Skyhook Wireless Working to Make More Mobile Apps Location-Aware

4/1/10Follow @wroush

Executives at Boston’s Skyhook Wireless, which supplies the GPS- and Wi-Fi-based location-finding technology used by dozens of mobile device makers, are convinced that mobile app developers have only begun to explore the uses of location data. To help that process along, they’re about to introduce a software toolkit called “Local Faves” intended to help iPhone app developers add location-based elements where you might not expect them, such as in music, wine, food, or reference apps.

“There are lots of apps that use location already—it’s about 12 percent of the apps in the iTunes App Store—but they are the apps that you would expect, like navigation, travel, weather, news, and social networking check-in apps,” says Kate Imbach, Skyhook’s vice president of marketing. “But we’ve started seeing a lot of interest from developers of apps that aren’t really by nature location-based. We’d talk to the makers of a cooking app and they’d want to be able to add location tags so that users can see the most popular recipes in their area.”

Local Faves ScreenshotLocal Faves—which is really just a few lines of code that developers can embed in their apps—will make it easy to add location functionality, Imbach says. “It could be a bird-watching app that lets you say ‘I saw this bird here,’ or a wine app that lets you say ‘I drank this wine here,’” she says. “Any digital content gets more interesting if you can talk about where you are when you’re accessing it.”

Skyhook announced Local Faves this morning at O’Reilly Media’s Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, CA, and plans to release it by mid-April. Where 2.0, launched in 2005, is the country’s largest tech gathering focused on location-based services, which are especially hot this year with the spread of location-aware smartphones and apps that exploit location information, such as Yelp and Foursquare.

The Local Faves code pulls latitude and longitude data from iPhone’s core software, and makes it easier for app developers to use that information. For example, an app incorporating Local Faves might allow users to broadcast their location to social networking services, or tag a piece of information with a location. Those are tricks that developers of navigation- or social-networking-related apps mastered long ago, but they aren’t as familiar to makers of apps where location isn’t core to the experience, Imbach says.

Green Mountan Digital in Woodstock, VT, for example, plans to use Local Faves to improve its Audobon Guide series of iPhone apps, which provide photographic catalogues of … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • Wade Roush

    As a quick addendum to this story: Dan Katcher of Rocket Farm Studios, a local mobile app development house, sent me the following comments.

    “We recently evaluated Local Faves and think it can add a lot of value both to our own apps and our client apps. One example is for a project we’re working on in the hotel space. We can see Local Faves providing tremendous functionality for hotel guests using the app to learn what’s hot in terms of restaurants and things to do, get reviews/ratings, and through their what they want to do while staying at the hotel.

    “From a technology perspective we can move much faster and more efficiently because we no longer have to worry about how to host and manage locality-based data.

    “And from the user’s point of view, this set of features will allow us to keep the user within the app and still have access and the ability to socialize this information. It’s a big win for us in terms of getting, community-based features into the app fast.

    “We can also see applying Local Faves to a number of projects we’re developing internally for the same reasons.”