Friday, August 13, 2010

A Variety of Location-Based Apps from WCA's "Locationpolooza"

This is a followup to my earlier post on the recent WCA Location-based Services (LBS) SIG event, dubbed "Locationpolozza". Links to videos of the presentations have also now been posted at the WCA website.

The five companies presenting at the WCA event showed how location data can be put to use in a variety of applications; from the very serious reality of civil emergency response, to augmented reality in shopping experiences, to enhancing your ability to "hookup" and flirt on the go (this might also turn out to be augmented reality.. you never really know till you meetup in person do you?).

CiviGuard showed how their application is able to communicate location-specific emergency alerts to up to 1M people in less than two minutes. The app is currently available on iOS and Android. Besides speed, an advantage of CiviGuard is the ability to facilitate two-way communication with civilians, potentially to crowd-source responses as an aid to help direct resources where needed.

As an interesting side note, CiviGuard traces its origins to the Singularity University, which Chris O'Brien wrote about in today's San Jose Mercury News. As Chris describes it, the central point of the Singularity Movement is that:

The pace of change in technology and science is accelerating so rapidly that the world is completely unprepared to deal with the consequences. And the message from the people who champion Singularity: We need to prepare.
Google is one of the primary sponsors of Singularity University. I'll leave you to read the Mercury News article for more details on this "movement".

ZOS Communications complemented the emergency notification theme of CiviGuard, but as a middleware provider rather than an end-user application. ZOS has developed "relevance filters" to avoid information overload, by using location data to more narrowly target messaging. ZOS  serves applications such as the Amber alert system, but also expands the concept beyond emergencies to "lifestyle" alerts for situations such as park closings, or notification of public events.

Skout is touting their application as "the future of dating". Think real time location-based on a mobile device. Their service has more than 1 million users, and claims to be adding 10,00 per day, not surprisingly - mostly 20 to 30 year-olds.  The app can notify users when a match comes into the vicinity. An attempt is made to protect user's privacy, by not revealing the specific location.  Skout also has a separate app called "Boy Ahoy" for the gay community.

In order to monetize their app, Skout allows users (i.e. males I'm sure) to spend virtual currency in order to enhance their rankings. As an attendee remarked "does this mean a rich sleazy guy gets rated higher"?  It's worth noting that a customer survey conducted by Skout found that 20% of their users employ the app to cheat on their partners!

MotiveCast is an application that employs augmented reality for "engagement marketing". The idea is to use hyper-local data that would be specific to a given store, so that shoppers could engage in games or contests as part of their shopping experience. Personally, I try to minimize my time spent shopping, but I'm sure I'm not their target demographic. This might go over well with mom's handing ther iPhones off to their kids to keep them amused.

With the increased adoption of smartphones, you may have already seen oblivious pedestrians looking at their handhelds in a crosswalk when they should be checking for traffic. I'm imagining oblivious shoppers running MotiveCast and banging their carts into each other, or into merchandise. That could bring a whole new element to shopping! Kind of like bumper cars.

Finally, Geodelic presented their offerings for consumers and enterprises. For consumers, the Geodelic app enables location discovery, i.e. a location browser that is more interactive and adds real time information as an improvement to something like the static, list-oriented Yelp or the checkin-based Foursquare. Feeds from Yelp, Wikipedia, etc. are added to the database of location information.

For businesses, Geodelic provides a platform for creating site-specific location guides, such as in airports or amusement parks.  The company is also developing a a web-based authoring toolkit that could be used by consumers and businesses alike to create and publish personalized location guides. By incorporating advertising, and the ability to make purchases directly from the location browser, Geodelic has the opportunity to generate revenue from a number of different channels.

The last two location-based services, MotiveCast and Geodelic, show how LBS is much more than GPS. Hyper-localization will rely on enhancing GPS through WiFi, both to pinpoint location much more narrowly and satisfy the bandwidth requirements for rich media experiences.

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