Taking a Google Field Trip: What’s the Appeal of Location-Based Apps?

field tripLocation-based mobile apps are a hot trend these days. These services allow people to use a smartphone to interact somehow with their surrounding environment, such as earning rewards and discounts for “checking-in” somewhere using the popular platform Foursquare.

Other big-name apps that incorporate some location-aware features include OpenTable, Fandango and Yelp. And still others allow you to meet people who are nearby or even play games incorporating the area you’re currently in.

Another app that is increasing in popularity is Google Field Trip, which runs in the background on your phone and notifies you of interesting things, which vary from tidbits of local history to nearby destinations you might want to visit. You can customize the type of information you receive as well as the frequency that the notifications pop up.

Google highlights the potential of this app to take you off the beaten path and discover cool things you might not have thought to look up:

Enrich yourself with a Field trip during your commute. Live like a local when you travel to new places. Eat and shop off the beaten path. Or simply discover the obscure history about your neighborhood during your next walk to the park. Get ready to see this world with new eyes!

Location-Based Mobile Apps Are Big Business

A cynical reaction to all of this is that the true goal of location-aware apps is to collect more and more personal data from you for purposes of surveillance and ever-increasing ad targeting.

And advertisers are clamoring to pop up on your mobile device.

Market research firm BIA/Kelsey predicts that “location targeted mobile advertising revenues, which are growing at a faster pace than overall mobile advertising, will increase from $2.9 billion in 2013 to $10.8 billion in 2017, accounting for 52 percent of overall U.S. mobile ad spending in 2017.”

Major tech companies certainly understand that mobile is an exploding market, as Yahoo, Google, Apple and Microsoft have been acquiring smaller location-based mobile platforms.

Google Field Trip does promote some deals from Google Offers, but otherwise is ad free for the moment. But many believe that will change down the road.

Others speculate that Google’s goal with Field Trip is to ease us into increasingly targeted and personalized experiences with our mobile devices so we will accept their more ambitious projects such as the Google Glass wearable computer. Blogger Rachel Metz wrote that Field Trip “illustrates that Google believes we’re getting more used to the idea of a predictive assistant.”

What do you think about location-based mobile apps like Google Field Trip? A cool way to learn more about the world around you? Or just the latest way to send more details of your life to big companies and eager advertisers?

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