Geolocation refers to the process of determining the location of a computer, a piece of networking equipment or a device. It usually uses Global Position Satellites (GPS) in order to determine the geographical location of the computer or device. GPS is built into most smartphones, and there are many apps taking advantage of geolocation to provide location specific information and services to their customers. While GPS is the most common method of using geolocation, there are other methods as well, such as using IP (Internet Protocol) Addresses, MAC (media access control) address and RF (Radio Frequency) signals.
One of the most common uses for geolocation is in the area of social networking and location sharing. Apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla allow users to share location specific information and to make suggestions on nearby attractions, restaurants and places of interest. Social networking apps are starting to become very common, and more apps are using geolocation to provide up-to-the-minute, location-specific information to their users. Most of these geolocation-specific social apps, such as Brightkite and Loopt, also allow you to link to your Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. With geolocation becoming so popular, finding your friends has become easier than ever. Of course, this is based on whether your friends want to be found or not, as security limitations require the user to give express permission to share their location.
Another use of geolocation is through IP tracking. Many websites use the geolocation API (Application Programmers Interface) to track user’s general location and display location specific data based on that information. While the IP address does not give as specific a location as GPS, used in conjunction with other technologies, it is a fairly reliable method of providing location specific information. Geolocation can also be used for analytical purposes, to get a good geographical representation of the places from where users are logging into websites or other services. With the W3C (World Wide Consortium) Geolocation API Specifications, the scope and usage of geolocation information and security and privacy measures involved are clearly spelled out. When accessing geolocation specific information, it is the responsibility of the host (from which the API is being run) to get permission to access this information from the end user. This is to ensure users retain their privacy and security by allowing them to decide what information they are willing to release to the site.
While today Geolocation is still in its very early stages of adoption in technologies, the potential for geolocation is quite hard to overlook. By using geolocation, businesses will be able to stay in touch with their clients and customers in ways unimagined just a few years ago. By knowing where their customer is, businesses can provide them with services specific to their needs based on their location (such as if they are at home, work or possibly at a restaurant). As our smartphones become more and more embedded in society, GPS tracking will become the norm and tracking employees, clients and potential customers will become more common in the years to come.
Wearable internet devices will probably be stepping up their game to provide more location intrinsic services and object location tagging, using a combination of build in GPS, RF and other technologies. These new uses of geolocation may help us find our keys, wallets or any other ‘tagged’ object and then display its location on a map with exact longitude and latitude. The full potential for geolocation technology is not known, but expect to see the market flooded, possibly by the end of this year, with a plethora of apps and devices built around geolocation.