Putting “geo-context” into information is a hot topic these days on the mobile web.
The phrase means making data more useful by putting geographic context behind it, like listing all of the wireless Internet hot spots nearest you on a map on the phone. Adding geo-context to the mobile web is what LightPole, a start-up that launches today, is banking its business on. LightPole says it can take just about any web site and turn it into a mobile service with geo-context.
For instance, it can make Yelp‘s restaurant listings viewable on the map view of a cell phone. But it goes a step further than mobile map or search services because it lets someone comment on results, share it with a bunch of friends and have it viewable on a wide variety of phones.
On the consumer side, it lets phone users discover what’s around them, said Doug Klein, CEO of LightPole in San Francisco.
“A GPS navigator gets you to a certain point, but we let you discover what’s around you when you reach that point,” he said.
The software is a kind of translation service. LightPole’s customers put a Java-based widget on a web site. Users click on the widget (which looks like a mobile phone) to load a mobile version of that site’s services onto a cell phone. Users type in their phone numbers and enter confirmation codes to download the application.
LightPole is announcing a bunch of partners today, including Yelp, Hotspotr, Mappy Hour, Yahoo Local, Zvents, The Bathroom Diaries, Gables and Fables, and Platial Mobile Map. Yelp identifies nearby restaurants. You can use the application to view restaurant details, make a reservation, share it with friends and then exchange text messages about a meeting time — all by looking at your phone. Hotspotr locates nearby Wi-Fi wireless Internet access points.
LightPole also announced today that it’s raised its $1.7 million first round of capital from Alloy Ventures and Stanford University.
Competitors include basic search services such as Where, ULocate, Google Maps and Yahoo Local, which is also one of the partners. In the future, services such as Yahoo’s Fire Eagle and Google’s Android phones are likely to compete in the same space.
At some point, Klein said, LightPole will create a third-party application for the iPhone, using Apple’s newly released software development kit.