Before the dawn of the Smartphone there were handheld and mobile GPS (Global Positioning System) devices. Companies like Garmin and Tom-Tom thrived in the new market of location-based guidance services and although exciting in itself, that technology has grown to become much more than just turn-by-turn directions to your destination.
With the introduction of handheld devices like Blackberry, iPhone, and Android, companies took GPS to the next level. Have you noticed when you are playing the newest episode of "Angry Birds" that every once in a while an ad will appear? The advertisement may say "Starbucks Coffee, Buy One Get One Free", and you are sitting in a Starbucks.
Remember when you first powered on your new Smartphone? There was a setup question that asked if you wanted to enable "location services." Well, by answering "yes", companies like Verizon, Google, RIM, Apple, and thousands more are able to see where you are every minute of the day. It's true, Google actually knows that you are sitting in Starbucks at this very moment, either by GPS signal via 3G/4G, or by utilizing a site's Wi-Fi network. In fact, over 28 percent of adults use location-based services every day.
Twelve percent of Smartphone owners use geo-social services (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn) so that their locations are automatically included in their posts on those services, and as many as 55 percent use their Smartphones for getting directions and recommendations based on current locations. Want to know what great restaurants are nearby? What about the nearest movie theater and what they are showing? Simply use any one of 12 million apps and you can see what points of interest are near you. As the industry evolves, some apps even include coupon codes for sales that are going on at nearby retailers.
These location-based apps can also be used for other reasons aside from entertainment. Just recently a local law enforcement agency was able to place a suspect on the scene of a homicide by his Smartphone. Apparently his phone connected to a neighboring Wi-Fi network and posted his exact location. There is no denying he was there, when technology says so.
All in all today's location services are evolving to make life much more convenient. Just be mindful of what services you use. You never know who's watching.