What is the future of geo-location? A Geo-Loco 2010 panel this morning responded to predictions collected by moderator Dr. Phil Hendrix, which attempt to predict what the ecosystem will look like 2014. Prediction 1. Geo-data wi

ll be free, with OpenStreet Map and other crowd-driven open-source data eclipsing commercial vendors.

Waze’s Di-Ann Eisnor, who has been in the geo-mapping space for years, said that it is amazing to watch maps go from being created by a few – mainly for political purposes – to now being created by individuals.

Other panelists thought that, while crowdsourced data will become increasingly relevant and available, some data will always be commodified.

“There’s a lot of high quality analytics, marketing, and scientific data that will always cost money because it costs to collect,” said Michael Liebhold, Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future.

“There’s not enough crowdsourced people providing data right now, so I don’t see this being free in next 2 years,” Robert Scoble said. “But in the long term, yes.”

“I disagree with eclipse of vendors,” said Lior Ron, lead for Google’s products in the local space. “If you want a route, or to conserve fuel, those customers won’t be satisfied by 2014. We need to combine commercial efforts with crowdsourced efforts."

2. Location-awareness will be integral to any mobile app.

The panelists mainly agreed with this statement, with the observation that not all mobile apps will need LBS.
“For me, this is obvious,” Eisnor said. “With increase in precision, we’re moving towards an ecosystem of location-aware devices.”

“We’re going to have way too many devices in 2014; we will need to know where they are,” said GigaOM’s Liz Gannes.

3. More than half of all mobile advertising in 2014 will be location-based.

Not as much agreement on this one, as the panelists maintained that advertising is difficult to predict.

“Advertising always lags behind data and users,” Ron said. “There’s a long ramp-up.”

Of course, many mobile users will do what they can to block advertising on their devices, especially on smaller screens.

“Aside from tablets, users will do what they can to block ads, so banner ads will have nominal impact,” Liebhold. “Advertising on larger things like the iPad will be more successful."

4. Virtually all user-generated content will be geo-tagged.

In Ron’s words, “That’s already happening today,” but some of the panelists had reservations about a totally geo-tagged world.

“We’re going to find situations where location-sharing can be very weird,” Scoble said, noting that a recent deal between Rackspace and NASA could have been discovered before it was announced if observers had been tracking both organization’s locations.

“We’re getting to the point where journalists could know what the intelligence community does,” Liebhold said.

5. Proximity will become a critical filter for content.

The panelists agreed that future search engines will need to consider location.

“The most important role of proximity will be filtering information,” Liebhold said.

Part of proximity is a symbiotic relationship, Scoble pointed out. “There are too many silos that don’t talk to each other,” Scoble said, a refrain he would return to later.

Another refrain that would be repeated is that a lot of geo-info will be noise. “The biggest problem is what is relevant,” Eisnor said. “With better filtering and proximity, we’ll get closer to what is relevant."

By Mark Alvarez