The future of location-based apps

The future of location-based apps.
Slow adoption now, maybe. Fast-growth with a few enhancements soon, yep.

Location-based applications are here to stay. “Here to stay” being a relative term in this day and age. How will they evolve, though?

Mashable reports Foursquare CEO and founder Dennis Crowley’s thoughts on that. Others are saying that Foursquare better get on the stick or risk losing out completely to the recently-launched Facebook Places.

As an interested outsider, I think at some point two important aspects have to emerge:

  1. The manual process of checking-in will be unnecessary.
  2. The check-in has to become more rewarding and personal for the user.

I’ve complained about the clumsiness of checking-in before, and the improved rewards are already starting to show from three of the major geolocation app providers — Foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR, and now Facebook Places (turbocharged when mixed with Facebook Deals).

And the reality is, mobile GPS systems will need to step up as well for this to reach its full potential. Crowley mentions this, too.

But here’s a glimpse into three features I’d like to see in the future:

  1. Those of us who enjoy using these apps will agree to automate check-ins. Maybe it will be on a case by case basis or with a one-click adjustment to our privacy settings or with a pop-up, as Crowley references. The Foursquare app — or whomever beats them to it — will know when we’re at a destination we’ve “favorited” previously (which is how I’d prefer it be handled). It’ll also know when we’ve left.
  2. The staff for the venue we’re at will know we’ve just arrived, too, if they’re paying attention to an online dashboard that’s been created for them. Crowley doesn’t talk about this at all, but I have to imagine that brands will begin expecting more data and analytics, more easily accessible than they can currently get it.
  3. And then there’s the perks we receive. I think they need to become far more customized. Crowley also does not make mention of this, though he does talk about recommendations for other venues and emphasizing making more specials available at once. What if you could add more data to your profile, and once you reached the venue’s reward threshhold, that data was used to auto-generate a reward that displayed? Favorite drinks, favorite appetizers, for instance.

Manual location check-ins will seem passé by 2012, along with customized rewards — have to be where this is headed, privacy fears aside.

A roundup of a few additional opinions on location-based apps:

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