This is Part Four of a five part series I am calling “Invasion of The Things: How to Prepare Your Tourist Location for the Coming Mobile Apocalypse,” where I cover:

  • How the things that make up your tourist location, like statues and historical buildings, can “talk” to modern mobile devices
  • Four technologies you can use today, and their pros and cons
  • One way overzealous marketers use technology to ruin your tourism brand
  • Where a seismic shift in how you interact with mobile tourists is coming from, and how Google is investing heavily to make it happen
  • Five things you need to do NOW to prepare for the invasion…of the Things

In Part One we learned there are four technologies that can make “dumb” (as in, non-communicative) things talk to mobile phones.

In Part Two we learned how two dumb technologies, the QR code and NFC tags, when properly applied, can be very useful and make you look very smart.

In Part Three we learned how our nemesis Google plans to take over the world with something called the Physical Web. Or will they? Muhahaha!

But where on earth is Carmen Sandiego? Is there no role for good ‘ole fashioned geo-tagging? Let’s find out in Part Four of…the Invasion of the Things!


What is Geo-Tagging?

Geo-tagging is the process by which a thing’s physical location is identified by Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates identifying a fixed location on the earth. We know about these, and use them everyday with apps like Google Maps. What’s new is how Google and others are linking content to GPS coordinates so we can consume that content on demand whenever we are nearby. Geo-tagging is not a purebred IoT technology the way our other three choices are, but it does ultimately serve the same purpose ~ it links a physical “thing” with useful content that is consumed on a mobile device.

Most of us do this regularly when we search Google for a business and receive a bunch of useful content (name of business, phone number, website, etc.) via the browser. But this same technique can provide content for anything ~ no expensive beacon required, no new app to download, and no need to chase a bus to scan anything. Geo-tagging is a cheap, fast, and reliable way to provide information about a thing, even if you are far away. And if those things are crowded together, say graves in a historic cemetery, then a bespoke list can be provided, just as is done with the Physical Web.

When should we use geo-tagging?

Let me be fair ~ I place geo-tagging (alongside PhyWeb) at the top of the evolutionary ladder because of its ease of implementation and low cost, but it is quite the wrong technology for controlling a thing (say, a vending machine) or providing information about a thing that might move, or that moves often. For example, a beacon is the right technology for the aforementioned city bus. But for the Eiffel Tower? I don’t think so. The tower is located at 48°51′29.6″N 2°17′40.2″E (or 48.858222, 2.2945 in GPS speak) and has been since it was built in 1889. Last I checked, I don’t think they have any plans to move it. Geo-tagging is the right choice for the tower, and for most tourist applications.

That being the case, it is a simple matter to link web content to a thing with fixed GPS coordinates and then offer that content to any tourist using his phone to ask “What’s nearby?” This capability is being built into the operating systems for both Apple and Android devices and is also a feature of Google maps. All the same bespoke capability can be built into the browser, and the browser-based UMI will respond accordingly. Again, no messy single purpose app required ~ everything comes down via the browser or even the operating system itself. Do we want “everything?” No. As with all our other techniques, the critical success factor will be controlling what we get, and what we don’t.

More on that in the fifth and final post.