21 October, 2006

Look up the location of friends' phones using Loopt


Loopt allows you to share your mobile location with others and you to view theirs on your mobile phone (on a nice map too). You can create a profile - with privacy settings, set-up events and invite people.

It's only available on Boost Mobile in the US, but I'm sure they're hammering on all the other operators' doors. Their site doesn't indicate the costs of the service though.

The UK has seen the launch of several of these services since 2003, when the operators made their subscribers' location information available to third parties:
There appears to be two schools of thought: social bar-hopping & parental paranoia. As far as I know, none of these services have been a success (although mapAmobile was acquired by Carphone Warehouse).

The reasons for the failure are three-fold:
  • the commercial cost each location look-up
  • the accuracy of the service using cell-id or even triangulation
  • the regulatory issues surrounding the service makes implementation very clumsy. (Imagine the public outcry if a paediophile tracked a child's location - it just doesn't bear thinking about).
Even in Japan, where phones not only have GPS, but A-GPS (Assisted GPS), which is significantly more accurate, then these services haven't been a huge hit.

The only service that has made some inroads are 'where am I?' and 'find my nearest' - both of which are entirely selfish & don't have a social angle (and best offered by the operator directly).

Update (October 26th):
Nokia have released their all singin', all dancin' N95 with GPS and a mapping application. Nokia have also licensed GPS software from Trimble for their handsets.

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