Google Gears Opens Up Mobile LBS

FoneFoodAs promised in May at Google I/O, Google has added a geolocation API to Gears. It supports IE, Firefox and Mobile Internet Explorer. When the latest Gears is installed on a compatible phone, the API provides JavaScript methods to retrieve the device's current location using Cell IDs and/or GPS. Gears provides a standards compliant way to share your location with mobile websites, opening up all sorts of possibilities for location based mobile web services.

The announcement is on the official Google Mobile Blog. It includes an interesting YouTube video of Google's Charles Wells demonstrating a new mobile restaurant finder service from called FoneFood ( which uses the Gears Geolocation API to locate restaurents near you.

With or without the location feature, FoneFood is an interesting service in its own right. It's similar to OpenTable (review) but focused on Europe. FoneFone lets you search for restaurants by location and cuisine in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Holland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and and the UK. Search results include a detailed description, approximate price range, "click to call" phone number and a Google mobile map. You can check availability and make reservations too. No credit card is needed to make a reservation, just your name, email and phone number.

RummbleThe Google Mobile Blog also highlighted a second location aware moble web app that's using the Gears Geolocation API.  It's called Rummble ( and is a location based social network. Rummble lets you build a network of friends and rate and share "things" like restaurants and clubs with your friends or the world.  Rated things are called "Rummbles". When you log the site, it displays nearby friends and Rummbles.   On the web, Rumble displays them on a Google map. The mobile interface makes do with a text list although you can bring up a map showing the location of a single Rummble.

The mobile location based social networking field is getting crowded.  Rummble competes directly with Zkout, Socialight, MolologoLoopt and Mobiluck. And most of these services have their own ways of autocratically detecting your location; Socialight, Molologo and Loopt with standalone GPS enabled applications and Zkout with a mashup of Navizon and Yahoo's Fire Eagle.  The Gears approach is certainly more scalable than expecting the user to install a different app for each location based service or the complicated setup required to get Zkout, Fire Eagle and Navizon all working together.

Mobile LBS has been a long time coming and I'm getting tired of waiting. Gears mobile is great but it really needs to move beyond Windows Mobile. An Android version of Gears is promised and it will help once the 'droid achieves critical mass.  But what about S60 and Blackberry with their huge market share?  Or a Java based browser like Opera Mini but with Gears built in? These are the sort of platforms that Gears needs to support to make mobile LBS ubiquitous.

Incidentally, the Google Mobile Blog doesn't have a mobile version (why not Google?) And if you use Google's GWT mobile transcoder (or Skweezer) to view the post the video gets stripped out.  At least Mowser gets it right and converts the embedded video into a link to YouTube's mobile version.

Via: Mobile Industry Review.

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