Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Geo-Location for Mobile Browsers

I'd like to see carriers and mobile browser manufactures produce a way to get location information to mobile websites. Java apps on phones are able to tap into your exact location using GPS, but sometimes all you really need is a zip code. I do think that mobile websites will be more popular the Java downloads in the future. I am a little biased because I'm building a mobile website. Mobile web browsers will eventually provide the types of interactions that the Web 2.0 sites are displaying now and kill the interface advantage Java currently has. Opera is already pushing ahead with the mobile AJAX ideas.

Oops, sorry back to the topic at hand.

What i'd like to see is a bit of granularity in what you provide to a site in the way of your location. This might lessen some of the resistance in adoption from users who are concerned with providing to much personal data. I can see that Zip Code would be the most generic level that you would want to go. Going out to county or state would probably be to large of an area to be of any use. The next level might be the GPS coordinates of the cell tower your connected to. It gives you a closer proximity then Zip Code without giving away your position. The final level would be exact location using GPS in the handset or through radiolocation.

To get this information to the server of the mobile site your viewing, it could be handled by a special request header like "mobile_location" or "user_location". If you wanted to send the site your exact location then your phone could send the header "mobile_location:38.897625,-77.036661". Getting less specific would need the cell tower to modify the request header as it came across turning "mobile_location:zip" into "mobile_location:20500". It could also be possible that the browser will let you hardcode a zip code to send, so that you can use sites as if your always in a specific location.

If a mobile user isn't trying to get sports scores or querying imdb to settle a bar bet, most of the interactions on the mobile web are going to be for geo-relevant content like weather, directions or something like dodgeball.com.

Personally I don't want to login into mobile websites for them to provide me with some relevant content. If I go to espn and i'm in Chicago, I want White Sox or Cubs information. I don't want to have to fumble through a menu system to get that information, or heaven forbid triple tapping Hurricanes into a little search box. Dare I suggest "Mobile Where 2.0", Um na forget I mentioned it.

This might even be useful on the desktop side as well. Either your browser or the router that you connect through, could append the request header to all requests. From an intranet server perspective it could provide an easier method to identifying users location then maintaining a list of ip segments and where they are. On the internet in general it could be used to give your location rather then site owners doing lookups based on your ip address. That way if a backhoe takes out a comcast line and they route you through their Chicago lines, sites will still give you content from Milwaukee.


At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skyhook Wireless has an auto-location solution for the web (and soone smartphones) that uses Wi-Fi to pinpoint your location. Accuracy is 20-30 meters.


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