Now that we are familiar with the concepts behind LBS, it is time to discuss where location services are being used and what value they bring to consumer, enterprise, and government applications. The adoption of these applications is expected to grow as consumers and corporations realize the value of all that they offer. But before this can happen, LBS have to be accurate, fast, and easy to use. Many mobile operators are looking at LBS to help increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, as well as the average revenue per user.
Let us take a look at some of the most common uses of location information for each application category. Some of these applications use the user's current location to provide a service, while others provide a user with the location of an item or place they are interested in finding. The following are common uses of LBS:
Emergency services. In an emergency, users can contact a call center and have the current location tracked so that assistance can be deployed. This is the foundation of E911, but it can also be used for roadside emergency ("Help, my car broke down").
Traffic information. LBS can help detect your location in traffic flow or pinpoint areas of traffic congestion. Then it can provide a better route to avoid upcoming traffic.
Navigation. This category applies to many types of applications. The navigation service can answer a question as simple as "How to I get from Point A to Point B?" or those more complex, such as "What is the ideal delivery route for product distribution?" Later in this chapter we describe how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) help to provide this kind of service (see What Is a GIS?).
Field service management. This service makes it possible to track the location of field service agents so the closest agent can be sent to a pending service call. This type of location service is particularly valuable to emergency service vehicles such as police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks.
Fleet management. Using LBS it is possible to track the locations of an entire delivery fleet at any given time. There are several areas where this is useful: for example, to track the location of assets within each vehicle and predict arrival times for delivery vehicles.
Asset tracking. This is similar to fleet management, but it enables tracking the location of any asset, which may include delivery packages, mobile devices, or any other item of value.
Wireless advertising. Users may be able to subscribe to services that will notify them of relevant product information when they enter a defined zone. For example, as you approach a shopping mall, you could be notified if your favorite store is having a sale. This type of LBS requires very accurate location information, and will most likely not be seen in the near future.
Find-it services. This helps a mobile user find a particular feature that is within a specified range of his or her current location; for example, nearby restaurants, gas stations, golf courses, or any other retailer or venue. These LBS can also be tied to booking or purchasing applications to facilitate m-commerce.
Automatic vehicle location. A common LBS being deployed today is vehicletracking. In this way, stolen vehicles can easily be located and recovered.
Mapping. Many vehicles now come equipped with mapping services that provide information about the user's current location as well as a detailed map of nearby facilities. Very often, navigation services are also offered in conjunction with the mapping capability.
Weather information. Current conditions and weather forecasts can be supplied based on the user's current location. Note, however, that this information will only be as accurate as the nearest weather station.
This is just a partial list of where location-based services are being deployed for all types of applications, and signals only the beginning of the deployment of these services. As location technologies become more accurate, and development platforms become easier to use, expect to see even more LBS being deployed for both consumer and corporate markets.