The 24 satellites circling the planet twice each day enable the global positioning programs to work effectively. Originally put into the sky for military purposes, the early consumer applications had slight calculation corrections by a few feet to a few yards to prevent enemy use of the satellite as precision location finders.
GPS technologies are embedded in (almost) every mobile device. As technology advances, mobile computing will expand beyond just providing a local map or finding the nearby Starbucks, gas station or hospital. As users and developers get accustomed to location capabilities, cloud based databases will provide more data so that up to the second information about locations will be a fundamental component within these location Apps. This will include, but not be limited to: events both on and off your calendar, weather and traffic alerts all the way to your destination, notification for contacts that are within a specified distance (feet or miles), any nearby locations that match to your personal favorites or some item on your task list.
Today’s locator apps are just the tip of our icebergs (assuming that the icebergs do not all melt) providing easy access to pinpointing people, parked cars, museums, schools and that quiet mountain trail. All social networking sites are expanding their Apps with location features embedded in the program.
Your firm website(s) should have mapping features so that clients, contacts and future employees can locate the best route to your office without going through the exercise of creating their own map. The web-based map should be dynamic with interactive scrolling so people can determine how to get to you from wherever they are. Many websites already insert a Google or MapQuest application. Include information about things that the office is near, such as banks, restaurants, parking.
Magellan, Columbus, Lewis and Clark, are just a few of the explorers who would have made great use of navigation applications. Without GPS, Sir Ernest Shackelton saved his entire crew of 27 in 1914-16, escaping the clutches of the frozen seas surrounding Antarctica. Exploring is better with GPS assistance.
Consider the number of times that you, the staff, clients and friends rely on mobility as a significant activity of their lives. Location applications help with everything from directions to security. Delivery companies make significant use of trip planning whether it is local or long distance. For city deliveries, it is important, for example to avoid left turns as it often requires extra time waiting for traffic to clear.
Delivery companies need to track location information for trucks of all sizes. Hijacking and theft are huge concerns and very expensive for everyone. The ability to know where the vehicle is located along with its speed provides the ability for monitoring when things are going right and when things could be going wrong. Accountants do not often have truck deliveries. However, they may have vans or cars that transport computers and other equipment for installation at a client’s location. A tracking system may or may not prevent a problem. It will help with recovery and correcting a problem quickly.
One of the key developing App features is proximity search. This “close enough” concept is all about taking advantage of knowing where you are in proximity to something that may or may not be useful. This can be all of the clients with a specified radius – one mile, fibve miles, and the same zip code. Starbucks already has such an App that I use to make sure that beverages and a clean men’s room are locatable.
There is an App, Stuck, from http://www.swiftcover.com/stuck-iphone-app/ that helps you express where you are stuck. Your stuck can be a thought, a situation or an emotion. Once identifying your stuck, you can post this information on a map identifying your current location. This information is now immediately sharable with friends. And you can open the App and check out the global map or local map to view your proximity to other people who are stuck like you.
This App may not provide an immediate assistance for the accountant. However it is an indicator of what can be accomplished linking any small or large amount of data with a geographic locations. This is more than finding the location of the 2009 tax return or audit file. Accounting firms will be able to use location maps to
• Create an efficient day trip for visiting multiple clients in a day
• Alert clients within a specific township or county or state about changes to regulations
• Notify clients and staff in a specific area about a weather emergency, power outage or major road collapse
• Change the location of any meeting
• Guide people to find their way in a large resort or hotel
• Assist clients with notifying their customers about any of the above
You can allow the phone to find your current location, and then display what's happening in your location. There are also filters that allow you to see only certain types of postings; in this way you could, for example, locate the people who are late for a meeting and are outside a cellular signal area. If you lose your iPhone, there is an App for that. Find my iPhone App enables you to login to your Mobile Me account and locate the missing iPhone.
You should already know about Geo-tagging which appends location tags to your photos. Another feature, Geo-searching, will support finding the place or location you are seeking without knowing the zip or area code. The existing G-Park App does this for helping you get back to your car from wherever you are, whether the distance is walking or enough miles to require some form of transportation.
Check out www.foursquare.com. This social networking site has elevated the need to find out where you are to competitive contest status. Foursquare has setup partnering with the History Channel, CNN, Bravo, MTV, VH1, Zagat, The Wall Street Journal and other content creators. Starbucks has a "Barista Badge" you can unlock if you check in at one of their locations five times. The purpose of all of these connections, of course, is to discover new ways to make money. The ability to generate customizable information based on someone’s current or destination location may not be immediately useful for the accountant. But, and that is a large “but” your clients sure will want to know about how location based Apps can increase their revenue and/or reduce costs.
Marketers will connect with location-based social networking services and clutter everyone’s message inbox with coupons, discounts and deals, such as today only, this week only, use this code only.
I strongly suggest that you do not reject any consideration of location-based technologies just because you do not see this vision. It has been less than 20 years that cellular phones have completely changed our communications culture. We used to say “Oh, you have a cell phone.” Now we say, “Which smartphone do you use and when will you upgrade to the next one?”
Some of you may remember the early Search Engines: Archie, Veronica, Jughead, Lycos, AltaVista, Excite, Galaxy, Yahoo, WebCrawler, Lycos, Infoseek, Altavista, Metacrawler, Inktomi/Hotbot. Google was first incorporated as a privately held company on Sept 4, 1998. That was (only) 12 years ago.
See you next time for more of this never ending Apps story. Send questions and comments so we can keep this information relevant for what you need.