We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about consumer facing geolocation services such as Foursquare and Gowalla, and not as much time talking about the data and service plumbing that makes these services work.
But the location based infrastructure landscape is getting pretty interesting as well. Yesterday, Location Labs (formerly known as Wavemarket), hinted that they might be gearing up for an IPO. Not that long ago, SimpleGEO (see our interview) was able to raise a pretty big chunk of money to “sell shovels” to the start-ups digging for geolocation gold. And before that, GeoAPI was snapped up by Twitter to power that company’s in house location infrastructure.
Today Yahoo! put a bit more spit and polish on its own legacy geocoding tools and relaunched them as Yahoo! Placefinder.
Here is what you need to know:
At its most basic level, Yahoo! Placefinder is a location based look up service that allows developers to query, for example, the lat long of a particular address. The service also provides what’s known as “reverse geocoding,” which means that it will take a stab at providing you an address if you give them a lat long.
Where the service gets more interesting in my opinion is what it provides in terms of Points of Interest. For example, you can send them a name of a park, or of a baseball stadium, or of a tourist attraction, and get back lat long information. Why does this matter? Because using this sort of service could help any of the thousands of travel web sites convert their travel directories to location based services.
With these big company APIs, the devil is often in the details. Yahoo’s restrictions don’t look too bad so far – you can send up to 50K queries per day to their service, and I didn’t see any restrictions that would make these APIs for “non-commercial applications” only. While 50K daily queries won’t be enough for some of the larger databases of places out there, it is certainly enough to service aspiring geolocation service providers a bit farther down the tail.
Keep an eye on these services: SimpleGeo, Location Labs, Skyhook, Yahoo! Placefinder, OVI Maps, Google Maps – and even some of the legacy data providers like Acxiom, InfoUSA, and Localeze. As the geolocation tools and data gets better, so will the apps.