Tags local

Etsy Local alerts iOS app users of nearby sellers when on the move

Etsy-Local

Etsy has long been an online marketplace for unique, often handmade items available directly from their creators, but a new feature of the app will connect shoppers with nearby sellers in the real world. The new Etsy Local feature, available from within the Etsy iOS app, will alert users when they are close to a seller’s real world location, including pop-up shops, flea markets, craft fairs, and local stores.

Sellers will just have to add their local store and event information in order for it to appear for app users. For users, this is how it works within the app:

When a shopper opens the Local tab in the app, recommended nearby retailers and events are tailored to their tastes, based on shops and sellers they have previously engaged with, through favoriting, purchasing, and browsing. Buyers can also discover great new places to shop by viewing local boutiques that carry Etsy merchandise — just one more way to support local communities online and off.

You’ll find the new Local feature on the app’s home page on both your iPhone and iPad, and you’ll be able to view store info and navigate to local shops and events from within the app.

You can access the new Etsy Local feature through the Etsy app for iPhone and iPad.


Filed under: Apps Tagged: Etsy Local, flea market, iOS, iPad, iPhone, local, Map, pop up shops, sellers, update

For more news on Apps, iPhone, and iPad continue reading at 9to5Mac.

What do you think? Discuss "Etsy Local alerts iOS app users of nearby sellers when on the move" with our community.

Comments Off on Etsy Local alerts iOS app users of nearby sellers when on the move

Photo

Jordan Kahn

August 25th

Apple

Mac

Apple to open local, mobile-focused stores in India to promote entry-level products

Apple-India-Monthly-Plans

Apple is planning to change up retail in India in a big—and small—way, according to a report by The Economic Times. According to the Times, Apple plans to open a collection of small, iOS-centric stores. The stores will be setup by local distribution partners, not by first-party retail staff. While the main focus of these locations will be on mobile devices, Apple’s other offerings will also be represented to some degree in each store.

In fact, the focus of these stores will not even be Apple’s latest devices, according to the report. Instead, these local shops will focus on the less-expensive models that Apple offers, including the iPad 2 and iPhone 4s. Macs and other products in these smaller stores will also be lower-priced models. The goal of the local establishments seems to be to place Apple’s most affordable products as close as possible potential customers—a neccessary move if Apple is to continue gaining ground in the country.

This isn’t the first time Apple has thought outside the box in India. Plagued by a deluge of inexpensive smartphones from Samsung and other manufacturers, Apple India reintroduced the 8 GB iPhone 4 to the market in the hopes of stymying the flow of customers to its competition.


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Apple, India, iPad, iPhone, local, retail, shop, store

Visit 9to5Mac to find more special coverage of AAPL Company, Apple, and iPhone.

What do you think? Discuss "Apple to open local, mobile-focused stores in India to promote entry-level products" with our community.

Comments Off on Apple to open local, mobile-focused stores in India to promote entry-level products

Photo

Mike Beasley

March 11th

Apple

Mac

Y Combinator-Backed Local Marketplace App Yardsale Launches Nationwide

yardsale

Yardsale, a mobile app to help folks sell goods to local buyers, is now available throughout the U.S., after a long, long period of testing in the San Francisco Bay Area. The latest version of the app, which hooks into Craigslist and enables users to easily list items for sale, hopes to take on other local marketplaces by reducing the friction associated with creating listings, and then dealing with flaky buyers afterward.

The Yardsale guys believe that everyone has some stuff they’d like to get rid of, if only Craigslist and eBay weren’t such a pain in the ass to deal with. On Craigslist, you’re faced with buyers who’d rather spend time haggling than actually buying your stuff. And when you do agree on a price, you never know whether your buyer will actually show up to, you know, buy the items. As for eBay, well, you are up against a growing number of small businesses, which have cropped up to largely make individual sellers seem irrelevant. In either case, it’s not a good user experience.

The key to the Yardsale app is that listing items for sale is incredibly easy. Like, Instagram easy. It’s betting that by allowing users to quickly take pictures and add them to an item listing, it will be able to help get those items sold. Pictures — more than text or anything else — are what buyers look at when they want to purchase an item, so the more the better.

In addition to listing items for sale within the Yardsale app, users can also do all the usual social sharing you’d expect in the 21st century: tweeting out to Twitter and posting to your Facebook friends. Better yet, though, Yardsale posts directly to Craigslist, which, for all of its faults and crappy design, is still probably the best and most-used place on the web for local sales.

But the good news is that all Craiglist listings feed back through Yardsale, so users don’t have to worry about an influx of irrelevant emails, and instead receive real-world offers for the stuff they want to sell.

Beyond Craigslist, though, Yardsale hopes to bring the idea of community back to the local sales process. Once upon a time, eBay used to have a community of loyal buyers and sellers, before it became enamored with power sellers — small businesses with large inventories that largely pushed individuals out of the sales process. That focus on community is paying off, at least in the San Francisco launch test, where nearly 80 percent of users who buy or sell an item come back to do so again after that initial transaction is completed.

The app is free for users who wish to list items — and even free for those who sell them, at least for a limited time. But after an unspecified period of time, it’ll start taking a 10 percent cut of transactions when the seller makes money.

Yardsale was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2011 class, and has spent the past year under the radar, testing its app and getting it ready for broader release. Over that time, it’s focused on its home turf — the San Francisco Bay Area — and facilitating sales here. But the startup now feels ready to make its service available nationwide.

The Yardsale team is five strong and based in San Francisco, but it’s hiring. With availability spreading throughout the U.S., that’s probably a good idea.



