Friday, March 6, 2015

Location Aware

...some long time ago, I wrote a bit about location aware services but things have changed a lot since then. Gowall has gone-alla, and Foursquare has morphed into Swarm with Foursquare behind it. Instagram, Facebook, Yelp! and Twitter all have strong location-aware tie-ins now, and the game is really just now heating up in the US and abroad.

The importance of this increases as more activity among millennials and Gen-Y flows away from desktops and onto mobile devices. More and more the marketplace is saying, "if you want to talk to us, you need to come out here where we are."

The potential for location-aware services has grown tremendously for both marketers and consumers since 2010, and a growing percentage to the marketplace is beginning to abandon concerns about individual privacy as we learn more about the massive sea of data that already exists about our habits and our preferences.

I stand on the premise I proposed when I wrote about Gowalla in 2010. If a location aware social platform wants to succeed, it needs to do three things.

It needs to be fun - For consumers to use the service vigorously, above all else, it has to amuse us. If we are going to invest time in participating with your system, it has to be entertaining at some level.

It has to present value - This means so much more than simply offering me a coupon when I'm in the vicinity of the green grocer. It's a thin line between offering me value and simply pestering me for the order. I want to discover something that strikes me as extraordinary value, and if you can articulate that in a way I can't ignore, we'll do business.

It has to work reliably - One of my quibbles with Gowalla, and my current hate/hate relationship with Swarm is that they waste my time by not working well. Nobody cares what didn't work about Gowalla, but it's very sad to see how Swarm has driven a lot of folks out of the Foursquare world.

When Swarm first came along, I gave it a chance, but the first release worked very poorly on my Android phone. After giving it some time to stabilize and have some of the bugs banished, I gave it another try. This week I banished it for good from my device. The Swarm will have to carry on without me.

An app that crashes and restarts itself 4 times within 5 minutes runs down my phone battery and chaffs my ridin' cushions.

Location aware services have so much potential, but we're still waiting to see someone do it right.  If I discover a winner, you can bet I'll mention it here.

Vincent Lowe is a technology writer and educator living in Silicon Valley. He freely confesses that he has never been to a green grocer. Follow him on Twitter (@agentv) or snoop through his other adventures at (