Friday, October 12, 2007

Location is not (just) maps

This entry is also posted at the Little Springs company blog. If you feel compelled to comment, I'd do it over there as its quite a bit better read. A year ago (almost to the day) Barbara was mentioning that all mashups seem to be about maps, and I feel not much has changed since then. Instead of using all the neat and ever more common location technologies to simply display maps with more info and prettier visualizations, I'd like to see everyone start thinking about making the whole phone more contextually sensitive. Location services should be one of the primary methods of being aware of the user and what they are doing.

Appropriate behavior

As phones continue to grow in ubiquity and power, I believe admonitions to turn them off will fade (or simply be more and more ignored, as is already happening in many places). While I might well have scanned a poster in the lobby of a theater, and be searching about something on a pre-movie slideshow, the device should be able to use its location awareness to not loudly beep at me. Better yet would be an awareness (maybe based on linking up payment schemes) that I am in a particular movie. Push advertising — or a response to my query — about a related product should just simply wait till the film I am in is done.

Appropriate information

Here, even more than above, "appropriate" means "relevant." Information presented should always be contextually relevant, and the phone should have enough information to present this information instead of always offering the average, lowest-common-denominator guess. Lets say by combining location, bluetooth gazing and audible cues, the phone detects I am in a bookstore, not walking down the street outside anymore. Now when I take a photo of a book or poster (or if we must, the associated 2D barcode) the info presented should be where they are in the store, how many are in stock, and maybe a sales guy gets paged to come find me. A link to buy from Amazon or a map to the nearest bookstore is just going to annoy me, besides offering zero value.

More appropriate maps

Maps have an implies contextual nature simply because we all can be placed within them. Therefore interactive maps are still generally fascinating and relevant-looking. But why do I have to launch one tool to get weather, one to get traffic, another to get directions and so on? Someday every user is going to figure this out, and demand more from their phones. Why can't the device can use context information of time of day, messaging, calls in progress, location and maybe bluetooth (depending on the car) to determine that not only am I in the car, but probably heading home from work? After I drive this a few times, it can recall how I normally go home without my ever actually entering in a route. And what does it do with that? Tell me about traffic conditions, or weather. Remind me about the changing season, so I will be driving directly into the sun most of the way. If you need to monetize it more, tell me about the best prices on gas, or the sale at the grocery store I often stop at on the way home. There are dozens more ways I can think of now that location and other awareness modes can increase the ways your phone can behave more appropriately. Offer up your own ideas below. Or just go off, and build them.

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