The latest iPhone takes GPS in an exciting new direction

GPS isn't new technology, but it's gaining new allies. Apple's recently updated iPhone added GPS capability, which the first version lacked. Its users will be able look up locations and obtain live traffic information. It also opens doors for companies to develop iPhone applications that leverage the GPS technology.

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GPS isn't new technology, but it's gaining new allies. Apple's recently updated iPhone added GPS capability, which the first version lacked. Its users will be able look up locations and obtain live traffic information. It also opens doors for companies to develop iPhone applications that leverage the GPS technology.

One example is Citysense, which tracks its members through their cell-phone signals and uses the information to create an index of popular locations in a city. The program, which coincided its launch with the iPhone's on June 9, links to Google and Yelp to show what places operate in that area. The application is available to Blackberry and iPhone users in San Francisco for alpha testing, but will eventually be expanded to include cities throughout the US.

Why does it matter?

Greg Skiviski, CEO of Sense Networks, which developed Citysense, notes the real-time data from the application shows how people's movement patterns grow and change. "Location is very interesting because you can use it now to run these algorithms... to understand the similarities between people and behavior patterns," he says.

Lloyd Trufelman, Trylon SMR president, says applications that use the iPhone's GPS technology can aid PR pros. "It's more about feedback, outreach, [and] connectivity. A lot of that will focus more on marketing and promotion," he says, adding that they can also encourage people to post reviews of the places they've visited.

Blake Cahill, SVP of sales and marketing for Visible Technologies, says PR can learn from the information consumers provide through GPS applications. "From a brand or PR perspective, there is tremendous opportunity for engaging, and word of mouth," he explains.

Five facts:

1. In 1983, President Reagan issued a directive that all GPS signals would be available to the public for free after a Korean Airways flight was shot down upon mistakenly entering Soviet airspace.

2. Several existing mobile applications let users follow friends' live movements via GPS, including Where.com's Buddy Beacon, Mologogo, and AccuTracking.

3. The new GPS system on the iPhone allows users to find locations by points of interest. For example, typing "coffee" will turn up the locations of nearby cafŽs.

4. The Pricecheckah iPhone application lets users compare prices among many online retailers by entering USBN and UPC codes.

5. The recently released Zoombak GPS device fits not only in a pocket or on a dashboard, but also on a pet's collar, letting owners track their dogs' whereabouts.

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