Competitor to Google Latitude pitches to Facebook and Twitter


6 Feb 2009

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A local tech firm that combines social networking with location-based mobile services has dismissed Google’s new Latitude mapping software as “not social enough”, and has revealed it has demonstrated its pinpoint-accurate technology to Facebook and Twitter.

Dublin firm Locle, which was one of four businesses to win a share in the €100,000 Eircom Web Innovation Fund earlier last year, launched a service in October 2008  that uses a patent-pending method to retrieve mobile phone IDs in dense populations through mobile masts, which have an accuracy down to 50m. The service can currently be accessed at http://m.locle.com.

The service has been trialled by over 150 people in Dublin, London and Amsterdam, and works on 60pc of mobile phones or on any PC browser.

Locle’s application has been submitted to Apple’s App Store and is awaiting a decision.

However, Pieter Oonk who set up Locle with Ronan Higgins believes that the technology has strong potential on established social-networking sites like Facebook and fast-rising services like Twitter.

They presented their technology to both companies before Christmas and are hopeful both social-networking firms will see merit in taking social networking to the streets.

Yesterday, online search giant Google unveiled its new mapping software that allows mobile users to see where their friends are on maps via their cell phones.

Using your Google account, you can opt into the feature, and then invite friends and family to join Google Latitude. Once they accept, you will see their profile picture appear on a map through your mobile device or your desktop PC.

However, Oonk has dismissed Latitude as “just an update to Google Maps”, and said that Google is likely to take a lot of heat over the application from privacy groups.

He said that the lack of social networking means that the service doesn’t share any more information than Google information.

“It seems to be more about advertising opportunities than an actual social tool,” Oonk said.

“By contrast Locle gives users control over their location to share with other Locle users only and communicate with other users.

“We don’t see Latitude as a threat because it’s not that sociable.”

Locle has done a number of deals with social-networking players including Netlog, the biggest social network player in western and central Europe, as well as the Irish gay dating site, GSVP.com. Locle is also in discussions with Netlog about developing an iPhone application.

The company has also become a member of an organisation for European mobile social-networking partners called LocAllies to work on an open standard to enable people to share locations information.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Peter Oonk and Ronan Higgins of Locle, a new Web 2.0 company that, along with Eircom, plans to take social networking from the PC to the street