BlackBerry Location-Based Services – Just Getting Started

Editorials

At RIM, we spend a lot of time thinking about how location based services (LBS) continue to revolutionize mobile applications. After 10 years of innovation in the location-based services sector, the opportunities are nearly limitless for application developers and vendors on mobile devices. LBS are really starting to gain traction now because of the ability for developers to map location information to other types of data with additional context. If you think about your “location”, it is really just a numerical representation of where you are standing on Earth (i.e. longitude and latitude). Unless you can translate that information into something useful like a street corner or city or country, you simply don’t have sufficient context. It is the additional context that provides value within LBS today and as more data sources become location enabled it is creating an entirely new set of opportunities for mobile application developers.

For the past 10+ years, efforts have been focused on creating the vital framework to effectively determine the location itself within a reasonable amount of time using as little power as possible. Initially, this approach focused on hardware and ensuring that mobile devices were integrating GPS chips to effectively determine location. Once the necessary hardware was available, efforts shifted to optimizing the hardware and software to:

  • Reduce the amount of power used.
  • Reduce the amount of time to obtain your location.
  • Improve the conditions under which your location could be obtained.
  • Map additional location points such as cellular tower data and WiFi access points to provide alternate sources of location when GPS isn’t possible or necessary.

With this base framework providing the mechanisms to obtain location from a variety of different sources established, the opportunities to couple that information with “location enabled” data points are nearly endless.

Examples of next generation location enabled applications:

  • An RSS reader could provide local stories relevant to your current location rather than requiring a postal/zip code.
  • A media player could stream music that incorporates local artists, encouraging people to support artists in their own backyard.
  • A travel application could help you find flights automatically knowing which airport you are stuck in.
  • A CRM application could provide you with a seamless experience in moving between your clients on your calendar for that day using turn by turn navigation and the locations stored in the CRM database.

The key to realizing these opportunities is the ability for application developers to provide additional value and context within their applications by mapping the current location of the user to existing data sources. We want to foster an environment on our mobile devices that will allow third party application vendors the ability to query other applications on the device and invoke their services so that vendors can provide an excellent experience. Post a comment and tell us what LBS opportunities you are working on.

About Mike Kirkup

Mike Kirkup is the Director for the Developer Relations program at Research In Motion (RIM), which is responsible for managing the technical relationships and programs for RIM’s developer community worldwide. Mike and his team work with RIM’s developer community to provide support and guidance as developers work to integrate their applications to the BlackBerry platform. Mike joined RIM in 2001 as a Security Software Developer in RIM’s Wireless Security Group. As part of the Wireless Securty group, Mike contributed to the development of the BlackBerry Cryptography API, S/MIME and PGP implementations. Mike holds a Masters of Management Science and a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo.

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