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Information Brokering: MyLoki provides granular control of your location

Now you know my location (as of this posting). My location is important information — to me, my friends and many, many unknown-to-me third-parties. As it becomes possible to be located (through GPS, wi-fi, cell towers) sharing that information will become very, very easy. This can be a good thing or become one of the most annoying things that you’ve ever done to yourself (ads, spam, ex’s). Because of the high-risk of self-inlficted abuse having an easy way to set permissions on this information is going to become very important. Skyhook Wireless is working on just that under its Loki brand.

my loki logo

My Loki is an experimental location brokering service. If you are using Loki, a browser toolbar that locates you via wifi hotspots (WinXP/FF only at present), you can use the new MyLoki to share your location in multiple ways at varying degrees of granularity. Currently, you can share your location at the country, state, city, postal code and street levels (definitely missing neighborhood). You can share your location via a public page (with an obfuscated URL) , a location feed (for easy inclusion on Jaiku, Twitter, Tumblr or anywhere else that will aggregate your feeds), the Loki Facebook app, an image badge or a map image.

The service is still very young. In time they plan to launch APIs, more international support, extend automatic update support beyond WinXP/FF to the OS X, Vista, Windows Mobile and Symbian platforms. There is currently an iPhone interface, but I have not been able to reach it. They are using the free Geonames geocoder.

My Loki is in a closed Beta right now, but you can request an invite. They are looking to integrate with other services. I am sure that Ryan Sarver, Skyhook evangelist & Wherecamp organizer, will be reading the comments of this post if you are interested. Post something to let him know.

My Loki is a good start at location brokering. It has good levels of granularity for sharing, but unfortunately it is only half the equation. Though it allows for many “outs” like RSS, image badges, Facebook it only accepts one “in”, a Loki-provided location. What about Tripit or Dopplr or the Boost phone or one of the countless other places that could have my location? Loki will not be able to develop for every platform and will lose the game to a service that is more open.

One that comes to mind is Yahoo’s future product FireEagle (first previewed at WhereCamp and profiled on Techcrunch). FireEagle will accept location information from any service (including Loki’s) and update any service with that location. Assuming that you want to trust a third-party with this information which would you choose? Personally I am going to side with the one that will be able to accommodate my preferred update methods.

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  • http://www.5o9inc.com Peter Cranstone

    Our open api’s allow you to share your mobile location with any web server/service, plus you have complete control over who see’s that data.

    Cheers,

    Peter

  • http://my.loki.com Ryan Sarver

    Brady,

    Thanks for the great write up. Its still really early and we would love feedback from people in the O’Reilly community. Feel free to reach out to me if you want an invite.

    Also, you can get to the iPhone or mobile (XHTML-MP) interface by going to http://my.loki.com/m. And as Brady said — more platforms and APIs will be soon to follow.

    Looking forward to everyones feedback. Best, Ryan

  • http://adiazar.blogspot.com Adi

    Hi,

    Thats sounds a cool idea, it seems like 2008 twitter.

    Let me ask one thing. Are you guys checking the IP address from the HTTP request and then using IP to Location Database to figure out the location? Or you guys have more involved technology? I would like to hear more details in case this is something you would like to share.

    I work for YellowPages.com R&D, and I feel that this is something cool to integrate to local directories (I am not sure exactly how) and It is far cooler for social networks.

    Good luck guys!
    Adi

  • http://my.loki.com/user/cnNhcnZlcg Ryan Sarver

    Adi,

    We use a combination of our proprietary WiFi Positioning System and standard IP Geolocation. In areas that we cant determine your location using WPS we default to using your IP.

    In dense coverage areas WPS is accurate down to around 20-30m, whereas IP Geolocation can be tens of miles, if not states, off in terms of accuracy.

    As for integration into websites we offer a number of possibilities including our Javascript API. You can read up on it at: http://loki.com/developers/ or you can contact me at rsarver /at/ skyhookwireless {dot} com.

    Best, Ryan

  • Andy Swarbrick

    Wifi or GPS positioning not the entire story, purely a technical instance. I think many people need to be able to give a real position that is generic. Location depends on who you are talking to. For example, I live in Kidlington, UK. But when talking to people in the States I often feel it is better to describe myself as living in Oxford since that is so much better known.

  • http://rpcutts.co.uk Richard Cutts

    I appreciate that Loki is in it’s infancy but there are a couple of key things that I think need attention.

    First of all when manually setting the location you have to drag the marker around the map. This doesn’t work very well if you have to move it a long way.

    Secondly the location is very inaccurate:
    I live in Darlington but it shows up as Middlesbrough on Loki and when I visited Malta it showed up as Italy. Wrong country guys.