what are location based services

The Present and Future of Location-Based Services in the Indian Context | Sakshi Singh, AGI

Location technology is impacting mainstream industries and experiences much more than we perceive. The need for and access to instant location information has become an urgent demand across industries and user bases.

From hunting for the right place to eat, to booking a ride to the airport in minutes, from letting friends and family know where you are, to navigating a sprawling campus without relying on strangers – more and more users are using real-time Geospatial data and optimized location-based services in their daily lives.

Considering the number and types of industries that can benefit from location-based services (LBS), it will be an understatement to say that there is tremendous scope for growth and advancement in the field. Governments and businesses in India are already leveraging LBS to revolutionize their interactions with the end user, yet much more can be done.

What are Location-Based Services?

Technically, any service that uses geographic data and information to offer facilities or information to consumers can be called a Location-Based Service. Today, however, LBS is used more colloquially to refer to services based on data acquired from mobile phones, and strictly available through them.

GPS and WiFi data, cellular tower pings, QR codes, and RFID technologies are among the most common ways for location tracking for LBS. There can be many end outcomes of such LBS platforms – locating nearby points of interest, looking up travel-related information, indoor and outdoor navigation, and even social networking and entertainment. Additionally, they can be employed to deliver high-end services such as fraud prevention and emergency response and rescue.

“There is no clear-cut boundary of LBS and GIS; the boundary could be even more blurry in the future when conventional GIS advances to invisible GIS in which GIS functionalities are embedded in tiny sensors and microprocessors,” notes Mr. Deepak Choksi, Chief Technical Officer, Bhugol GIS. “In the future, conventional GIS concepts may disappear, instead GIS functionalities may appear in a pervasive fashion. The critical requirements of last-mile connectivity, proximity marketing, and store locations can be effectively addressed by LBS using GIS tools like GRAM++, an indigenously developed GIS tool well poised to support the varied needs of LBS.“

It would not be an exaggeration to say that LBS usage has become a significant part of the daily life of the common man. That’s not all; the technology has also become popular with governmental organizations, multinational corporations, SMEs, and startups. Their popularity in India is particularly impressive.

How India Leverages Location-Based Services to Improve Citizen and Consumer Satisfaction

Ever since the Indian Government made the use of GPS mandatory in all smartphones starting January 2018, the LBS market saw an exponential boost. Today, government agencies like ISRO are undertaking multiple LBS-based projects across application areas, including Indian heritage tourism, traffic monitoring, and reporting, agricultural insurance, precision farming, and horticulture.

The National Highway for Electric Vehicle by 2020 (NHEV) has partnered with AGI member UNL for its TECH-Trail Run project that will allow electric vehicle fleets to run using an Anti-Theft System (ATS), powered by location technology. At the same time, drivers get access to a comprehensive location-based service that notifies them of points of interest such as EV charging stations, bus stop points, taxi pick-up, and drop-off points, road signages, accident-prone points, vehicle speed information, toll information, and emergency services.

The Uttar Pradesh Police, on the other hand, has partnered with AGI member Hexagon India to map various types of crime data for both citizen and departmental access. Nearest police officials are automatically detected during any incident, along with relaying the frequency at which they can reach the crime spot. All rungs of the police system, up to the DG level, can use a mobile application to access crime-related insights and analytics with a single click.

Several Indian businesses and startups are also leveraging LBS to transform the daily life of their customers. Logistics and supply chain venture Delhivery is using location-based services to help operate flexible, reliable, and resilient supply chains at low costs for small businesses in the country. They are offering express parcel transportation, PTL and TL freight, cross-border and supply chain services using LBS.

Online food ordering and delivery platform Swiggy is pioneering the Q(uick) Commerce era in India by using location-based services to maintain error-free, hassle-free, and time-bound deliveries. Swiggy has also introduced LBS-enabled offerings like cloud kitchens, instant grocery delivery, and pick-up and drop services of everyday items for users across the country.

There are many more startups of note rendering interesting location-based services across niches. HealthTech venture Visit is making healthcare more accessible for the masses using LBS. Hyper-local social networking app Public.app is being used by political leaders, media houses, citizen journalists, and local businesses to reach local consumers.

OLX India is using hyper-location targeting to reach second-hand automobile and mobile markets. Shared mobility platform Revv offers location-based car search on their website for customers, sending them city-specific notifications. TravelTech platform Pathfndr, earlier MeTripping, generates automated itineraries by leveraging route and weather data.

Apps like ParkSmart, offering location-based information and direction to the user’s nearest parking spot, and PinCarts, connecting brands, retailers, and high-value shoppers for location-based shopping, are also leveraging advanced LBS use cases to drive user experiences.

The Future of Location-Based Services: A Lot to Explore

“Micro-location and hyperlocal data are going to be critical, as the future of location-based services and experiences is becoming hyperlocal, hyper-contextual, and hyper-connected. To date, there is still a huge lack of mapping data particularly for emerging and fast-developing economies like India where location data is dynamic and changes every day, every hour, and sometimes every minute,” notes Xander van der Heijden, Founder and CEO, UNL. “At UNL, we give companies the tools to build hyperlocal solutions at varying scales and manage their own Virtual Private Maps and location data. Businesses can choose their own data providers at different geographic levels for an additional layer of flexibility, local context, and accuracy to location-based solutions like last-mile delivery and e-commerce.”

Though already widely used, LBS should be viewed as an emerging technology that can usher in huge benefits beyond its traditional applications. Smart Cities can use LBS to collect relevant data for urban and infrastructure planning while automating and streamlining citizen experiences at reduced costs. LBS can be used to directly guarantee the safety and security of citizens and assets by combining with surveillance and emergency management platforms.

Location information can be added to health statistics to define the area of interest better and facilitate deeper analysis that results in the underlying cause’s discovery. By combining location technology with various sensors, it is possible to follow an elderly individual’s movements, and get a good sense of their physical condition for remote care.

Integrating AI and IoT allow LBS to ensure exceptional competitive advantage to businesses in multiple areas. Businesses can target potential customers in a particular geographic area using LBS to send them specific promotional offers and announcements, for instance, cab aggregators and food delivery platforms.

Retailers and quick-service restaurants can deliver tailored and highly relevant content to users to increase foot traffic. Businesses can also analyze and investigate data aggregated from LBS platforms, in conjunction with Big Data Analytics, to predict customer preferences and behavioural patterns.  Companies employing remote workforces can use LBS to ensure that their workers are exactly where they are supposed to be. Location-based services can be deployed to match the customer’s location to a credit card transaction for preventing and detecting fraud.

With time, we can anticipate further development, upgrades, and precision in both Geospatial and smartphone technologies, not to mention in AI, IoT, Data Analytics, and AR/VR. The combined impact of such technological prowess is sure to create room for many more cutting-edge applications of LBS across industries.