Mojeo - LBS on any phone

 Mojeo Image I saw Mojeo presented at the Mobile 2.0 Event in San Francisco Monday as part of a Launchpad presentation spotlighting new services. I wasn't too impressed with the presentation which was brief and lacking in details, but I did jot down ", location based search - any phone, add mashups". Today I took a look at which is the mobile site and the PC site, I found a clever and useful but definitely beta service that has the potential to be that killer application for the mobile web that we all dream of.

The premise of Mojeo is simple, it's a mobile portal that keeps track of your current location. When you click on one of the links on the portal - which include Google Local, Yahoo Local, Fandango, Upcoming, and Yelp to name most of them - Mojeo passes your location to the target site which uses it deliver location aware information. So without having to reenter your location information, Fandago shows what's at theaters near you, presents a forecast for your city, etc. Mojeo has a simple REST API that lets any site receive location information as either an address or latitude and longitude.
So how does Mojeo find your location. According to the FAQ,

"Ideally, we use GPS built into your mobile phone to figure out your exact location. But sometimes the phone does not have GPS, or you have not enabled that feature on your phone. In these situations we try to guess your location by asking the Internet where it thinks you are using a map of Internet addresses. This Internet lookup can be very accurate, or very far off."

The part about GPS is a bit of a fantasy, I'm not aware of any carrier outside of Japan that will share location information with an unaffiliated web site. In the US, no carrier shares location data with any site, not even their closest partners.

So for now, Mojeo uses IP address lookups as mentioned in the FAQ entry, they also use the area-code of the phone number that you give them as part of the (optional) sign up process and finally they let you enter your zip code at anytime to change your location.

So how does it work in practice? Pretty well once you convince Mojeo where you are. I first tried Mojeo without registering. When I used my phone's built in browser, Mojeo though I was in Kansas (I'm actually in San Francisco). Apparently my phone's IP address is registered at Sprint/Nextel's home office in Kansas. Using Opera Mini, Mojeo said I was in Oslo! Once I entered my zip code though, Mojeo had no trouble passing my location to Fandango, Yelp, Google Mobile etc.

I also tried registering, first from the phone and then from my PC. When I registered from the phone, Mojeo sent me a text message with a numberic pin which I then had to enter into a form on Mojeo. Once I did that, Mojeo knew I was in San Francisco. Registering with the PC was potentially even easier as the SMS contained the Mojeo url with my phone number and password embedded in the query string. Unfortunately, the SMS was not in a format that was clickable. There is apparently a trick to sending a URL in a text message to a Nextel customer. Some sites like Google, Microsoft, 411Sync and Flurry know how to send the clickable sort of SMS but Ask, Treemo and Mojeo don't.

It turns out that no matter whether you register or not Mojeo will revert your location back to the IP based one (Kansas or Oslo in my case) the next time you visit the site. Mojeo really needs to remember your last location and not override it unless you tell it to. Other than that I found Mojeo stable and usable. As it works now I don't see any advantage to registering, however.
Warts aside, this idea of the portal as location broker is a great concept. When the carriers finally loosen up and let users opt in to passing their location in http headers this will be huge.
In the meantime, Mojeo should embrace the idea that the most accurate location information they can get will be what users enter. There are several things Mojeo can do to make this work even better. First would be to keep track of recent locations that a user has entered and let the user pick their current location from a list like Mapquest and Yahoo Maps do. I'd also like to see other ways of entering location information. Zip codes cover too broad an area. Phone numbers, especially listed business numbers are a great way to geo-locate. If you have the business card of your hotel or a club or restaurant you're at it would be great to enter that number and have Mojeo do a reverse directory lookup to locate you to a specific address. I'd like to be able to enter street addresses too, particularly from the PC site.

Direct entry of latitude and longitude is another admittedly geeky possibility. Nextel allows users to grant access to location data to Java midlets, even unsigned ones. I have several Java applications on my phone that can tell me my latitude and longitude and even pinpoint my location on a street map. I bet there would be times when I would want to enter those GPS coordinates into Mojeo.

I have this dream of Opera creating a version of Opera Mini that can read the GPS information and pass it to sites like Mojeo - now that would be something! It probably won't happen, though - Opera needs to sell to carriers and doing this sort of end run around them won't help.

Location Based Services (LBS), is quickly becoming the next mobile buzz word and for good reason. A recent survey (via MobHappy) found users wanted location aware applications on their phones much more than they wanted mobile video! Today, Helio, a US MVNO joint venture by Earthlink and Korea's SK Telecom announced that their latest phone and all future phones would be bundled with a GPS application. The new Helio Phone, the Samsung Drift, comes with a custom version of the Google's Maps Java application that's GPS enabled. This NewsFactor article has the details but dismisses Helio's GPS app nothing new as all the US carriers offer similar Java or Brew apps. While this is true, I think Helio's move is significant because

  1. The app comes pre-installed - all the other carriers require the user to download and install the application - a significant barrier to adoption.
  2. It's free other than data charges ($2/MB or $25/month for unlimited data including unlimited SMS and MMS).

This is a first - a carrier offering a GPS service as an incentive for signing up rather than as a $6-10/month add-on. To me, this the start of LBS becoming a standard feature that users will come to expect on their phones. I think we may soon see a competitor offering mobile web based location services. If Mojeo plays its cards right, it could be the pre-eminent web based LBS site that an upstart carrier (Amp'd?, STI?, T-Mobile) partners with.

I've added Mojeo to under Search/Local Search.

Mojeo xhtml-mp
Ratings: Content: * * * Usability: X X X

4 thoughts on “Mojeo - LBS on any phone

  1. This seems a lot like another device on mobile phones I've used--Earthcomber--and I read somewhere that Earthcomber has a patent on this technology.

    Are they similar? I tried both and liked Earthcomber much better. More content, easier to use on my various cell phones, PDAs.

    Just curious.

  2. Thanks for the write-up. I just want to clarify that location is becoming a reality in the US. Sprint applications have access to GPS and can launch the browser (that's how we work with Sprint). Nextel/Blackberries provide location to websites from their browser. And Windows Mobile devices can both pair with Bluetooth'd GPS receivers and run the Minimo browser which provides location to websites.

    The IP address to location is sometimes a crude hack, but in other situations like metro-area wifi often proves good enough for most services.

    Yes, things are a little rough around the edges, but location is getting much closer to the mainstream.


  3. Pingback: Mike Rowehl: This is Mobility » Blog Archive » Some Great Posts from Mobile 2.0

  4. Our company has a solution that makes GPS location information available for anyone with a web server and a mobile device. Please check out for more information.

    There are no SMS charges. The GPS data is streamed live over HTTP and can be turned on or off at the discretion of the customer.



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