The new wave of GPS-enabled applications

X Marks the SpotWhat can your smartphone do if it knows where you are? A new breed of geo-aware apps have set out to answer that question.

Most of you are familiar with GPS (global positioning system) basics: with a GPS unit or GPS-enabled smartphone, you can enter in a destination and get voice-guided prompts to lead the way. Very handy. You can even look up restaurants and local attractions. Also useful.

But this is the tip of the iceberg…check out the many new and creative uses now available:

If you are on social networking sites, many feature location-based services that will tell you if any of your friends are nearby. I’m not sure I want this much togetherness, but it seems to be a hit with the teen crowd.

A friend told me his BlackBerry GPS is so sensitive, he uses it to see how fast he’s running.

It’s a little Big-Brotherish, but many companies are using GPS to track where their drivers are, and also to ensure efficient routing. With gas prices on the rise, this can be a huge money-saver.

People are using GPS to play games, like Geocaching, a clever high-tech treasure hunt.

You can automatically tag your photos with your exact location when you upload them to Flickr, so you never forget where you got that great shot.

Saving the best for last, a colleague just shared an awesome new app: G-Park, available for the iPhone. When you park, hit the “Park Me!” button. When you come back, tap “Where Did I Park?” Such a simple solution to such a vexing problem. Gotta love it.

Never get lost again

Tom Tom Go GPSFor those of you who hate asking directions, technology has come to your rescue with map and navigational services in a variety of flavors.

Many new cars have GPS built right in, but for the rest of us we’ve still got plenty of options. Portable units like those from TomTom and Garmin mount on your dashboard. Carriers like Sprint offer voice-guided directions with built-in GPS; the iPhone has Google maps built right in.

Even if you don’t have these features on your cell phone, the major map websites (Yahoo!, Google, MapQuest) all have mobile versions designed to fit small cell phone screens. As long as you have the Internet enabled for your phone, you can easily pull up these miniature maps.