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Getting More from Location Data

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Screenshot of Twittelator Pro, the first iPhone app to implement geotagging for Twitter.

Andrew C. Stone

Thanks to smart phones and other mobile devices, the number of applications that make use of geolocation data is exploding. But developers and device makers face new challenges that include determining physical location accurately, turning coordinates into meaningful information, and protecting users' privacy.

Last week, Twitter announced that it would supply developers with richer geolocation data. For users who activate the feature, Twitter already provides the latitude and longitude information through its application programming interface (API). The new data will add meaning to those coordinates: the relevant country and city, as well as the identity of a neighborhood or nearby landmarks and businesses. This is a direct result of Twitter's acquisition of geolocation startup GeoAPI in December 2009.

A growing number of sites and apps offer similar services, including Google Latitude's app for Android-powered smart phones; the popular social networks Gowalla, based in Austin, TX; and Foursquare, based in New York City. The next version of HTML even has location-based hooks baked into its specification, allowing browsers and sites to share information about a user's location.

From Technology Review
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