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  • Location-based services (LBS)

    This post (and, so, this thread) starts in response to this question, which starts a really interesting discussion that just happens to be outside the scope of that other thread.

    It's a perfectly reasonable question. The answer can be a big one, but I'll take a stab at it.

    The Fire Eagle (FE) service falls under the purview of LBS (Location-based services). FE acts like a broker of your physical location information. It decides (in reality, you decide -- but you authorize FE to hand it out) WHO gets WHAT of your physical location, and for how long.

    That spawns two really interesting questions right away: why should I want others having my physical location at all, and why can't I work directly with those parties? Why the middle man?

    It helps, at this point, if you abandon, for a moment, whatever fears you have surrounding the idea that the Big Bad Internet knows where you are in real life. It's a valid concern, but we'll get to that second.

    To the first question: why tell "The Internet" where I am? FE isn't like Google Latitude, which is more of a person-to-person LBS. Rather, FE is a person-to-SERVICE LBS... that is, you're sharing your physical location with a SERVICE. Like anything else you share with any other service, you don't share your physical location unless doing *creates unique value for you*.

    Then, what kind of service might actually add value to your life if it knew where you were physically? Well, that's where the imagination (and little else, given the relative infancy of this technology) runs wild. Here's some ideas:

    -- again: forget Big Bad Internet fear -- pretend you asked for all of these possibilities, and it's all magically secure --

    -- and yes, some of this isn't possible yet... I know --
    • immediate access to (knowing which is) the cheapest gas station (that meets your needs -- 87 octane, sells cigarettes, etc) within six blocks of your current intersection
    • ability for AAA to already know where you are when you make the phone call after breaking down in the middle of nowhere
    • ability for 911 to know where you are when you call
    • know which parking space is open when you pull into the parking lot
    • real-time tour guide of the sights visible from your car as your family drives down the highway toward the vacation destination (or through the state park that IS the destination)
    • coupons exclusively available to customers driving by
    • locate your phone when it's stolen
    • locate your car when it's stolen
    • locate your car keys when junior hides them (ok, maybe not that one)
    • your car automatically adjusts its clock when you drive past the timezone border during your trip
    • automagical pothole warnings before you drive into/over it
    • reminder services based not on time, but on location; setting a reminder to get that really long hose (that you know you're going to need in the back yard this summer) next time you're at the hardware store -- whenever that happens to be.
    • your crock pot automagically turns on when you're 10 minutes into your 35-minute commute home from the office (here again: pretend this won't burn down your house -- think "happy day" scenario... we're talking possibilities here -- this technology has to start somewhere).
    • climate control in your home based on whether or not you're present, instead of it being time-based
    • Your mobile phone carrier is prepared to offer you the feature to automagically route calls to your home phone when you're at home (and they're not able to route calls to your mobile phone -- for whatever reason).
    • Web ads (they're not going away, soooo.......) advertise local services instead of national ones (or maybe, more likely, "in addition to", rather than "instead of"), and they do it VERY effectively (measured by the fact that you find the ads USEFUL when you're online instead of merely distracting).
    • your answering machine at home knows to send callers you trust (you've defined the trust in another context) to voicemail immediately when you're not home, so they don't have to wait for the rings to pass)

    One could argue that the details of any of those examples introduces flaws. But it helps to imagine how things *could be* without regard for how they are. That last idea is a good example. Nevermind how the system knows *what* callers to trust (we can't send EVERYONE to voicemail immediately when you're not home, as that tells the bad guys the house is empty), and accept that it makes good sense for the trusted caller to NOT have to wait if the phone KNOWS you're not going to pick it up.

    Or maybe that's a terrible example for you, but hopefully you get the point.

    Now, let's say we're sold on the "why share my location" question. On to the "why the middle man" question. Short answer: this is sensitive information. You want its distribution centralized, and you want to be able to control the flow of it as much as possible.

    By making one service the authority for telling other services where you are (especially if you that central authority knows its way around security), you're lessening the chances that you'll find yourself without control over who knows where you are.

    Every analogy will be imperfect, but think of Paypal (your payment broker, so you don't give your financial information to every merchant) or the Real Estate Broker, who keeps you from having to deal directly with all of those various home sellers/buyers alone. These are parties you trust to represent you, and FE (or any other location broker) is someone you trust to represent (to other parties who create *unique value* for you by knowing) your physical location.

    You could skip Paypal and give your credit card to every online merchant from whom you buy. You could skip the Real Estate Agent and give your telephone number and email address to every party selling a house in the neighborhoods your wife likes. But the option that creates more *value* for you is to have a broker represent you.

    I could go on, but I've rambled too much. Is this worth discussion, or does it just bore the crap out of everyone? I find it fascinating (can you tell?), but the challenge now (with it becoming more and more technically possible) is learning, collectively, as a society, where we'll apply the ability in a way that provides real value for the users and services that want access to one another in the physical world.
    Steam Community? Add me. | Free Remote, Encrypted Backup

    Darkilla: In short, NS is pretty much really fast chess. With guns. Apophis: I haven't seen anyone say that SM's are better than non-SMs. Nordbomber: This is THE first server I've seen where either side can comeback from out of seemingly nowhere with the right teamwork. en4rcment: I have NEVER experienced the type of gameplay that I have found here. Nightly I am amazed at the personalities and gaming talent. Zephyr: Apophis is clearly a highly sophisticated self-aware AI construct that runs on a highly modified toaster oven in Wyzcrak's basement.

  • #2
    Re: Location-based services (LBS)

    It's way cool. I just don't have a cell phone that allows me to participate...
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    • #3
      Re: Location-based services (LBS)

      i knew you always wanted to keep track of my location...

      damn u

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      • #4
        Re: Location-based services (LBS)

        I installed this app today on my iPhone. http://www.ilocalis.com/ I'm a little concerned with going through their servers and all, but the functionality is worth the risk.

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        • #5
          Re: Location-based services (LBS)

          My Fire Eagle Windows Mobile native client is now public.

          http://hineini.codeplex.com
          Steam Community? Add me. | Free Remote, Encrypted Backup

          Darkilla: In short, NS is pretty much really fast chess. With guns. Apophis: I haven't seen anyone say that SM's are better than non-SMs. Nordbomber: This is THE first server I've seen where either side can comeback from out of seemingly nowhere with the right teamwork. en4rcment: I have NEVER experienced the type of gameplay that I have found here. Nightly I am amazed at the personalities and gaming talent. Zephyr: Apophis is clearly a highly sophisticated self-aware AI construct that runs on a highly modified toaster oven in Wyzcrak's basement.

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