Wednesday, April 1, 2009

W3C Geolocation API: Adding "Where" to Web Applications

Me and Henrik just listened to a seminar held by Ryan Sarver (Director of Consumer Products at Skyhook Wireless) about W3C Geolocation API and geolocation as a concept.


When the amount of information increases heavily geolocation will become more and more important to maintain relevance. Geolocation aslo increases conversion. Instead of exposing hundreds of Starbucks in New York applications should highlight the three or four closest to the user's position, since the goal is to get the user into the coffee shop.

Ryan founded Locationaware.org which in June 2008 became W3C Geolocation Working Group aiming for a standardized way of implementing geolocation based services both in websites and browsers. This is where the W3C Geolocation API comes in. The API is now supported in Google Chrome, Mozilla 3.5 and Opera Labs.

The API supports four ways of getting positions:
IP Geolocation
Pros: Widely available, detection happens server-side
Cons: Only accurate to the city level, only in the right state 85% of the time, costly and produces false positives
Wi-Fi
Pros: Accurate, works indoors and in urban areas, quick time to first fix, software only, leverages existing wifi
Cons: Doesnt work well i rural areas
GPS
Pros: Acurate after it gets a fix, highly accurate in rural area
Cons: Doens work indoors
Cell tower
Pros: Works where there is cell coverage (most areas), quick time to first fix, software only, leverages existing cellular radio
Cons: Very inaccurate

Ryans tip is to go for a hybrid using Wi-Fi as the primary way and IP Geolocation as the secondary.

I thought this seminar was great and I'm really looking forward to increase the use of geolocation based solutions together with customers. I am sure that every company can gain something from it.