Location-based services called key to unplugged Internet

InfoWorld |  Networking

Personalized, location-based services will be a vital application for the success of the wireless Internet, but issues such as privacy need to be addressed to ensure success, said Sridhar Ranganathan, general manager of Yahoo Everywhere, in the opening keynote address here at the Mobile Commerce Conference in San Jose, Calif.

The use of non-PC devices connected to the Internet will explode in the near future, Ranganathan said. As Internet usage detaches from the PC, personalized information will become more crucial, he said.

"The wireless Internet is an extension of the online world we know today but . . . when you move away from the PC, you need a lot more personal information," he said. "As the richness of devices decreases, the richness of services becomes more important."

Today, location-based services are generated when a user of a wireless device identifies his or her position to providers via information such as zip code or airport code. In the future, location detection will be automatically identified.

The emerging location-based services market has much work ahead to achieve success but it is on the right track, according to Ranganathan. Yahoo Everywhere is Yahoo's mobile initiative.

Challenges for the market include figuring out what applications to develop, how to generate revenue from the applications, overcoming consumer acceptance hurdles, and how to protect user privacy, Ranganathan said.

Compelling services from content providers will help drive usage, according to Ranganathan.

"Applications have to make a difference, and answer the question of 'why,'" he said.

User need for personal and location-specific services is already present, and is just waiting for the technology and services sectors to catch up.

"There is a definite need for people to make their lifestyles better and faster," he said.

Alternatives to location-based services exist that are free and easy to use, such as printing driving directions from a PC before leaving the house, but user behavior will change over time to adopt the value of timely and personal information, Ranganathan said.

Revenue from advertising will surge in the location-based Internet market because advertisers want to appeal to local markets. The location-specific market also presents a great opportunity for advertisers to better target and understand users.

For service-based revenue, users will pay for certain services that add a premium value to daily tasks, but other services will require provider subsidy, Ranganathan said.

"There is a tremendous business opportunity for providing necessary purchase-oriented information right at the point of decision-making," he said.

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