Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mobile Location-Based Apps and Services

There are approximately 93.1 million smart phone users in the United States today, up 11% from 2011.  With this increase comes more access to location-based apps and services.   

Location-based services have become very useful in social networking today.  Advances in smart phone technology are allowing people to use their mobile devices to get location-based information in real time with apps such as Foursquare, Pearescope, and Yelp

Here are just a few ways location based apps can be useful:
·         Locating people or objects – finding the whereabouts of a friend or the closest ATM machine
·         Target marketing – identifying consumers shopping habits in order to send specific ads or coupons
·         Recommendations – finding what is the best seafood restaurant in downtown Atlanta
·         Directions – finding the best route to get to Turner Field from Stone Mountain

Mobile location-based apps can collect your location data in three main ways – by you “checking in” at a location, by revealing your location when you snap a picture using an app like Instagram, or by an app working in the background to grab your location (whether or not you are currently using the app). 

Location-based capabilities are being integrated in more and more apps every day, many times unbeknownst to you.  Whether you take your personal and digital privacy matters seriously or not, there are four types of settings you can check to determine how much information these services make available to the world.

1.       Amount of Personal Data Shared – Most apps require you to fill out at least a minimum amount of personal information in order to create an account.  Many times this information is visible as part of your user profile, but the amount of data and who gets to see it can vary.  Check for “sharing” or “privacy” settings within the app and set a level that you are comfortable with.  Some apps allow the personal information you entered to only be visible to “your friends” as opposed to “everyone”.
2.       Exact Locations Shared – Location-based apps take pride in the accuracy of the exact locations they deliver.  Many apps allow you some degree of control when pin pointing specific locations, such as the location of your home or work place.  Check the apps “privacy” settings to see if you are able to “hide” certain locations.
3.       Preloaded App Settings – When you download an app, it typically comes with preloaded settings based on what the company would like to see in terms of behavior and data usage, which may differ from what you would like.  Go through the settings of each app before you start using it in order to understand what information it collects and potentially shares.  Many times you can modify these settings to your comfort level.
4.       Automatic Check-In – Just because you are not engaged in a location-based activity on your mobile device doesn’t mean an app isn’t logging your location and posting it.  There are usually two places this kind of setting can be located on your mobile device – within the app itself or within your general phone settings.  For the latter, look for “location services” within your device’s general settings.  Here, you should be allowed to at least turn an apps location tracking on or off.

When you combine location-based services and mobile devices, you have a really powerful tool.  As mentioned earlier, there are currently around 93.1 million smart phone users.  By 2016, the number of people utilizing smart phones is expected to rise to approximately 192.4 million.  The current and expected growth in usage is fueling the location-based apps market, whether it is for entertainment purposes or marketing competition.  So be aware and before you using any new app you’ve downloaded, check the security and privacy settings and set a level you can live with.

If you need help with any smart phone, mobile device, or app settings, give Kardon Tech a call.

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