The runaway train that is location-based services got a shot in the arm recently when two of its most high-profile startups announced news about their APIs.

An application programming interface (API) is an interface that a software program implements in order to allow other software to interact with it, much in the same way that software might implement a user interface in order to allow humans to use it.

The two startups? Twitter and Foursquare

Twitter, the juggernaut of microblogging which has captivated the world through 140 characters, released its long-awaited geotagging tools API. The feature allows Twitter users to tag their tweets with location-based information. The release is API-only, meaning that users won’t see any changes to, yet. While geotagging is not yet enabled on, third-party applications can take full advantage of the new tools. Twitter applications like Birdfeed, Seesmic Web, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twidroid, Twittelator Pro and others are already supporting the new geotagging functionality.

“The added information provides valuable context when reading your friends tweets and allows you to better focus in on local conversations,” writes Twitter platform/API man Ryan Sarver in the blog post.

“Now you can find out what live music is playing right now in your neighborhood or what people visiting Checkpoint Charlie are saying today about the anniversary of the Berlin Wall. These are only the beginning and we are really looking forward to seeing the creative uses emerge from the developer community.”

With location-tagged tweets, users and media organizations can create more detailed tapestries of information and context around real-time events.

“A lot of what has made Twitter compelling is obviously this flow of real-time information, but what has been a problem is all the noise you get,” said industry analyst Greg Sterling from Sterling Market Intelligence. “If you search, say, for ‘Boston,’ you get lots of stuff that’s not particularly relevant nor interesting to you. Now by filtering by location, it makes it more interesting. You can get more targeted and reliable information.”

Twitter Geotagging and Digital Signage
Twitter’s location-based tagging affords the ability to seize upon the trending stories and information down to a hyper-local level. In providing greater contextual relevance to Twitter’s stream of content, the service’s new geotagging functionality could have a major impact on the digital signage industry.
Most digital out-of-home media companies only utilize Twitter by dedicating a portion of their screens to specific hastags and topics. Networks could use Twitter’s new geotagging feature to identify real-time trending stories on a granular location basis. The resulting location-based data could be leveraged as a means, and trigger, for screen content, thus giving greater contextual relevance to a network’s programming.
While Twitter exists as an abundant resource of real-time information, geotagging brings greater meaning to the stream. In tying location-based information to users’ tweets, one can filter the pulse of the whole down to the rhythm of specific geographic communities.
*Stay tuned next week for an article on how the digital signage community could, and should, leverage Foursquare’s API.