Location-based services: are they there yet?

We look at Facebook, Foursquare, Google Latitude and Yelp to see how their mobile location-based services have prospered -- or not.

By , Computerworld |  Mobile & Wireless, Facebook, Foursquare

Banjo: Banjo is a "social discovery" app designed to bridge the gap between different social media networks. It was designed by founder Damian Patton, who was in Logan Airport tweeting while a friend he had not seen in years was just feet away on Foursquare, and they didn't realize it. Banjo coordinates location information from the various social networks and lets you know where friends are no matter what social network they're using.

Highlight: A recent media darling of the SXSW conference, Highlight lets you know when you are physically near those people with whom you share a second-level connection, such as your brother's best friend, or a business associate's co-worker. It can even share locations for those who have similar interests or even live in the same hometown -- nice to know when traveling far from home.

Neer: Neer refines LBS down to the very personal level. You set it up for a close circle of family and friends and the app will inform you when that person is near or leaving a given location. A spouse could configure it to automatically send a note to their partner when they're leaving work, for example. It can also be configured to ping you with geo-oriented reminders, like when you're near the grocery story and need to buy milk.

Unsocial: A Foursquare for professionals, Unsocial uses your LinkedIn account along with keywords to help you connect with other professionals in your immediate area. Once you've found somebody whom you think you can do business with (or just exchange professional gossip), you can message them to see if they want to talk and/or meet. You can also find out what events are happening in your area.

Waze: Labeled as a "social driving app," Waze is an LBS that can passively identify problems on a given route (sudden slow traffic indicates a traffic jam). With just a few taps, the app can also deliver more detailed information, such as road hazards and accident locations. Don't worry, typing is disabled while the vehicle is in motion.

There are a lot of compelling pieces here, pieces that would seem to be perfect for a success story. So what's the problem?

"Latitude was one of those things Google said 'Hey, we think this is something important, and we ought to have it out there,'" Christy says. But, he continues, they've done basically little else.

Silva agrees, seeing Latitude as one part of the giant Google Services machine. "Latitude is one asset that will make other assets better," Silva says. "It will probably be a super power for another Google application."

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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