Warid has recently announced 2 location based services: friend finder and place finder (i.e. local search). These are pay-per-use services (Rs.3+tax). Using SMS or MMS. you can find the location of another warid cell phone customer or do a local search for a point of interest such as bank. Service is limited to major cities.
This is an interesting first step towards location based services (LBS) for the telecom industry. In US and EU, navigation and related data services are growing rapidly and account for a major portion of network operatorâ€™s revenue. The rules and privacy norms are quite different in developed countries and sharing of real-time location is subject to a lot of scrutiny. Warid is simply relying on per-request permission to work around the privacy concern. However I do not find this a good approach â€” it can be quite annoying to get such messages left and right.
In the US, LBS is a hot area with lots of startup acitivty. Companies such as brightkite, loopt and whrrl have received tons of VC money to develop all kinds of fancy mobile and web-based applications. Recent inclusion of GPS in 3G iPhone has created even more buzz!
Warid has taken a different and relatively simple approach where the application is based on back and forth sms or multimedia message (MMS). The SMS solution is pretty much the same which Google offers in the US and which works extremely well for quick searches. The MMS option is for the map display – limited to a few major cities. Since there is no mention of GPS requirement, Warid must be using triangulation algorithms to find the approximate location. See my previous post on Google maps and how it works.
Although there are many limitations of Waridâ€™s LBS this still matters because this is the first attempt for location based service. I can assure you that this is just the start and we will soon plenty of other implementations around the buddy finder concept and LBS in general. There are so many creative ways to use this service, especially when combined with a personalized website and higher resolution maps.