More open data required for future location apps

Large organisations like transport operators have a wealth of data that needs to be opened up to location app developers, according to Phillip Gontier, VP and GM of Poynt, an award winning local search app.

Speaking on a geo-location panel at Apps World Europe this week, Gontlier said he wanted to see a lot of organisations open their data up to developers.

Imagine what could be done ahead of the 2012 olympics if developers could get their hands on the information that Transport for London holds, he said. “These are basic things to have in place,” he said. “App developers could do really cool stuff with that, and it needs to happen across the board.”

Geo-location marketing services haven’t reached anywhere near their potential, the panel agreed.

In fact, while the assembled industry experts all agreed that the technology was on the cusp of delivering something ground-breaking, no one yet has released a ‘killer’ product.

Sophisticated geo-location technology will be able to compose a predictive customised schedule  for your day, reacting not just to where you are, but also what’s around you and what you’ve done in the past.

For instance, your hypothetical future app will be able to use location to realise you’re about to hit an area of forehead-slapping traffic congestion, calculate how late you might be for your important business meeting, then reschedule for you while you fight through the jam.

“We’re at that transition point,” said panellist Patrick Connolly, senior analyst of GPS & location technologies at ABI Research. “We’re going through the service stage where location is the key point of the service.”

Mobile GPS will triple in popularity over the next few years, he said, and high accuracy location is going to sit under so much of what happens in mobile.

And with location becoming important for app developers, marketing and analytics data will become exponentially richer.

Concerns around privacy, and a lack of transparency in how some location apps implement user data has held back consumer acceptance of location-based technologies somewhat; with main players like Apple and Google washing their hands of any regulatory responsibility, passing it n to the app developer.

“There is problem with privacy,” admitted Connolly. “It needs to become more explicit, platform owners need to take more responsibility and people need to know what the benefits are. Regulators are pushing change that way, and as people get more educated it will catch on.”

Phillip Gontier, was adamant that Poynt would never, ever sell data on the location of its users.

Incredulous at the mere suggestion from panel chair Peter Swain, CEO of mobile strategy specialist Always on Message, Gontier insisted that the Poynt service was all about an honest value exchange. “What we do is give the user something really useful that allows them to connect with local businesses,” he said.

“It’s a utility tool. If we provide enough value and location advertising that relevant and valuable, in terms of context, then I don’t think it becomes an issue. When you push stuff that not relevant, that’s when it becomes an issue.”

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