Location-Based Services

2010 Short LIst: Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years
The related topic "location-based media" appeared in ANZ 2009 Edition and 2009 Economic Development Edition.

Location-based services provide content that is dynamically customized according to the user's location. These services are commonly delivered to mobile devices, but can also be accessed from other portable computers, handhelds, or any Internet-capable device. Current common applications for location-based services include advertising, news, social networking, and similar services.

An increasing number of mobile applications are taking advantage of the built-in geolocation capability that is increasingly a standard feature in mobile devices. Information about nearby buildings, landmarks, or other fixed features is commonplace; a growing use of location-based services is to locate people nearby—people known or unknown to the user—who share interests or experiences in common. Educational applications for location-based services are currently along the same lines, delivering relevant place-based information and allowing easy geotagging of captured data. Media such as photos and video, as well as the simplicity of geotagging, will be important aspects of location-based services as they continue to develop.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning & Creative Expression

  • American University offers a location-aware virtual police escort. Students record their location and where they are going; if they don't call back within a certain time period to announce a safe arrival, campus security is notified.
  • Ecorio, an Android app, tracks users’ movements and determines their carbon footprint; a sister app, Zimride, offers them carpooling choices.
  • Using location-awareness, apps like Nru (“near you”) and Wikitude provide students with educational and entertaining information about their surroundings; for example, the history of the oldest building at the university, or a walking tour of campus.


  • Terraphone provides mobile users with comprehensive information about the geology surrounding their location: http://www.elbeaus.com
  • A new service from MIT, Locast, provides a virtual tour guide for visitors to Italy, tailoring video offerings based on location: http://locast.mit.edu

For Further Reading

7 Things You Should Know about Location-Aware Applications
(Educause, March 2009.) Location-aware applications have many uses on campus, and enhance a variety of disciplines.

Location-Aware Computing
(A. Michael Berman, Sue M. Lewis, and Anthony Conto, for Educause, November 2008.) The authors describe location-aware computing as it is relevant to higher education. Several examples of LBS in current use are provided in the article.

Researchers Design Rooms With Sensors That Help Dependent People
(Science Daily, 13 September 2009.) Researchers have developed a room that includes sensors to monitor the movements and location of the occupants. Using location-awareness, the room performs functions for the impaired, like opening a door, for example.