Your location is a commodity for internet companies, advertisers

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The Independent Online

Location-based services have superseded the real-time web as the driving force behind internet innovation this year.

Internet giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook are all honing their location-based services. These bigger companies are lining up alongside a healthy serving of smaller internet start-ups (think Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla and Booyah) to provide their consumers with comprehensive geolocation services.

In reality the geolocation buzz being created by internet companies has little to do with people's exact GPS co-ordinates. The real value is found in providing real time updates about the names of places where people 'check-in'.

For example, it is much more interesting to know that your best friend just stopped by the Eiffel Tower than it is to receive an update saying, "hey, I can't believe I finally made it to 48° 51? 29.88? N, 2° 17? 40.2? E!"

Consumers have flocked to location-based services in the hundreds of thousands over the past couple of years. The geolocation user base is expected to rapidly expand again as start-ups create new ways to harness geolocation and existing companies add increased functionality to their current location-based services.

Advertisers are wisely keeping their eye on the market too. Location-aware platforms, especially those available from mobile phones, provide a unique opportunity for hyper-local marketing.

Mobile phones and location-aware services are a dream for adverting companies, who are desperately looking for new and effective ways to obtain consumers' attention. Advertisers are likely to up their efforts to target consumers who are willing to freely advertise their location - but it is not necessarily a bad thing.

If ads can be tailored to match individuals' needs (for instance, when you walk into your favorite clothing store they provide you with a coupon for a 30 percent discount), then consumers may be willing to freely provide their location to advertisers.

On the other hand, consumers should perhaps remain wary about providing a constant stream of location-based information to anyone who cares to tune in. The information could just as easily be used to stalk you or even inform perspective burglars that you are holidaying on the other side of the world.

But this notion doesn't seem to worry some. One site, http://pleaserobme.com, has already set up a location-based service that provides a real-time list of people that advertise the fact that they are not at home, aiming to draw attention to privacy issues and the web.

Either way, you can expect to see an influx of location-based services appear during the next year.

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