1. “Check-in” services garnering attention in the US
Location-based services (LBS) are currently attracting attention in the US Internet service industry. Using GPS-equipped mobile phones or smartphones, LBS provide appropriate information regarding a user’s whereabouts and allow users to share their current location. Among these services, Foursquare(1) and Gowalla(2) are particularly creating a buzz.
These services, primarily designed for smartphones such as the iPhone and Android terminals, allow users to “check-in” when they visit certain destinations and share their location with other users. In addition to the gaming element (compete over the number of check-ins at a specific location, collect items at the check-in location, and so on), these services are also becoming a business for attracting customers to real stores, such as giving out coupons to people who check-in at a restaurant. LBS can also be considered a kind of SNS (social networking services), as they let users easily share information among friends regarding who has checked-in where. In Japan, a similar service called “Hatena Koko” was launched on April 12th, 2010.
2. Location-based job listing and coupon services
GPS-equipped mobile phones have been at least as popular in Japan as in the US, and Japanese location information services that are on par with such services in the US are beginning to spread. Leading the way are the “Otetsudai Networks”(4) and “Imanara”(5) services provided by Location Value Inc. “Otetsudai Networks” offers students and other registered users easy access to part-time job information from around their specific location. For example, a student could find work for only three hours at a nearby convenience store or restaurant when a school lecture is cancelled. “Imanara” allows restaurants to issue coupons limited to certain times and places using location information. For restaurants, this service has the merits of attracting new customers as well as reducing food waste by issuing coupons in the event of a sudden reservation cancellation.
3. Location-based games expected to promote regional revitalization
Another location information service garnering attention is location-based games, which refer to games that use location information such as “Colony Lifestyle PLUS”(6) and “Keitai Kuni Tori Gassen”(7). In “Colony Lifestyle PLUS” (known as “colopl”), users obtain virtual currency based on distance travelled—the more distance one covers the more one advances in the game. Through collaboration with rural gift shops, users can acquire special items after making purchases; in this way, the game also helps such shops gain new customers. A “real affiliate” business model has been established where a portion of sales are paid to COLOPL Inc. as service fees. Collaboration projects with railway and bus tour companies are also underway, and expectations are high for location-based games as a way to revitalize regional communities.
4. New links between the internet and reality using location information
Twitter co-founder Evan Williams has suggested that location information, which will be added to “tweets,” will become increasingly important in the future. Location information is an essential point in integrating information on real locations with information on the Internet. Using location information as an intermediary, new businesses and public services are emerging by linking Internet information and real location information. Examples of this include location sharing among friends; matching and attracting people to stores and jobs; sharing road traffic information and the status of transportation services; and providing region-specific information on disasters, tourism, and so on. If issues such as privacy violations can be resolved, location information services promise to continue to spread and develop as a business.
(1) foursquare: http://foursquare.com/
(2) Gowalla: http://gowalla.com/
(3) “Hatena koko”: http://c.hatena.ne.jp/
(4) Otetsudai Networks: http://otet.jp/pc/
(5) “Imanara”: http://imanara.jp/
(6) Colony Lifestyle PLUS : http://colopl.jp/
(7) “Keitai Kuni-Tori Gassen”: http://kntr.jp/