As anticipated, location was the technology du jour at SXSW this year. In the video clip below, you can see just how many check-ins were performed during the event.

Now, it’s one thing to have the hipsters at SXSW checking in left and right, but it’s entirely another thing to see that happen on a broad scale with your average consumer or business user. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, there are several core challenges with location right now. But make no mistake, location is going to be huge in the coming months and years.

Over at, Chad Catacchio argues that location will be the center-point around which the next generation of applications and services evolve, just as the social web has been the center-point for the current wave of web applications and services. But, he points out, lots of people are still scratching their heads when it comes to the promise of location:

Not everyone gets it right now, some people are even downright afraid of it, but regardless, it is where the web is going, and the companies – big or small – that realize this are going to be the most important companies on the Internet in 5-10 years. In our interview with Steve Lee of Google (yes, also at SXSW), he said it flat out, “we’re going to put location into everything we do“. He didn’t say “social media”, he didn’t say “microblogging”, he said “location”.

Why is location going to be big?

Location will be big because mobile is big and will continue to be big. Smartphone growth is exploding with sales up 41 percent in Q4 of 2009. Added to the mix is the introduction of the iPad which, according to recent reports, is selling like hotcakes on pre-order and may surpass 5 million units in the first year of production. While not all of these units will have the 3G and GPS option, a significant percentage will. Those that don’t will still be able to use WiFi location services. And, of course, Apple won’t be the only one selling such devices. The end result? More people carrying location aware devices to more places with more and more compelling reasons to use those devices anywhere and everywhere. Some simple examples:

  • Which of my friends/family are nearby? Where have they been? Where will they be?
  • Who’s got the best coffee in the neighborhood?
  • I need a drink. Is there a good bar with a happy hour right now?
  • Is there something interesting happening right around the corner that I don’t know about?

Location for the enterprise

So, what about the enterprise? Why would a business want to take advantage of location? Again, location provides context. Context applied to critical business data helps organizations make better decisions about how they deploy their resources to minimize costs and maximize sales. Here are just two examples:

  • The field sales rep wants to optimize their day and maximize sales. Using location information combined with CRM data, the rep can get up-to-the-minute info on leads and accounts that are nearby while increasing opportunistic sales.
  • The field support rep can be deployed along an optimized route from one client to the next, saving time and fuel while lowering response times and improving customer satisfaction.

Location and the Secret Sauce

Location (and by this I mean time and space) is a key ingredient in what I’m calling the “Secret Sauce” of the next Internet wave:

data + people + location = the secret sauce

Let’s try it with a couple examples, first a consumer example then one for business:

Exhaustive list of restaurants + Your friends and family + SF Financial District =
5 great restaurant recommendations from people you trust

Exhaustive list of doctors + Your network of accounts, leads & business contacts + Brooklyn, NY =
20 qualified leads within 2 miles of your current location

The mobile device makes it easy enough to take the Internet with you, but the “secret sauce” in this equation is the payoff for carrying that device and making your location known; in this case, 5 great restaurants or 20 qualified leads. Location will take off not because people want to see more targeted advertising. It will take off because it provides real, tangible, contextual value to the person using it. And once people get a taste of it, they will want more.