Developers seeking a better, smarter, and potentially lower-cost way to create location-based mobile apps might want to consider using a location-as-a-service platform — a market that is just lifting off.Location-based services are nothing new. They’ve been around for about 10 years or so. The buzz, however, is that these services could become very hot indeed as more mobile devices support GPS and fast internet connections, and as more users want to use their phones to check in on local news, restaurants, and so on.[login]Vendors in the nascent location-as-a-service space include LocationLabs and SimpleGeo. LocationLabs launched its platform service last week. Sixty percent of mobile subscribers worldwide will use an application enabled by location over the next four years or so, says Mark Beccue, a senior analyst at ABI Research. The firm forecasts that the number of mobile cloud computing subscribers worldwide will rise from 42.8 million in 2008, (approximately 1.1 percent of all mobile subscribers) to more than 998 million in 2014 (nearly 19 percent). Location-based applications continue to explode in popularity among smartphone users. An estimated 12 percent of the apps in the iPhone App Store had a location component, according to a recent Apple iTunes report.The continuous stream of location data now available on many smartphone devices presents both a tremendous opportunity as well as a unique challenge to mobile developers, says Tasso Roumeliotis, CEO of Location Labs. Roumeliotis says the Location Labs’ platform provides tools that help developers capitalize on the power of background processing of location data on multiple platforms.The Location Labs Platform consists of three services for developers: geofencing; universal location, and location privacy.Geofencing allows developers to leverage background processing on smartphones to create location-based triggers for their applications. For example, developers can create a Geofence around a favorite place and automatically “check-in” subscribers when they enter the place.Universal location allows developers to locate more than 180 million devices in real time through a cloud-based API. The service can locate both smartphones and non-smartphones. Users don’t need to download the app, as the location data is all server-based.Location privacy provides developers a set of user-interface widgets that lets users control how their location is shared, offering end-user control and transparency in sharing location. Users can opt-in or out of location sharing via SMS, mobile web, or even a web portal. “The Location Labs Geofencing Service made it incredibly easy to implement geofencing for the upcoming update to our iPhone application, says Navneet Aron, founder and CEO of MobiQpons. MobiQpons’ icon automatically lights up when a user is near a local coupon.Access to Location Lab’s Location-as-a-Service Platform is in private beta and is available by invitation only. The platform is expected to be publicly available in Q3, 2010. SimpleGeo is positioning its platform as an affordable solution for developers creating location-aware apps such as maps and social networks. SimpleGeo, in its most basic form, indexes data by location using latitude and longitude, allowing users to search for things nearby. Developers can use the platform to easily scale, manage, and query their location data. On top of this, SimpleGeo also provides rich location data, reverse geocoding, and other tools to help developers leverage the location of their users.The vendor claims the key benefit of its platform is that it can accommodate fast-growing apps, activating new apps within minutes.