Fast forward to 2026: the potential of location technology

Location is becoming key to making the most of our favourite services, and it seems we are increasingly willing to allow our whereabouts to be identified if it will provide us with greater convenience.

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We can order a taxi to arrive in minutes via Uber, find an emergency coffee at the nearest Starbucks and even search the crowds for our ideal partner with happn – a dating app that uses location technology to connect users with people they have crossed paths with on the street.

All of these futuristic capabilities have been made possible by advances in location-based mobile technology, such as wifi, GPS, and other propriety solutions.

With access to a new wave of in-depth audience analytics and an instant gateway to consumer attention, the possibilities for brands are truly vast.

Retailers may have been the earliest adopters of location technology — using the data it produces to gain granular consumer insight, inform real-time targeting and measure attribution — but location technology has the potential to do much more.

So let’s fast-forward a few years to a location-centric future: life as it will be in 2026. Here are just a few of the changes that I predict will shape the next phase of the digital age, and some of them are already here:

Smart lighting and heating
Internet of Things (IoT) services like Nest already allow users to manage heating in their homes remotely with a mobile control panel, but this is only stage one. In the future, smart heating and lighting systems will be able to access your smartphone location, use it to determine where you are and adjust themselves accordingly — turning the heat up if you are coming home or switching it off if you are on vacation.

This technology could also be used to reduce electricity bills and save energy. For example, in a large publicly-owned building it could identify which rooms are being used and automatically adjust the temperature or lighting in unoccupied spaces.

Local healthcare services
While the uptake of location technology in the medical sector is already high, with hospitals responding to medical emergencies armed with the real-time location of staff, patients and equipment – intelligence is poised to streamline healthcare processes even further.

Healthcare services will soon be able to align with the demographics of an area, collating anonymous user profiles to boost efficiency and reduce waiting times by tailoring services according to the demands of the local population.

Location intelligence could also be used to deploy mobile screening units to areas frequented by high priority individuals, such as placing a mobile breast screening unit in an area which is identified as containing an above average number of women aged 50 and above.

Government and council decisioning
In the next decade, local councils will start to use location technology to send you direct messages about relevant public announcements or warnings. Location intelligence is also set to revolutionise how decisions are made at the highest level – giving government agencies the insight they need to take action quickly and effectively, enhancing their agility and mitigating risk.

By gathering location-based data and analysing their own needs, in line with individual requirements, government agencies are starting to understand the value of using location to improve communications.

From government decisions to the temperature of your dinning room, location technology has the potential to impact your everyday life. While it may be a little while before your local doctor’s surgery resembles a tech showroom, technological development is moving faster than you think. For companies that want to achieve marketplace domination, preparing for 2026 is essential. The location-centric world is coming, are you ready?

By Ken Parnham, general manager Europe, Near