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Grow Your Business Technology

Location-Based Services: Definition & Examples

image for app_ipopba / Getty Images
app_ipopba / Getty Images

Location-based services (LBS) use real-time geo-data from a mobile device or smartphone to provide information, entertainment or security. Some services allow consumers to "check in" at restaurants, coffee shops, stores, concerts, and other places or events. Often, businesses offer a reward — prizes, coupons or discounts — to people who check in. Google Maps, Foursquare, GetGlue, Yelp and Facebook Places are among the more popular services.

Location-based services use a smartphone's GPS technology to track a person's location, if that person has opted-in to allow the service to do that. After a smartphone user opts-in, the service can identify his or her location down to a street address without the need for manual data entry.

Companies have found several ways to use a device’s location:

  • Store locators. Using location-based intelligence, retail customers can quickly find the nearest store location.

  • Proximity-based marketing. Local companies can push ads only to individuals within the same geographic location. Location-based mobile marketing delivers ads to potential customers within that city who might actually act on the information.

  • Travel information. An LBS can deliver real-time information, such as traffic updates or weather reports, to the smartphone so the user can plan accordingly.

  • Roadside assistance. In the event of a blown tire or accident, many roadside assistance companies provide an app that allows them to track your exact location without the need for giving directions.

  • Mobile workforce management. For logistics-dependent companies that employ individuals out in the field or at multiple locations, an LBS allows employees to check in at a location using their mobile device.

  • Fraud prevention. An LBS creates another level of security by matching a customer’s location through the smartphone to a credit card transaction. Tying the smartphone’s location to a credit card allows you to flag transactions made across several geographic locations over a short time.

Many app developers lack the resources to develop software to interpret a smartphone’s location and instead use existing solutions via an API to save time and money. Many companies specialize in liaising with wireless carriers to connect companies with smartphone user locations. These companies provide tools to increase user engagement and connect with the most mobile phone users on the market. Companies well known for their LBS software include AT&T Mobile Marketing Solutions, Voxeo and Esri.