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FCC LBS Report: An Overview Of Opportunities & Other Considerations

Date: June 1st, 2012

Technological innovations, notably over the past decade, facilitate the collection of substantial amounts of personally identifiable data about virtually anyone who accesses information online. The rapid pace of change in both technology and business models is fueling an active and growing debate in the United States and around the world about the appropriate use of that data. The following report focuses on one part of the discussion: Location-based services (“LBS”), mobile services that combine information about a user’s physical location with online connectivity and are transforming the way Americans work and play.

Among other things, LBS let users access relevant and up-to-date information about their surroundings, inform others of their whereabouts, and get instant access to maps and traffic information for their current location. Whether used for fleet tracking or inventory management, for machine-to-machine communications, or for social networking or entertainment, LBS can create a more dynamic user experience that adds value and convenience and changes the way people transact business and organize their activities and free time.

Not surprisingly, Americans are quickly adopting LBS. As of May 2011, 28 percent of adult Americans used mobile LBS of some type.1 LBS are expected to deliver $700 billion in value to consumers and business users over the next decade.2

The promise of LBS, however, comes with challenges and concerns. Because mobile devices have the ability—and often the technical requirement—to regularly transmit their location to a network, they also enable the creation of a precise record of a user’s locations over time. This can result in the creation of a very accurate and highly personal user profile, which raises questions of how, when and by whom this information can and should be used.