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Location-Aware Services: What You Need to Know

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Social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, Gowalla and Foursquare are pushing into the next big thing in Internet media hype: location-aware services.

But what exactly is this new phenomenon?

Location-aware services, at its core, enables these applications to utilise your current physical location to enhance the user experience of the service. This is done through GPS technology built into many of today’s smartphones and laptops.

Sounds scary, right? George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four must be coming to mind, as this new step may be likened to a “big brother” move. Well, it’s not all that, actually: location-aware services, as I’ve mentioned above, will actually enhance your use of these products, as they become more intelligent, making them easier to assist you in accessing information pertinent to your current location.

The big news amongst bloggers is the announcement from Facebook that they’re planning on introducing a new “location-enabled” feature to the site. This is big, because of Facebook’s mammoth size, and especially for us South Africans, this means that the addition of location will affect us, as over a million South Africans use the social networking site daily.

Initially, location was envisioned to be attached to status updates, so that your friends would know where you are at the time of posting the status (much like what Twitter does at the moment).

However, after seeing the potential of location, Facebook has some new plans. They haven’t explicitly announced them yet (more info will be available at the f8 conference next month).

What’s interesting is that Facebook’s approach is to integrate location as a “place”, that will be attached to Pages (especially for restaurants). Here’s what we imagine this to be: you login to Facebook via your mobile whilst out and about. A new section on the app, possibly labelled “Places to Go”, will appear. You select this, and a list of restaurants, businesses and shops near you (in perhaps a set radius) appears, allowing you to select a Page linked to the list to learn more about that place, and perhaps get directions to the restaurant or shop. If it is something like this, it’d be pretty cool, and at the same time would be a spin-off to businesses, allowing them greater exposure.

So businesses and especially restaurants should take this new move to heart, and if not already done so, step into the digital age by getting a Facebook page. This will enable them to be ready to go when Facebook launches this new feature within the next month.

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