Location based services (LBS) are hot. However, it is still in its early days, since it is used by just 4% of the online population. In addition, there is still a lot of room for innovation in order to provide more value than simply enticing people to check in.
Here we take a look at Top 10 cool and innovative location based services provided by either big-name companies or small startups. If you are familiar with other cool location based services, please leave a comment.
Based on pioneering idea of “turning life into a game”, foursquare encourages users share their location with friends, and awards points and virtual badges to them for check in certain venues. It was launched at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas in March 2009, with about 5,000 user after the event. As of February 2011, over 6.5 millions users worldwide are using Foursquare. Some merchants and brands have already used the Foursquare platform to offer discounts, deals and rewards to users checking in certain venues. In March 2011, foursquare upgrades its mobile apps to 3.0 by adding a Explore tab to let people explore nearby places and give them suggestions about where to go.
Similar to Foursquare, Gowalla allows users to earn virtual passport stamps as they discover new places, and share places, highlights or photos with friends. Those passport stamps have been used by big-name companies, such as Disney, as marketing tools to encourage users check in certain places by offering real-life deals to them. One of the unique features of Gowalla is the trip feature to link up to 20 related spots, which can be used by others to guide them through those spots. Another cool thing about Gowalla is that user may receive various items when check in places, and drop or swap those items at spots. Special items may be created for important events (e.g., Olympic Game) and linked to real-world prizes or deals. Gowalla won the Mobile category in the 2010 South By Southwest Interactive awards. As of March 2011, gowalla has about 1 million users. Compared to Foursquare, fewer people are using Gowalla’s service and fewer companies are offering discounts and deals through this system.
The location and check in landscape has been dramatically changed since Facebook officially launched its Facebook Place location-based service on August 18, 2010. It allows users to share their locations with friends in real-time, to connect with friends at the same place at the same time, to check in certain places to get individual discount, and to earn rewards for repeat visits. Considering Facebook’s enormous user base (over 500 million active users), it would be very interesting to see if the world’s most successfully social network can make it the most powerful location based service.
Played by over 3.3 million people, MyTown is one of the most popular location-based social game. By using the real world as a virtual playground (kind of like Monopoly for the real world), MyTown let users to virtually buy and own their favorite real-life places, to unlock rewards by checking in certain locations, to collect rent when other people check in to their shops, and to compete with friends with points and on a leaderboard. MyTown creates a virtual economy, where property prices fluctuate based on demand and checkins (e.g., more visitors raise the value and rent of the shops). Booyah raised $4.5 Million First Round Funding from the Kleiner Perkins.
Available on over 100 mobile devices, Loopt allows users to share location, free instant location-aware text messaging and photo to their friends, to see where their friends are (including Facebook friends who use Facebook Places to check in), to discover places their friends like to visit, and get alert when friends are nearby. In the latest version, user can add a public place or event, with an option to make the place visible to others. Loopt was founded in 2005 and has over 4 millions users now.
SCVNGR is a location-based social game platform. SCVNGR builds a game “layer” on top of the real-world places, by rewarding discount, badges and points to players for checking in places and doing challenges. Over 1000 companies, educational institutions, and organizations have created challenges and rewards at their locations using SCVNGR, to encourage people to check in those places. On January 11, 2011 an additional $15M round was raised with Google Venture, Balderton Capital and Highland Capital Partners.
Nearbyfeed is trying to help people find out “what is happening around me”, such as, nearby useful information, interesting places, and like-minded people. In addition to just checking in place to let your friends know where you are, what’s cool with nearbyfeed is that you can broadcast your opinions to your friends and nearby people to let them know what is happening here, by sharing useful information and interesting place, commenting, rating and bookmarking any place or information shared by others. Another cool thing about nearbyfeed is that it allows users to select a certain category of information (e.g., status update, photo, news, deal) or places (e.g., restaurant, nightlife) within a radius (e.g., 100 meter, 5 miles), based on their unique interests and tastes, to explore nearby relevant information, places or people, without wasting time on those information or places they are not interested in. As users explore the nearby information, places and people within a radius, they are able to discover and keep track of most useful information, most interesting place, and like-minded people they want to meet, by selecting categories of interest, and reading the recommendations and comments from others.
Instead of checking in real-world business and landmarks, GetGlue enables user to check in to and rate TV shows, movies, music and books while consuming entertainment, to share with friends, and to see what their friends are consuming in real-time. After checking in, users may build up their taste profile and get suggestions based on their tastes, receive points and stickers, and earn discounts from participating entertainment companies, such as, 20th Century Fox, AMC, ABC Family, Disney Theatrical.
Integrated with Google Map, Google Latitude enables users to check in places, to share where they are with select group of family and friends, and to see where their friends are in real time. One of the cool things with latest Google Latitude is to let user automatically check in certain designated places when they visit those spots to automatically let their friends know where they are now, as well as automatically check them out when they leave so friends aren’t left guessing if they are still there.
Based upon the idea of getting more people to walk into stores more often by rewarding them monetary incentives, ShopKick partners with big retailers, including Best Buy, American Eagle, Macy’s, to reward users kickbucks for walking or checking into participating stores, or scanning barcodes within stores, and to suggest deals and offer discounts to users. Users can also redeem kickbucks for real-world rewards, like gift cards or Facebook Credits. As of January, 2011, ShopKick has 750,000 users. Currently, walk-in rewards are available in WIDER New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, DC, Dallas, Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis.