obvious technologies behind LBS is the Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS is based on the concept of triangulation, a basic geometric principle that allows finding one location if one knows its distance from other, already known locations.
GSM localization: The location of a mobile device is found in relation to its cell site or the nearest cellular tower. These technologies are network based positioning and typically rely on various means of triangulation of the signal from cell sites serving a mobile phone.
Near LBS (NLBS): Local range technologies such as Bluetooth, WLAN, infrared and/or RFID are used to match devices to nearby services, thus allowing a person to access information based on their surroundings; especially suitable for using inside closed premises, restricted/regional areas.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS): This system provides base map data such as man made structures (streets, buildings) and terrain (mountains, rivers) and is used to manage point-of-interest data such as location of gas stations, restaurants, nightclubs, etc. Information about the radio frequency characteristics of the mobile network allows the system to determine the serving cell site of the user.
Location Management Function: This function processes positioning and GIS data on behalf of LBS applications, acts as a gateway between positioning equipment and LBS infrastructure.
Location based information: For example, a mobile phone search for a restaurant would interact with other location technology components to determine the user’s location and provide a list of restaurants within a certain proximity to the mobile user.
Location based billing: Preferential billing is provided by this type of application. Users can establish personal zones such as a home zone or work zone and enjoy flat-rate calling while in the home area and special rates while in other defined zones.
Emergency services: Location based emergency services pinpoint your location and relays it to the authorities. Many telecom services provide a certain degree of accuracy in pinpointing the location of mobile users who dial Emergency Police or Fire hotlines.
Tracking: LBS applications such as fleet applications typically track vehicles for purposes of the owning company knowing the whereabouts of the vehicle and/or operator thus also enabling mobile commerce. Individual mobile users could be tracked and provided information that he/she has predetermined as a desire, such as notification of a sale on shoes at a store close to the user’s current proximity.
Social Networking & Gaming: Such applications work off of the concept of “checking in” to locations as you visit them, inviting friends, leaving tips glued to GPS coordinates and competing for digital rewards in the form of badges, or titles like “mayor” (for the user who checks in the most at a venue) or collect digital goodies, akin to virtual geocaching. Even Facebook has a new feature, called Places, that allows users to share their locations with friends – and allows their friends to be updated in real-time.
Location Based Services are a strategic asset that leverages information, enabling users to experience value-added services and the mobile network operator to offer differentiation and incremental profitability. The popularity of social networks has people embracing apps like Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and now Facebook Places that bring together gaming and social networking to a highly valuable information service.