“Life Digital” and terrestrial GPS

After 3+ years in the trenches on the topic of local + online content and advertising at Judy’s Book, I’m fascinated by the possibilities for what Alex Iskold has called “Life Digital“, a location-specific data and functionality overlay on our physical lives. (I imagine it as an invisible location grid sitting over the entire earth, with different data and services being constantly piped to my mobile device based on what square of the grid I currently occupy).

I had always assumed that it would take long-term progress on miniaturization and device saturation of satellite-based GPS to make this vision possible, a many-years-out prospect. But a couple of recent developments have suggested that this vision may be much closer to realization than I had thought.

The development that most recently caught my eye was yesterday’s announcement from Google Maps that their new mobile download (2.0) includes a device locator service based on triangulation from terrestrial cell towers and wireless access points. While they admitted that current accuracy didn’t measure up to satellite GPS (I’m currently shown as being about a quarter-mile east of my true location in Seattle), they suggested that accuracy would improve as more users adopted the service, giving them more data points to use in their calculations.

(Fred Wilson picked up the same news and posted about a similar service called Navizon, which has apparently been in market for a while new but hadn’t made it onto my radar).

Not only is this another great example of useful and forward-thinking innovation from Google, it suggests a near-term mainstreaming of the Life Digital idea that will be fun to watch play out. Local is hard, but I still think it’s cool…