Friday, May 28, 2010

Geo-Fencing, Location Privacy & Other Animals

Privacy has been, is and will remain one of the most hotly debated issues within both the web and mobile domains for time to come. Only last week, a probe by German, French, Spanish and Italian authorities gathered steam as fears of Google's Streetview data-gathering exercise appeared to have breached several national privacy rules.

The debate has many dimensions: what should be in the 'public' domain? Where does the trade-off lie between the benefits of increased sharing of information and the risks of over-sharing?

Erick Schonfeld writing in TechCrunch today provides an interesting summary of what Google's, Foursquare's and Facebook's take on the location privacy issue is.

I completely agree with Facebook's VP of Product, Chris Cox, who described a future where phones are "contextually aware" so that they can "check into flights, find deals at gorcery stores and do other things for us at that right place, at the right time". Importantly “The phone should know what we want.”

In my book on Building Location-Aware Applications (with co-author Murat Aktihanoglu), I describe this as the 'Contextual Holy Grail', with context providing the 'intelligent' added element to Presence and Location.

As handsets get smarter, the whole area of 'sensory perception' will also allow predictive services to be delivered to the handset -for example, a handset that can detect your stress levels and location, will be able to recommend an Aromatherapy store nearby.

Geo-fencing allows users to draw virtual fences around neighbourhoods or locations that either you want to maintain as private or public. This helps give users control over the location service and set their desired privacy levels. As greater automation of location services come on stream (checking-in your location really is too cumbersome for most people), geo-fencing will provide a useful way to strike the right privacy balance in a smarter way.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

App Store Rankings–Distribution Strategies for iPhone and Mobile Apps

The following is a short extract from chapter 11 on 'Distributing your Application' within Part III 'Creating Winning LBS Businesses' in my forthcoming book, Location Based Services (written with co-author Murat Atkihanoglu), available for pre-order here.

“There is a certain shroud of mystery surrounding exactly how App Stores work, with the various players involved guarding most of their cards close to their chest. And while there may have been 3 billion reported downloads from Apple's iTunes store, it is anyone's guess how many of the apps downloaded were later removed from the device.

First, the bad news: getting your consumer to discover or find your app within an App Store is difficult. The iTunes Store is a case in point: with over 140,000 apps available in over 30 individual country stores, finding an app you don't know the name of is extremely difficult.

Now, the good news! You can significantly increase the odds of becoming a popular app by understanding the dynamics of how App Stores work.

A good 'discoverability' strategy will consider the following:

  • App Rankings
  • App Reviews
  • App Analytics
  • App Discoverability Services

Let’s take the first item, App Rankings. What exactly do we mean by App Rankings and how are they measured? Rankings work by taking the most downloaded apps within a short space of time, typically 24 hours. As they are regularly updated, there is a lot of upwards and downwards movement within the list, but entering the list as a newbie app requires considerable effort.

Some App Stores, like iTunes and Android Market, publish rankings within the store itself and there are tools such as App Gems (pictured above) that allow you to monitor global rankings for Top 300 iPhone apps.

Why are rankings important? The simple answer is, the better the ranking, the greater the downloads your app will receive, as it gives your app greater exposure.