Today I was walking back from Golden Gate Cycles where I had dropped off my motorcycle to get a new windshield added. [Yes, I could probably do it myself, but who wants to chance having it fly off while cruising down a freeway?!] It was morning and I hadn’t yet eaten breakfast. I was looking for a simple café to grab my traditional bagel breakfast with a coffee. At long last, a great reason to use the iPhone’s location aware applications!
Standing twenty feet in front of Alexandria Café, and next to a sidewalk billboard, I couldn’t get it to pull up on any of the map based applications. As I sat down to have my breakfast I decided to add it to Yelp and comment on the place. I first went to the Yelp application, but was surprised that it was nothing more than a one way data stream. They haven’t yet included the ability for people to comment on the go. Seems odd given that’s the point of Yelp.
After the café, I walked home. About midway I decided to test the experience again. This time I attempted the use case of someone wanting to find a good lunch restaurant near them. I figured this would work better. I first opened Where, which aggregates a few of these services. But, Where was difficult to use as I couldn’t zoom in on the map and it wasn’t finding me very quickly. I then tried Limbo, one that I think is organized well with it’s fast search of restaurants, bars and shopping places near you. Yet, when I clicked on Restaurants, of the thousands it said it found, all were “1/4 mile” away and none were places that I could visually read their storefront sign. Yelp? No, missed most of the places. Everything wanted to drag me through a long list and was slow to really understanding where I was.
I understand that many of these applications are trying to quickly position themselves with consumers to gain a “first mover” advantage. I think this is the wrong approach. If someone doesn’t like the application, they’re going to delete it and not be inclined to use it again. If you wait, till you really have a good offering, you’re still going to be able to gain share of users as the product will speak for itself and through viral marketing everyone will switch when yours is available.
Where, Loopt, Yelp, Whrrl, Limbo, etc. (iPhone applications) are all far from where they need to be in order to real excite people and provide the service we’ve been dreaming about. These applications need to do a better job of loading the location information (too many times it pulls up where I was yesterday) and need to tailor the content. This isn’t the web on my PC where I will forgive long lists of non-tailored businesses because I can more easily sort and filter them away. This is my mobile phone, I’m hungry and I’m on a sidewalk!
With all the social networking applications being built for the recently launched iPhone 2.0 software, I’ve noticed that my favorite idea of tech flirting still hasn’t really been approached. I suppose Dodgeball comes close, but not taking full advantage of location based services.
I’d like to see a simple application that is location aware and keeps a profile of me and my interests. Imagine being in a park and the Cupid app pings you to let you know someone else is in the park that has similar interests and is interested in meeting new people. You could immediately connect these two people, allow them to have some anonymous flirting on their mobile phone using SMS or some kind of chat app, then connect them up if they’re interested.
Imagine the possibilities, you could do a “missed connection” feature where Cupid pings you, but you didn’t take the ping because you were busy or not interested at the time. You could follow up later and ping the person with a “missed connection” that would tell them you were both at X location on Y date and time, your profiles matched, but it was a missed connection.
You could share profiles with each other before flirting, during or after. You could even monetize this by charging for the connection. It would need a great online application to complement the mobile app, filling all the traditional features of match.com, etc.
eHarmony has spent a lot of money trying to figure out the algorithm of love. I wonder if what we do and where we go would be a better indicator than a survey. This app could keep track of these things along with our Yelp ratings, Netflix favorites and even our Amazon recommendations.
I’m sure it’s in development or coming soon… Let me know if you’ve seen anything like this.
Some interesting approaches:
In typical napkin fashion, this idea came to me several weeks ago on a plane while reading more stories about how the mobile web is taking off with the iPhone and expanded consumer use of smartphones with web browsers and increasingly fast Internet connections. Having not yet drafted this blog entry, I recently learned about Loopt, a mobile social networking setup that allows you to know where your friends are and likely have been (was announced during the Apple keynote and thus downloading of the software seems to have overwhelmed them and I haven’t been able to demo yet).
I think it’s great that mobile social networking will allow me to know when someone is around the corner at the other Starbucks, but what about the past? My idea was along the lines of “was here” graffiti in bathrooms. I’ve always been fascinated by why people want to leave their names in bathroom stalls. Do they really believe a friend well happen upon their tag, or are they somehow trying to find celebrity? I really don’t have any great insights into this habit, so I’ll end here. But, I do think it would be cool if I could do a virtual “was here” when I happen upon a really tasty new burrito dive or a bar that happens to serve my favorite vodka, Ciroc, that still is not distributed enough.
Having used the Google Maps application on my Blackberry for several months now having only the cellular tower triangulation location specifics, I’ve been inspired to want to leave breadcrumbs of where I have been, how it was, whether I liked it or not, etc. Especially when it comes to restaurants (still believe there is no great restaurant guide online).
