Almost all of the biggest players of the location industry were present at the Where 2.0 event, such as Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Color among others.

Almost all of the biggest players of the location industry were present at the Where 2.0 event, such as Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Color among others.  The Where 2.0 Conference is one of the most famous geo-geek events in the Valley and provides a good overview of the “what’s next” in location-based-services. The recent Ebay acquisition, Where - a mobile app that serves local coupons and personalized recommendations - confirmed the increasing interest around what is called Location Based Services (LBS). Even though the most influential location players were at the event, attendees are still given a printed map. This will probably change in the coming years, considering the new trends.

Mapping the world has been a passion for many cultures for thousands of years (here the oldest known world map, 6th century BCE). "In 2005 only 15% of worlds population had detailed map of where they lived (sic)," then Google Map Maker doubled that, says Marissa Mayer, vice president of location and local services for Google. The democratization of maps initiated by Google or Bing offers new perspectives now: EveryScape announced during the conference a new iPhone app called UScapeIt which makes it easy to produce and share panoramas as simple as shooting a video. This app gives retailers the possibility to map inside nearby shops or restaurants for a more up-close and personal search experience. Marissa Mayer announced a new Google product: Google Earth Builder, a tool that will allow companies and organization to store, manage and share data to the ‘Google cloud’ and create customized map layers. Michael Halbherr, Vice President of Services for Nokia, showed their new 3D city maps called Ovi Maps 3D which was pretty impressive. Microsoft/Bing announced a new site for image mash-up in proximity.

Mapping is more and more becoming a social activity. Patrick Meier from Ushahidi demonstrated how maps can change the world. Ushahidi is an open source project which allows users to crowdsource crisis information via mobile device. This non-profit software company collects data during disasters and builds a real-time and dynamic map that geolocalizes the reports (here is Egypt’s Civil Resistance Map). Patrick Meier commented that during protests in Egypt, people said, "We use Facebook to schedule, Twitter to coordinate and YouTube to tell the world". The Social Map could be the next social media shift during the next two years. Foursquare, the location-based social networking website, well understood this trend: “Foursquare is all about the relationship between people and places” Dennis Crowley says, co-founder of Foursquare. According to him, the next future of LBS will be recommendation engines based on recent user activity. The idea is to provide to users more value after the check-in and bring a new experience that is more personalized and user-centric. The Journalist Krissy Clark gave the audience some insight: "A place is more than the sum of its Wikipedia entries and Yelp reviews […] every place has a story, and every story has a place."

If 2011 seems to be the Location year according to experts and panelists, questions to consider in the coming Location-based privacy debate have been asked: How much information do we really want to give away about ourselves?  What does location data tell about people and how companies should and could use this personal information? The last study showing that iPhones store user location data in a file shows that the debate is still open. Location is a very exciting new dimension for many existing businesses and we are planning to see many new announcements the coming months.

By Thibaut Loilier