Patently Apple, 9 to 5 Mac, Gizmodo and Mashable are not usual sources of information for this blog, but when I heard Apple had filed a patent with a slightly different take on location based services, I had to find out more. Maybe I’ve been beating the drum a bit too much on this theme lately, but this type of Latitute styled technology opens the door wide open for airlines and their partners to extend the Bow Tie Model beyond it’s traditional end point of flight departure and into a juicy new stream of ancillary revenue – impulse buying of destination content.

The Bow Tie Model

Looking at the actual wording from Apple’s patent application:

Location Sharing: Abstract – Geographic location data is sent from a first device to a second device with a modified message to signal the presence of geographic location data associated with the message. The message can include (or attach) the geographic location data or file, or the message can include a link to a network-based resource which the second device can use to obtain the geographic location data. In some implementations, when a user of the first device views a location on a map display of the first device, a graphical user interface is presented to allow the user to select an option to share the geographic location with the second device. The second device receives geographic location data or a link from the first device which can trigger a map display on the second device showing the location of the first device and, optionally, the location of the second device. For more information on patent application 20090325603, view this temporary link.

Or if that didn’t register, try this from 9 to 5 Mac:

In Apple’s implementation, it looks like the location data can be carried in an SMS or Instant Message (interesting news in its own right), which can then be opened in the Maps application to show the other person’s location relative to the iPhone user’s.

Back to the actual patent application, but this time in easier to understand text:

A method comprising: obtaining input specifying sharing of geographic location data or a contact with a device; and sending the geographic location data or contact with a text message to the device, where the text message is modified to signal the presence of the geographic location data or contact associated with the text message.

So why is this interesting? I will never put anyone on the spot and insist that they believe me on this, but it was only in the last week or two that I was pondering what might hold back widespread adoption of location based services aimed at travellers. Stories like this made me think data roaming charges could be the problem, and then I started asking myself what if there was another way to deliver near real time location services more cheaply to smart phones owned by travellers, assuming that their phones contain an app loaded prior to arriving at their destination – possibly an app containing the map data just for one city or region; or multiple regions based on their booked travel destinations.

Then the idea of SMS came to me. Maybe part of the idea came from reading about Jetstar and mobile phone check-in, or maybe it was just my view that the most complex solution is not always automatically the best. A low tech solution can be quite elegant in the right circumstances. So if you assume that iPhones (for today at least) are the smart phone of choice amongst the non corporate crowd (those who actually pay their own mobile phone bill each month, and therefore think twice before incurring exorbitant roaming data charges), then a travel themed location service built on the iPhone platform that uses SMS to overcome the natural reluctance of normal leisure travellers to incur high or unknowable roaming charges could just be a winner.

But before I claim any great credit, this only proves that there is no monopoly on good ideas. The real value in innovation is he who has the power to turn the idea into reality – clearly I am no match for Apple on that count! If innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, then implementation beats pontification any day. Location, location, location – it will be quite a while before this space in travel technology gets boring and predictable.

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