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MWC 2009: Social Networking Over Mobile Devices

By: NMK Created on: February 25th, 2009
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The convergence of mobile technologies, GPS and mapping technologies are leading to innovative new social networking technologies via handheld devices. At MWC 2009 New Media Knowledge took a look at what the future holds for social networking.

The next major development in social networking looks set to be location-based, if Mobile World Congress (MWC) is anything to go by. Advances in global positioning systems (GPS), mobile phone and Internet mapping technologies have enabled developers to create systems that empower people to locate their friends’ geographical position via their handheld device.

This is set to lead to an explosion in revenue opportunities according to the players behind such technology and, according to analysts at Yankee Group, the next three years will see a tipping point towards these services becoming mainstream. NMK caught up with a couple at the exhibition to see location-based social networking in action and its potential.

Going Dutch

The Netherlands is at the forefront of location-based social networking, according to Lisette Sens, UK director of Service2Media, a key developer of location-based technology.

One of the company’s customers is Dutch social network Hyves, which enjoys 50 per cent market penetration in the Netherlands, equating to seven million people. Within the 15-35 per cent bracket this rises to 70 per cent market penetration.

“People want to interact with social networks over their mobiles,” Sens told NMK. “Hyves found that users tend to update four times a day on average via their mobile handsets compared to just twice a day via a computer.”

Service2Media has created a ‘Buddy Finder’, a location database which enables mobile users to locate consenting people on a map similar to Google Latitude through a combination of GPS, cell ID and Bluetooth. The Java application system current works on the Google Android platform and is accurate to within 400 metres, Sens said.

The company’s tracking technology was once used by Dutch police to locate and rescue the kidnapped wife of a leading businessman.

“Mobile users are used to GPS now and expect to have location-based technology available on their handset,” Sens added. “With location-based technology, behavioural targeting will enable businesses to identify users who have opted in according to information known about them on their social networks. Advertising would then be of increased relevance to the end user within their vicinity.”

The Netherlands and the Middle East are leading the way but what about the UK, where Service2Media has been active since June 2008?

“The UK still has some way to go but I think the next 12 to 24 months will see a great deal of interest in the technology,” Sens said. “I think by the London 2012 Olympic Games people will be locating their friends in the stadium complex via mobile location technology.”

sens

Above: Lisette Sens

Mob Rule

Kiboo is another firm working hard to build social networks over mobile platforms. The company’s BuddyMob application, which can be bought through the Google Market application, enables users to import contacts from Facebook, Instant Messenger and elsewhere.

“The mobile is perfect for microblogging,” said Kiboo’s co-founder Christophe Hocquet. “It’s the most convenient platform to post updates and photos.”

Kiboo uses Google Maps to provide local information and is currently available on the Google Android, with the iPhone and Symbian platforms to follow.

Hocquet is confident that social networking on mobile devices will continue to grow in 2009 despite of the economic downturn.

“People need to communicate to keep in touch via social networking sites and I expect this to continue. People needed convincing to sell online when eBay started up but now we’re all doing it. The same is true of social networks over mobile devices,” he concluded.

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