Here’s how I’d setup this service. It would need to be a mobile application that ran minimally on the iPhone (Apple if you’re reading this I’ll donate my ___________ to work with you). Leveraging GPS or cellular triangulation technology now being used by other mobile applications, it would be able to keep track of where you were. You could then add your thoughts to the location and share them with friends, both real time and later online. The online site would then become a home for your adventures and opinions, like your own personal Yelp meets TravelAdvisor.
Darin.washere.com could be the format of each individual users info. Add in some social networking functionality and bingo. Here are some other key features I’d like to have:
- Snap picture in location with tag of your thoughts. When others are in the location, they’d be notified that a friend has been there and could view your picture and comment (of course there would be all kinds of permission based settings such as what I want my boss to see and what my best friend gets for a true commentary)
- Store location data from phone and attach as meta data. This obviously allows you to link up what the place is (like Google Maps already does on the phone). If the location wasn’t “registered”, it would have a way to register it. This would include temporary venues such as a concert in a park or annual street fair
- When visitor is at location they can access others washere photos and messages (you could also have the option to share with the world publicly either anonymously or as your handle, providing a real time Yelp type service) [maybe Yelp could provide the service into this so as not to reinvent that wheel]
- Social network integration would allow you to see if any of your friends were there when you were (having just heard about Loopt, this is covered)
- Track individuals and use map pins of where they were; show online to friends (think this is also covered by Loopt). Again key here is having the website where you could have a better UI for more complicated permission questions, such as do you want your paths to be forever available or dissolve as time goes on.
- Browse where your friends have been. What a deal, no longer would you have to answer the question of, “what have you been up to?”
- Reference company with tag sticker program that’s similar
- As soon as you get into a place, the system would notify you that one or more friends have been there. You could then decide what to do with the information. If someone you know was there right then, or recently, you could then decide if you wanted to connect with them. Of course, I’m a big fan of invisible mode too as many times I don’t want to be bothered. Come on, you know you’ve put your head down and walked faster by someone you know at least once in your life when you didn’t want to be bothered.
- Notifications if someone with similar tastes liked it (mobile yelp)
- Recommendation engine for businesses. If I’m walking around and want lunch, I should just be able to ask where the closest food is that I would like. It’s great that Google Local can tell me what’s close, but if I’ve rated a bunch of burrito shops and so has a hundred other people, I should be able to make some correlation between what people like and recommend places based on others assessments that like similar places that I do.
- Recommendation engine for events (sports, date) using the same process
Author’s Note: After researching references for comments in this entry, I found Wirrl mentioned in an article. It looks to be the closest application out there to fit my idea. It looks like when the iPhone application store comes online, they’ll have it!
As GPS chips become embedded in more and more phones, location based services will begin to explode. We have seen many different applications come out of the smaller more niche mobile carriers and some basic applications such as child finders deployed to the big national carriers, but the mobile advertising promise of promoting a hot cup of coffee as you walk by Starbucks has yet to materialize. One area I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is around environment targeting along with behavioral targeting. Obviously, Google and others will have a tremendous amount of insight about their users and could use this in a mobile setting, most likely their primary driver for their 700 MHz bid in the US and metro wi-fi attempts. But, I think another key opportunity is around environment targeting.
Let me explain this idea briefly. If I’m in Phoenix, Arizona and its 103 degrees, I’m not going to likely be interested in a hot latte no matter what the mobile coupon offer is. But, if I’m walking down the street and I get a note about a cold, chilled Frappuccino, I may just take the bait. Now, there are a couple of key pieces of information in this scenario that I just shared that the technology could determine and use to target the advertisement to this particular situation. The first was the fact that I’m walking. The slow pace of my movement could be understood by an application as “walking” and could trigger a business rule that says I’m likely more inclined to take the bait. Whereas if I’m driving 45 MPH past the same Starbucks, it’s probably not as effective to send me that same ad. Additionally, with my location information, an application could determine that it’s remarkably hot and decide to send me the ad for the ice cold Frappuccino rather than the hot latte. This environment targeting could be a key addition to mobile marketing or push advertising.
The technology is finally catching up to the idea. A friend of mine recently forwarded me a link to a new application for the iPhone and iTouch that allows people to connect randomly while remotely wandering this planet. It doesn’t use a centralized server to connect the profiles, but instead uses data on each device to connect individuals that are near each other and may want to be connected for one reason or another. I think it’s brilliant! Although, I think having the online profile and ability to keep track of the experience will be a much more exciting offering (an old idea of mine – mobile dating and SMS flirting), it’s a great start at using technology as an icebreaker.
The application: iFob
Features (from their site):
iFob is ultra simple to use, and has no required fields.
With iFob you enter only what you want people to know about you, plain and simple. You can modify whatever you enter whenever you want without having to login to any site.
iFob has lots of cool features, including:
- Public Taglines that any iFob user can see.
- Add more detailed public information about yourself.
