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I just read an article in Information Week that Apple has filed a patent for technology that would let it create a geolocation social network similar to Foursquare.
This is a pretty interesting development, since I just wrote about Foursquare yesterday, and what its service could mean for marketers.
According to the article, the patent application describes a service called iGroups that would enable people to share geographic location data in order to connect using an iPhone or other mobile device. People who agree to join the network would be able to broadcast information in real-time through text and instant messaging and also share files, such as pictures or video.
People who don’t have iPhones could still use the service too. It’s not mentioned in the patent application, but it’s possible Apple’s MobileMe service could be used to add mobile phones without GPS to a group.
The application says, “Concert attendees in a group can be sent coupons to purchase music or other items related to the concert or invited to join a fan club of the performer, etc.”
Just because Apple filed the patent, doesn’t mean it will launch iGroups, and the company has a strict policy about not commenting on future products. But, there are signs Apple means business with this product. Last year it bought a mapping company called Placebase. And it has thwarted rival Google’s attempts to leverage the iPhone for location-based services – refusing to let Google offer Latitude, a Google Maps location-sharing service, thru the iTunes App Store. As a result, users can only access Latitude thru iPhone’s Safari Web browser.