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Checking-In with Geolocation

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Geolocation is broadly defined as the identification of the real-world geographic location of an object. Geolocation applications used in cell phones rely on GPS technology to identify the location of the cell phone. Geolocation can also be used to identify digital objects. Location “tagging” is seen in photo sharing sites such as Flickr which offers geotagging. This location tag provides a way to search for images or information shared about a specific location.

The geolocation concept took off in 2010. Social media applications such as Facebook began allowing users to check into locations using mobile devices and tell others where they were and what they were doing. Other applications including Foursquare and Gowalla saw growth through 2010.

Drawing people to geolocation is the ability to report in real-time about the experiences or interactions a person is having. Yelp also launched a geolocation feature in 2010. With Yelp users can now check into their favorite spot and report on the quality of their experience as it happens.

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Sites such as Gowalla and Foursquare provide users with a more social approach to geolocation. Users can check in at locations and earn badges, points and even special deals from specific locations. Both of these applications also provide the user a way to take photos of  locations  and share tips and commentary with others.

The American Medical Association recently released advice for physicians interested in geolocation in the article Geolocation services: Have your patients put you on the map? While patients might use geolocation applications, it is important that physicians do not violate HIPAA regulations. Additionally the article reminds physicians that many geolocation applications work well for business promotion but may not be appropriate for medical practices. The article does encourage physicians to review location information for accuracy to ensure the contact information for the practice is listed correctly.

For librarians and information professionals, the use of geolocation applications could be useful for promoting library services and interacting with library users. Many public libraries have had success using geolocation application such as Foursquare to offer specials and prizes for their frequent visitors. David Lee King provides some examples of libraries using Foursquare in his post, Libraries and Foursquare Definitely Something There!

Geolocation applications are also becoming popular during conferences. Look for prize opportunities at upcoming events you attend such as the Medical Library Association conference. You may be surprised when and where you can use geolocation applications.

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