What trends are fueling location-based app development?

Jason Ankenyeditor's corner

Consumer engagement solutions provider Urban Airship swooped down and scooped up location-aware application services platform SimpleGeo on Monday. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. According to Urban Airship, the deal will expand its platform to encompass context-aware mobile application features like push notifications, in-app purchasing, subscriptions and geo-location, enabling developer partners to build more context-rich and relevant applications--the firm goes on to cite in-store coupons and in-stadium sports fan promotions as just two examples of the cutting-edge experiences potentially on tap.

Urban Airship's timing couldn't be better: Location-based native and web app development has never been hotter. A new developer survey conducted by Evans Data Corp. reveals that 54 percent of developers who've recently created and released mobile apps integrated location and mapping services into their projects. Given consumer demand for search and navigation services, it's no surprise that local search, feedback and map display lead the capabilities developers are incorporating into their efforts--Evans Data adds that most devs are targeting multiple platforms, relying on either porting tools and frameworks or web-based apps to expand their footprint across the mobile ecosystem.

But just because location-based advertising capabilities are available to developers doesn't mean they're embracing them. Asked by Evans Data to rank the importance of a dozen different types of location-based functions, advertising ranked dead last. Geo-fencing--another subject of strong media interest in recent months--also failed to generate enthusiasm among the 400-plus developers surveyed. Evans Data doesn't elucidate on the reasons why developers are shying away from advertising and geo-fencing, although it stands to reason that lingering consumer privacy concerns are playing a substantial role--until subscribers begin demanding services beyond search, mapping and navigation, developers aren't going to supply them. That day eventually will come, but it's off the radar for now. -Jason