SXSWi Report – Where are you and why it matters

Jack Blog

March 29th, 2011 By Jack Morton

Last week I was one of the 17,000 lucky geeks to attend SXSWi in Austin, Texas.  I’ll be blogging my observations from the event in a multi-part series on the Jack Blog, and I hope you follow along.  Today’s topic: Location-based services (LBS).  Where are you, where am I, and why does it matter?

Location-based services continue to dominate many discussions at SXSWi, with people trying to figure out how to monetize check-ins, use them to locate and identify their audience, and create super-cool tech mash-ups to mix user data and location.  Foursquare (which took off at SXSWi 2009) along with Gowalla demonstrated some nice event marketing tactics, including physical rewards for check-ins specific to SXSW, and special events / treats for players – starting at the airport with a special ‘welcome’ check in for attendees.  Events are nothing new for Foursquare, who already use their platform for events like the “Catch-a-Choo” Jimmy Choo virtual treasure hunt, a variety of tourism board promotions, and nice real-time museum tie-ins like the Tate Modern app.

With the big players like Google and Facebook joining in on location check-ins, there was a lot of focus on the future of this channel and if or how spunky upstarts can compete.  This year’s big news was Foursquare announcing that they are opening their API and database for developers to use for outside development.  They are encouraging as much integration as possible to increase the diversity of their user base, hosting sessions at SXSWi to share more information.  Foursquare has said they hope their open source strategy will be the secret sauce to put them at the top of the LBS heap.  Popular apps like Instagram (quick photo sharing + LBS), Heat Tracker (find the hottest place near you), and LocaModa (display your venue’s check-in info) are helping take LBS and the Foursquare engine mainstream.