- Add additional private information that you can chose which iFob users may see.
- Chat with other iFob users who are in the same hotspot.
- Is not a web site: iFob is software that is installed on your iPhone, iPod or laptop.
- Mark other iFob users as “interesting” if you would like to pay attention to in the future.
- Visual and sound indicators when other iFob users come into the room.
- Block iFob users based on whether or not they are boring so you will never be bored by them again.
- Versions for iPod touch, iPhone, Windows PCs and Mac Intel laptops.
- Works with any wireless network which your iPod, iPhone or laptop can connect with.
- iPod and iPhone version are 100% free.
- No subscription fees.
- No advertising or any other kind of hassleware.
- Ultra simple to use.
- Ultra simple “profiles” with no required fields.
- No having to define categories for yourself.
I often find myself referencing an article in discussion and want to be able to share it with those I’m in discussion with or use it to prove a point. And other times, there’s just an interesting story I want to show someone because I can’t remember the details. Recently, I read an article in Wired magazine about the amount of caffeine in soft drinks. They published the findings from a test that identified the milligrams of caffeine included in the popular beverages. In the article, it made reference to a URL that had the full list. But, when I went to show my friend, and explore the rest of the list, I no longer had the magazine, nor could I find the article searching through their site.
Maybe it’s just me, who carries magazines around with me wherever I go and drops them into trash bins wherever I finish, but I’d like to have a way to keep track of those really good articles or even share them with friends on the spot. I think the easiest way to track and organize this process would be through a combination of SMS and the web. If each article had a unique ID, I could then send that ID to the magazine publishers short code. The system would then keep track of the article for me in as online bookmarks. The system could ask me if I’d like “more info”, if there was more to the article. It could then send my phone a URL where I could pull up the additional info (like the total list of sodas in the caffeine test). I could then forward it to a friend via my phone, or later share my bookmark with them.
The publishers would obviously love this. It would give them a way to track who’s reading what and when, which would be great for getting the advertisers excited about the print world in the way they like online ad tracking. And given many magazines are owned by the same publisher, they could use one system for all their magazines which would make it more valuable to the reader as well because then all their bookmarks would be together. They could even have features that allow the reader to comment directly on the article from their phone, and further connect the authors with the readers.
The real need is to be able to go from work to personal and back. This includes not only the messaging, but the look itself. The pearl is a great step, but the software has a long way to go. Have a switch on the outside to go from work to personal. This would allow the person to really feel like they were “switching work off”. The settings could be such that email is no longer pushed, but is queued for later. Maybe the ringer changes and even the home page of the start screen. For example the camera link could become front and center verses the task list. Email needs to be clearly separated. I don’t want to have the temptation of getting caught up on a work item when I’m trying to check in on the weekend plans with some friends. Instant messaging could also help send the message. I’m not working, ping me later. Hit the switch and the presence info changes back to working. Integration with work phone “follow me” systems could also be tied in. I’m always annoyed by having to remember to call into the system to let it know I’m at my desk or working. Calendar integration should go beyond the corporate server. Using Google calendar to share my travel schedule with friends is fun, but requires me to keep my calendar updated in two places.
While there is a lot of interest and discussion around the concept of “Web 2.0”, I think the real big leap is being missed in this discussion. The Internet has had a profound impact on how we communicate, transact commercially, and record our history, but I think the biggest impact is what will happen when this is all available to us at anytime, anywhere.
An example of this is social networking. Right now MySpace has been fun to connect people that are both friends or meeting each other online. It allows people to communicate, share pictures, illustrate and share their life. But, for the most part, you are tethered to your computer to really participate in these activities. While I know that Helio, AT&T, and others have made some good strides to make these transactions accessible from a mobile phone, it’s far from taking advantage of some of the opportunities available today with the mobile cellular infrastructure available in most countries.
The big leap is when you start combining the location based services with existing online social networking models. Take for example Street Hive. This new service allows you to see where your friends are and what they’ve been doing through notes they’ve left on the system through their phone. These can include pictures and text. Integrate this with “myspace” and you see a more live illustration of your friends lives that they’re sharing with you.
This is just the beginning though. The real value comes in sharing your expertise with your friends, family and colleagues. A good example of this is Yelp. Yelp is a site that allows individual users to rate and review various services such as restaurants to the local plumber. But, again, you’re tethered to your computer or a static mobile site.
The leap is when you are able to walk down the street, indicate to your phone you’re looking for a restaurant and you’re not only connected with what’s around you, but where your friends have gone, what places are their favorite and which one you’d like the best based on your preferences such as where you flag a particular friend as being good at recommending the best restaurants. Then, when you pick a place, you take pictures of who you’re with, the dish you loved and give it a rating yourself in real time, not after you get home to your computer.
If you’re only thinking about AJAX and fancy new user interfaces for your old web site, you’re missing the really big leap that is coming. I for one, can’t wait!