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Local Mobile Search: They’ll Be Watching You


loopt sample mapLocal mobile search is heating up. The powerful combination of GPS location and user input creates a golden opportunity for accurate, local, useful information to break out in a big way. As more and more GPS-enabled smartphones come on the market, more and more search engines and apps want to know just where you are and just what you’re looking for.

The New York Times looks at another new local mobile app entering the marketplace. Although the GPS integration varies among the present offerings, we already have apps from local opinion sites like Yelp and Citysearch doing well in this area, as well as more specialized search engines and apps. Google and Microsoft already have local business listings as well. Is there room for Loopt’s new local-mobile app, Pulse, launching today?

Absolutely, says Greg Sterling. He points out that there’s no “definitive” local mobile app yet—and it looks like Pulse might be able to position itself as that definitive app. Pulse draws info from 20 services, “including listings and review services like Zagat, Citysearch and Eventful as well as content sites like DailyCandy, Thrillist and The Village Voice.”

Additionally, Pulse looks at social, spatial and temporal data to make recommendations:

Pulse produces a personalized and ever-changing list of recommendations based on where you are, the time of day and Loopt’s own data on where you and your friends have been. It shows editorial descriptions and reviews from the partner sites and averages the ratings a business has received.

Pulse also factors in more subjective factors, like which places are particularly popular with Loopt users at a given moment. That will help Pulse come up with recommendations that a site like Google might not, said Sam Altman, a Loopt co-founder.

In addition to going for a comprehensive algorithmic/social/human-powered service, Loopt is also using a unique payment method: “Loopt gets some revenue from cellphone carriers, which include its service in their data plans or buy its technology to run their own location-based applications.” They will also be connecting with advertisers and local businesses to offer local coupons on cell phones. Finally, they also share revenue with participating content sites—like Citysearch. (A partnership with Yelp may come in the future, if Loopt can promise that the reviews will be clearly marked as coming from Yelp.)

Pulse is currently working on an updated app for the iPhone. The creator, Loopt, is a mobile friend-finding service, so they already have the mobile social networking capabilities needed for the product.

2010 year of the mobileOf course, these advances may also mean that these third parties, search engines and telephone companies can locate you at any time. Not only that, they know what you’ve been looking for—whether that’s “bowling alley” and “ice cream” or “gun store” and “abandoned warehouse.” This conspiracy theory brought to you by The Police.

But since I don’t plan on using my phone to help in my murderous plots (well, at least not in real life), I’m pretty excited about progress in this area. Now if only I could get a better phone.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to new apps in the local mobile search space? Do you think Pulse will have what it takes to succeed—and possibly become that definitive app?