Arment Dietrich

Four Challenges Facing Location-Based Services

By: Arment Dietrich | September 1, 2010 | 
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Guest post by Mike Schaffer, social media and online marketing manager at Iostudio.

Despite the incessant buzz in the marketing industry surrounding Foursquare and Facebook Places, I see four major challenges facing location-based services.

For all the hype, only four percent of adults are using these services (not to mention the 84 percent of adults who have no idea what they are). Clearly, not a ton of folks are taking advantage of them, so let’s investigate the main reasons why they haven’t caught fire…yet.

1)      Fear – I’ve heard from countless people that they feel online check-ins leave them and their homes vulnerable to robberies, muggings, and sexual assaults. While few, if any, cases of “Foursquare burglary” have surfaced thus far, I think this is a valid point. If you tell everyone where you are (or aren’t!), all of those types of attacks are possible. Not likely, but possible. And most people don’t want to leave a figurative unlocked door to their homes.

2)      Lack of technological penetration – The geo-location world is tied to your smartphone, and if you don’t have a smartphone, well, you have to call or text people to tell them where you are (how 2009!). Despite protests from Apple, not a lot of folks have an iPhone (and let’s not even discuss the proper way to hold an iPhone 4). Until more people are living in a smartphone world, geo-location will struggle. For the record, just one in five mobile phones are “smart”.

3)      Metropolitan/urban design – Foursquare was created to help people find their friends in Manhattan. Translating that platform to other places that aren’t as densely populated (by people or public transportation options) means it will lose part of its identity. The challenge for geo-location platform developers is to give the networks value to a geographically diverse audience.

4)      Badge exhaustion – I use Foursquare. A lot. So let me be completely candid here: Those early months where I got lots of points and badges for doing things were AWESOME. I felt like a good little adventurer. I checked in at an airport at 5 a.m. for a business trip and got TWO badges that day: One as a frequent flyer, and one, mistakenly, for “staying out late on a school night.” I haven’t gotten a badge in months and it’s really starting to kill my motivation.

So, with all of these roadblocks standing in their way, do you think location-based services can overcome these four challenges?

Mike Schaffer is the Washington, DC, based social media and online marketing manager at Iostudio. He is the author The Buzz by Mike Schaffer and has been named in the Top 30 and Top 100 Publicists to Follow on Twitter.

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