Has a “scrappy start-up” employing about 50 people found the way forward for app development and monetisation – a way forward that uses personal data without, apparently, raising end user concerns?

Certainly the opening speaker at yesterday’s late morning App Planet Forum session on Making Apps Smarter, Dennis Crowley, co-founder and CEO of foursquare, seemed excited by the potential of what has been enabled on top of his company’s location-based mobile platform. And it seems he has a lot to be excited about. The idea of providing a way to make cities easier to use and more interesting to explore naturally lends itself to sharing of tips, ideas and user information. And now merchants – small ones as well as high street chains – are using the information freely offered by foursquare users for special offers and loyalty programmes.

Meanwhile, the fun add-on of foursquare ‘badges’ – playful rewards that recognise a user’s ability to, for example, stay up late on a weekday evening – has quickly evolved. The badges now reward – and therefore encourage – visits to gyms or even museums as well as mass trips to popular restaurants or bars.

Foursquare has more than 6.5 million customers in the US – and has plans to take its services to other markets. No wonder, therefore, developers are working on ways to adapt and monetise the extraordinarily detailed information those customers are willing to provide.