2012 was supposed to be the year of stalking apps for the hyper-networking types: Glancee, Highlight, Banjo – you name it. Once we arrived at SXSW, we would use these platforms to meet new people, find new connections. A funny thing happened.
Besides the usual technology cheerleaders, most SXSW participants just shrugged their shoulders and moved on. It’s pretty apparent, these are total duds. The technology and philosophy behind many of these apps is sound as the concept of implicit social graphs tied to explicit graphs through background location is indeed an interesting idea. Yet, they fail because they don’t solve any problem.
Foursquare and Gowalla (and gazillion other forgotten platforms) were the hot startups a few years ago that dominated the conversation when it came to social location, focused on the check-in model. Foursquare, the winner of the first location-based arms race, with its check-ins plus deals, tips, photos and to-do lists is mildy useful. It’s good for events like SXSW where you want to connect with people in your graph. It’s a reactive app.
The next generation of location apps will be about ambient location: You could be planning on going to one place and see that your friends are at another and go there instead. The app could pull you to a different place than your original destination. Ambient location apps will have amazing data sets: Better location and social models based on location awareness mixed with the data created by such interaction theoretically could have a profound affect on user behavior. In addition, brands and retailers could find this information useful as well.
It’s clear that Glancee, Highlight and Banjo did not crack the code of background location data. (Delete, delete, delete.)
In the next two parts, I will be exploring the differences between noisy and calm technologies, followed by a glimpse in the future of ambient location platforms and the emergence of calm technologies.