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Killer Apps?

Once the location-finding infrastructure and standards are in place, experts say, the U.S. market for location-based services will take off. Offerings will, no doubt, include friend and noodle finding, but a variety of other services are in trials or still on the drawing board. While everyone has a best guess as to what the real killer location application will be, they remain just that-guesses. “There are going to be things that just pop up,” says Borriello.

At their core, the winning services will give people information that improves lives and saves time, or as ESRI’s Spinney puts it, that “predicts the unpredictable”-enabling, for instance, easy navigation around traffic accidents or street closures. Because outdoor location-finding technology is more mature, services such as friend or restaurant finding have been offered first. But carriers see these as just the first wave of a variety of location-based services that “they can sell to drive revenue,” says Arnold Gum, a Qualcomm senior product manager whose job is to figure out how new technology can help the world’s wireless carriers make more money. In some cases, customers will be charged by how much data they consume: users of AT&T’s friend finder service, for example, pay $2.99 a month plus usage charges, which depend on how many friends they ping. In other cases, consumers will be charged a set fee for each application.

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