If you were at Comsnets 2009, it would appear to you that location based services is the next big thing; the only problem, as Karthee Madasamy of Qualcomm Ventures pointed out – “every year is said to be the year of location based services.” 

At the conference, Sumant Vepa, Business Program Manager for Yahoo mentioned that one area that Yahoo Incubator, is looking at very seriously in 2009 is location based services. He mentioned some issues with the location based services – “Data quality is an issue, because GIS information is not quite accurate in a dynamic environment. There’s a paucity of data that can be overlaid on top of what is already available. These are interesting applications that can be built upon it. For example, no one knows where Vertu Road is in Bangalore, but if you say it’s behind old-Madras road, that is contextual.

This contextual information needs to be sourced…crowd sourced. There are opportunities in news gathering, serendipitous deals, which are possible to monetize. Charging the consumers is not an option, these services have to be free for monetization. Are there ways of monetizing other than advertising. People who come up with such ideas are easy to plug into the Yahoo ecosystem, including mobile payments.”

Other issues with LBS investments: “these will take a long time to develop. Right now what we’re doing is looking at business plans – there are lots of interesting services on offer, but monetization is an issue. Volumes are a problem right now, but we don’t think that will always be the case. ”

ED: If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard the phrase “It’s not a question of if, but when…” Investments in emerging segments appear to be hinged on getting the timing right – whether in the Indic language space or location based services. Someone has to pick up the gauntlet, else we’ll keep talking about the potential of these segments for the next 20 years. And as we’ve seen with VC investments, where one goes, the others follow.