[Authors: Manfred Bortenschläger, Nicolas Göll] The vision of location-based services (LBS) has been around for over a decade now. The added-value of such services is clear and unchallenged. It is the provision of information that is related to a user’s current position and addresses an immediate need. Only a few such services, however, turned out to be real big hits. In this article we discuss potential reasons why LBS could not yet deliver their promise. We also present some current trends that may imply a bright future for LBS developers, providers, and users.
What are or—better and hopefully—were the reasons for the lack of stable market success of location-based services? Three main aspects can be identified. First, the hardware capabilities were unsatisfactory. On the one hand, localisation technologies, which naturally are at the core of LBS, were either too inaccurate or simply not available on most handsets. Transmission technologies were not powerful enough to meet the applications’ needs and the screens too tiny in order to present information in a clear and easily understandable way. On the other hand, we were—and still are—confronted with a huge heterogeneity of different device vendors and models. As a consequence, developers have to target a wide range of diverse devices and the users have to deal with varying interaction schemes.
This leads to a second aspect, which is the discrepancy between what users expected and what they actually got. Installation processes often were too complicated, too cumbersome, and too fault-prone. Additionally, many LBS suffered from a really poor usability, once installed. Another major point related to user experience, is the content actually offered to the users. In the past, content for LBS was given too little attention. It was either too little or of low quality. Frequently, the consequence was the application being of no use to the customer.
Third, also the costs have been intransparent to users for a long time. It was unpredictable how much data an application would transmit and how much the user would get charged for it at the end of the month. The dreaded roaming fees made matters even worse while using applications abroad.
In the light of these shortcomings, we currently experience some trends that may lead to a brighter future for LBS developers and users, eventually. […]
More in the fourth edition (page 30) of our mobile zeitgeist SPECIALS this time with focus on mobile technologies. Next issue will be published end of January 2010.