No, the title for this column is not misspelled and you did not miss a new development in the field of GIS. The term reflects one of the reasons for this column and my own recent experiences in relocating and the role location-based services appeared to play.
Location based services are sometimes defined as based on the position of the user in space. My opinion is that location based services need not be limited to mobile devices. Logging in to my office network from some desk and finding that my computer automatically configured a printer near me is one of the less obvious examples of a location-based service although it is available in many office networks. The point here is that the field of application of location-based services might be much wider than mobile devices only.
So what about relocation? Relocation has settled in my mind lately, since my family and I are about to move from the Netherlands to California. In the process of relocating, at least two distinct locations and a route between them play a part. First of all I wanted some information on our destination and typed 'go Redlands' in my browser. Apart from a list of 53 sites with interesting information, I also got a great offer for a video camera system that can be used for surveillance purposes. Unfortunately I'm not a US resident yet nor am I logged on to a computer in the US meaning that the offer is not for me...
These Internet marketing campaigns clearly lack a location-based service and did not read Alex van Leeuwen's article 'Geo-targeting on IP Address' in the July/August issue of GeoInformatics! But things are not as bad as they may seem. Part of relocation is to find a new place to live. Surfing the web taught me that realtors are clearly beginning to see the added value of GIS. Some time ago you were lucky to find a picture of the offered houses on the Internet. Nowadays, most real-estate web sites offer a map showing the location of the houses. Some even give additional information on the neighborhood, schools, demographics and such. To me these sites qualify as 'offering a location-based service'. The nice thing about the Internet is that once you've followed one of these links you enter a new 'world' of information and more links to follow…
Beware not to get lost in cyberspace. But then again, being able to get lost is one of the key properties of a world, isn't it? Fortunately the chance of my goods getting lost during the relocation is next to zero. I can actually track the relocation of my goods from my present to my future location. This means that even in the event that the container ship carrying my stuff across the ocean does sink, I will always know where they are. Isn't that comforting?
Location-based services are not a thing of the future anymore and we do not have to wait for UMTS or other high-speed mobile networks and Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled devices. Geo-targeting can be seen as the GPS of the Internet. The nice thing about this is that your IP address is always known when connected to the Internet, and that is independent of your physical location on the earth. That means that Internet services that make use of geo-targeting will travel with you, wherever you go!
We have seen that even in a common thing as relocation one already can experience the benefits of location based services. All of these services were offered through the Internet. This leads me to conclude that the Internet, with its links, and references, is perhaps the largest location based service provider around. This column will be my own contribution to the expansion of location-based services.
Appeared in GeoInformatics Magazine (www.geoinformatics.com) in September 2001