Monday, January 28, 2008

Location, Location, Location - the Ulocate Widget Platform, One to Watch #6

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, is excited about the future of Location-Based Services (LSB): "...location-based advertising will be a very good business and useful to the end user".

This was his comment at a panel discussion held at the WEF in Davos last week (see Andrew Grill's blog for his excellent post analysing the key messages of the session). Many share Schmidt's excitement about the prospects for LBS's, albeit few are clear as to exactly how and when these prospects will materialise.

One firm that could be positioned to benefit from growth in this area is Boston-based uLocate, owner of the 'Where' GPS widget platform, capable of automatically porting programs onto GPS-capable handsets and publishing them on US-based networks with access to millions of users.

uLocate is hoping for location-based widgets developed on their platform to experience the same kind of viral growth that Facebook experienced for some of its applications.Already a number of practical widgets have emerged, ranging from the 'Zipcar Car Sharing' widget allowing members to locate and view the nearest Zipcars on their mobile screen as well as instantly connect to Zipcar's reservation system to select a nearby vehicle, to the 'Nearbio' widget, enabling users to quickly find the closest biodiesel pumps.

In addition, uLocate also offers "BuddyBeacon", a geo-social networking service that is reminiscent of Plazes (but however lacks the geo-tracker functionality of Ipoki, for example).

If uLocate's platform takes off within the developer community, then we could see the company expanding outside of the US and take advantage of the popularity of its platform to access an ever-growing LBS market.Its partnership with Twitter to track users' whereabouts could also fuel growth for the company.And for a subscription fee of $3 a month, uLocate appears to be delivering value to its US-based end-users.

It already raised $11m im venture capital in May 2007 in an over-subscribed financing round, so access to funding could further power its dash to grab global market share in 2008.

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