I take location for granted. MapQuest predates my driver’s license, so getting from point A to point B has NEVER involved getting out a map. These days, I don’t even think about directions until I’m already in the car, where I fire up Google Maps on my phone.

Panama slowed me down a bit. Though you can find whole streets easily, plugging in an address doesn’t yield any kind of useful result. And with addresses like ours – “España Way, next to Hotel Via España” – what more could you expect?

Now we’re in Japan. Why didn’t I anticipate this?!

Google Maps - Japanese

Though in retrospect it seems pretty silly to think we’d get English over here, every mapping tool I’d ever come across used the Latin alphabet, so I just assumed…

It turns out there’s NO decent Japanese map labeled in English. Even if we’re able to pull a restaurant up on Google Maps, we can’t read the street names or tell which subway stations are nearby.

But we CAN get latitude and longitude coordinates.

Google Maps - lat-long

We bought our GPS watches with this very situation in mind. We’ve used them tracking down restaurants, going to grocery stores, and finding our way home.

Today we’re just the exception, but GPS is fast becoming the rule. Remember back when a camera phone was a big deal?

We’re about to see a consumer GPS explosion as everyone scrambles to include it. In fact, we’re already well on the way.

Thanks to the FCC, every single Verizon and Sprint phone sold since 2005 has it, and as AT&T and T-Mobile modernize their networks they’ll have to include it too. Nokia says they’ll offer “tens” of GPS-enabled handsets by the end of 2008, and they’re domainating the scene with a 40% global market share.

Not only is the system is so simple Tynan can master it, but it’s ideally suited for international use.

All you need are two data points, and they just happen to be in Arabic numerals, the most universally-recognized format on earth. That’s why so many Asian sites use numeric domains.

Numeric domains

What does this mean for you? Expect to see GPS coordinates making their way into everyday navigation tools.

Destinations will provide latitude and longitude in addition to street addresses. Fitness sites will include downloadable waypoints for running and biking routes. Friends meeting up will be able to share their exact locations.

It won’t be long before you see Lonely Planet supplementing their listing for Brown Rice Cafe with 35.665863, 139.710058.

Online mapping took over because it’s simpler. Now we’re going a step further. Google Maps shows you which streets to take, but GPS eliminates your dependency on street signs.

Soon, using only the phone in your pocket, you’ll be able to navigate to any location on the planet with only two numbers. That’s pretty powerful.

If you’re in Tokyo, come visit us at 35.656, 139.699. :)