Locago logoLocago is a mobile map service provided by Swedish Idevio. Locago is a free mobile map browser with an open interface for third party content. Locago shows different content sources and points of interest on top of map data. The service is based on a downloadable J2ME application and is free for consumers.

Locago Wikipedia MapWhat makes Locago interesting is its open API, which allows for creation of mobile map mash-ups. One can use Locago to build an own custom map service based on XML input, using own geographical data. These mash-up services are caller layers in Locago. The currently available Locago layers include Wikipedia articles, Flickr and Panoramio photos, WCities travel guides, Yahoo! and Eniro business listings, and Foreca weather forecasts, to name a few. It is also possible to keep track of friends and their status using a Yahoo Fire Eagle layer.

The layer mash-ups are good, and it is dead simple to download new ones from within the mobile app. They work quite well also, it is very useful and fun to see Wikipedia articles and Flickr photos mapped to locations around you. Locago supports both internal and bluetooth GPS for using the user’s current location. The user interface is slightly confusing though, as you cannot browse the map freely – left and right will actually change the layer, while with up and down you can browse the active points on the map.

Locago layersYou can see examples of the service in action on their site  or download directly from mobile at get.locago.com. Locago claims to have over 500.000 users globally. The client is currently localized to three languages, Russian, Swedish, and English.

The map and layer data are dynamically loaded over-the-air, so new information can be provided to users without a software update. Locago is based on Idevio’s RaveGeo compression and streaming technology. The firm recently announced also partnership with Ericsson Mobile Maps, a new service from Ericsson, to be powered by Idevio’s technology. (a nice wrap-up of the cooperation).

Nevertheless, it is very tough competition out there, with Google, Yahoo, Nokia and others pushing their own mobile map applications. There are also a numerous startups offering varying kinds of mobile mapping services (see for example some of our previous coverage).

Moreover, while it is great to be able to use the mashup services, an online mobile maps solution is still at a disadvantage in the current carrier ecosystem, where data usage abroad is priced ridiculously high. I have found myself preferring Nokia Maps at least when traveling abroad as I can download the map data to my cell phone prior to the trip and not use data connection at all while on the go. Services requiring constant online access are often better avoided, which is a pity since abroad in a new city is exactly when a map service would be most useful.

However, at its core, Idevio focuses on geographic compression and streaming technolog. It seems Locago helps selling the RaveGeo product family. There is a business model with Locago as well, though: to offer branding opportunities and customized versions to content providers, advertisers, operators and handset manufacturers. Also premium content and services for buying have been planned, such as city guides, traffic cameras, and wifi access.

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