Getting lost is a thing of the past with Global Positioning (GPS). Now that smartphones have built-in GPS, you can be in almost any city on earth and navigate your way to your destination. That's because the smartphone knows your coordinates, can plot it on a map and then give you directions.
A number of new web services, like Foursquare and Facebook Places have built applications that let urban dwellers track their friends based on their GPS location. It's a handy feature if you don't want to rely on serendipity to bump into someone.
Location-based services also help find all kinds of useful services, like nearby ATM machines, gas stations, restaurants, museums and other points of interest. Twitter recently added a geolocation feature that lets your followers know where you tweeted from. (Don't tweet from a beach if your boss thinks you're sick at home.)
But imagine this: You are walking down a street and receive a message from Starbucks offering you a discount on coffee. Oh, and Starbucks just happens to be on the next corner. Is it creepy that marketers know your exact location? And if they know, who else knows?
Testing is already underway for all kinds of location-based services. Wireless providers see a new source of revenue by letting businesses know where you are. But as I recently wrote, the government may also want to know your whereabouts. Imagine being able to easily track the location of “persons of interest.” So convenience and privacy will have to strike the right balance.Do you want to take bets on which will win?