Location-based services may be a hard sell.

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Google Latitude, not overwhelmingly adopted

I’m working on a few concepts for integrating GPS locations received from mobile browsers into our mapping applications. One idea has been to employ the location of a student’s smartphone by placing them on the campus map and identifying the quickest route to their on-campus destination. While location-based services have been a hot topic for the past two years now, I’m still unsure of how readily the non-technical public will accept the concept. I still have GIS students that find the amount of data accessible to them intimidating and “scary.”

I came across this post regarding geolocation’s “spookiness.” This person, while he may not be (and probably isn’t) a GIS geek, is still technically capable of putting together a basic demo of the geolocation capabilities found in most modern browsers. If a somewhat technical person is unsettled by this, what will the technically clueless think?

Arthur C Clarke said that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and in regard to modern technology, I find that absolutely true. Just spend some time in front of a desktop computer with someone that has barely used the Internet. Wikipedia still fascinates individuals with its breadth and depth, as does Google Maps. But geolocation still has not been introduced to enough non-technical or non-GIS individuals that it is still foreign to the average netizen. How will our location-based services be perceived by the public? If presented poorly or without a clear explanation of privacy rights retained, will our smart web maps be seen as black magic?

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