5 Uses For Location-Aware Technology

Location-aware technology is the current hot-topic in social media circles. As is the case with most new forms of technologies, the first crop of applications are essentially toys and games (Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, CauseWorld, etc.). The most successful and useful location-aware programs (Yelp, Twitter, photo galleries) are primarily preexisting programs that added location features. Either way, the underlying technology has huge implications and potential. Here are five ways location-aware technology can be useful in building product marketing:

  1. Geo-tagging Photos: Using location-data from the other side, photos tagged with location data provide an extra layer of information about the featured projects. As Michael is fond of saying, all construction is local. Architects don’t just want to know your product was used, they want to know it was used in their neighborhood, or one similar to it. Increasingly, photo gallery programs feature built-in location filters that automatically create “albums”, meaning architects can both flip through projects near them, and find the location of their favorite ones.
  2. Create Project Tours: This is something Gowalla does well, demonstrating again that this year’s “toys” can become next year’s indispensable tools. Users can create tours, marking several of their favorite locations and linking to information about each. Use this feature to create a walking tour around towns where you have several notable projects; encourage your prospects to check-in at each (achieved by clicking an in-program button while at the location), and have a prize or coupon for those that visit all the sites. In addition to building engagement, this is a good way to advertise how much work you’ve done around town.
  3. Job Signs: Similar to QR codes, geo-tagging is a good way to publicize your involvement in a project. While QR codes require active participation (users must open the program and scan the image), location-based ads can be more passive, popping up on maps automatically within a defined range. This can also create a permanent digital signature on your work, especially as the precision of these programs increases. Imagine getting a message on your phone as you walk through a building: “Look up! The light fixture shining on you was made by Juno Lighting”, with a link for more information.
  4. Trade Show Ads: This is most similar to the typical retail uses of location-based ads. As show attendees approach your booth, a message pops up telling them about your new product and any special show offers you may have. Alternatively, you might list all the shows you are attending this year, and have special offers for people that check-in at more than one of them. This also works with allied products: attendees visiting a concrete polisher might receive ads informing them of near-by stain or cleaning product manufacturers.
  5. Architectural Location-Based Network: Eventually I hope one of the existing networks will create architecturally-focused addons, or someone will create a location-based network specifically for the construction industry. In this network, buildings’ location-tagged profiles could tell users about materials used, design team, energy savings, and similar important information. Architects would gladly participate, both creating and viewing profiles, because they would enjoy the meta-level experience of seeing a building on so many different levels. Meanwhile manufacturers and contractors capitalize on the architect’s experience by linking their name to the project.
These uses focus on the social media-aspect of location software; there is an entirely different range of applications within design programs, combining BIM with location-aware software to improve many aspects of design and construction. I will address those in a future post.