Comments Off on Y Combinator-Backed Local Marketplace App Yardsale Launches Nationwide

Photo

Ryan Lawler

June 21st

Uncategorized

Eventster Brings Crowdsourced Event Discovery To iPhone & iPad

iphone2

No plans yet for the weekend? Good! Here’s something you should try then: Eventster is a new app for iPhone and iPad launching today which is tackling local event recommendations. The app pulls in 600,000 events per day across North America and Europe via the Zvents API (now a part of StubHub), offering activities like concerts, festivals, nightlife hotspots, theater showtimes, sports events, and more.

As you flip through the events, you can upvote and downvote them, which, in turn, helps power the app’s recommendations. Other locals in your area will see those votes and can then quickly tell which events are trending. Plus, like any good recommendations app, Eventster learns which events you’ll like based on your previous activity.

“Event discovery represents a really interesting challenge for us as entrepreneurs,” explains Tackable co-founder Luke Stangel, who helped create Eventster. “Live Nation, on average, sells just 60 percent of its available tickets each year. They did a study trying to figure out why 40 percent of their seats were empty, and found the majority of people said, ‘I would have gone to this event if I had known about it beforehand.’ For Live Nation, event discovery represents a $2.3 billion-a-year pain point,” he says.

To use the app, you first sign in with Facebook, and then you can browse through the “popular” section or do a more advanced keyword search. Power users will appreciate that there are a ton of filters, too, to narrow down and sort event listings by time, distance, and category. The search screen also displays events in a more compact list for easy scrolling, and you can also see events plotted on a map (which looks great on iPad). When you find an event you like, you can bookmark it, vote on it or buy tickets, when applicable.

Tackable, the company behind Eventster, was founded in late 2010 and previously raised $535,000 from MediaNews, the second-largest newspaper publisher in the country. Tackable was incubated within the San Jose Mercury News its first year, during which time it produced a photojournalism app for iPhone and a location-aware news aggregator called TapIn. But, says Stangel, “we learned a lot a while building TapIn…mostly, that people’s didn’t care about anything but events.”

“We’d built this really elegant platform that put news, weather, video, events, deals, business listings and reviews on a map,” Stangel continues. “People would turn off every layer of information except events. We got 10 times more emails about events than any other feature. We knew we were tapping into something pretty powerful.” Hence, Eventster.

Today, there are 6 people working on Eventster, including CEO Ed Lucero who co-founded AGENDA in 1998, which went on to raise $40 million in funding, grew to 800 people and became Asia’s largest digital marketing agency before it exited to the WPP Group in 2008. There’s also CTO Steven Woo, who was a principal engineer at Blizzard (he was in charge of Diablo II), and later co-founded his own studio, Hyboreal Games. The company is now raising its Series A.

Eventster is live in iTunes here: iPhone or iPad.

.



Comments Off on Eventster Brings Crowdsourced Event Discovery To iPhone & iPad

Photo

Sarah Perez

June 8th

Uncategorized

Capital One Acquires Mobile Savings Startup BankOns, Team Moving To Capital One Labs

bankons

San Francisco-based BankOns, an early stage mobile startup, has been acquired by Capital One and will now be incorporated into Capital One’s Digital Labs. This very young company was founded in summer 2010, and launched in May 2011, with the aim of offering tools that would allow banks to reward users based on their geo-location and their purchase history.

Investors in the company include Dave McClure’s 500 Startups and financial consultant Mark Greenough, who had put in during the friends and family seed round. Neither the amount of the seed round nor the deal terms were disclosed.

However, McClure says that the deal was a quick acquisition, and was good for 500 Startups.

The company was founded by Joshua Greenough, who, prior to BankOns (think “bank + coupons”), served as VP of Operations at social commerce network PowerReviews. And yes, Mark and Joshua are related – they are father and son.

For those unfamiliar, BankOns is something of an anti-Groupon, in that it’s not focused on enticing new users to try a business or service by offering a deeply discounted deal, but is rather rewarding local customers based on their spending history. The company made its debut last spring at the Finovate Conference in San Francisco, where it won “best of show.” (That same conference is starting up in San Francisco again tomorrow.)

As Joshua explained last year, “financial institutions are able to connect with their customers on a daily basis whenever the customer checks their smartphone for anything from a bank balance to directions to their favorite restaurant,” he said. “The power of our platform to link transaction data to a customer’s location makes it possible to deliver highly targeted and welcomed offers, creating new and repeated revenue opportunities for financial institutions and savings opportunities for consumers.”

Here’s how it worked: After you created an account and entered your bank card login data, Bankons, which was built on top of Yodlee, accessed your transaction history to determine your spending habits and find the nearby deals best suited for you. Bankons utilized your transaction history as well as other local deals like Foursquare, which it could also use to verify your location. And the app allowed you to search for any zip code even if you were not currently in it, and then save the offers you liked.

For financial institutions, the service was an interesting value-add, because it could offer a feature set beyond balance inquiry in their mobile apps, which is what banks are actively in search of; meanwhile, for consumers, the app appealed because it would showcase more relevant offers based on their own behavior.

Capital One, which purchased Bankons for an undisclosed amount, acquired both the intellectual property and talent from Bankons. Greenough will now serve as Senior Director of Capital One’s Technology Innovation in San Francisco following the acquisition. (Capital One’s Labs are a new group that does rapid prototyping, incubation, and testing of product ideas before they are rolled out to customers.)

In a statement, Capital One says: ”the combination of our Lab and the strengths of the Bankons team will add to the talented Digital Innovation Lab team and help accelerate the Labs innovation and rapid prototyping agenda at our innovation labs.”

Through Capital One Labs, the former Bankons team now has access to Capital One’s customers – all 45 million of them – a number, Greenough says that most startups can only dream about.



Comments Off on Capital One Acquires Mobile Savings Startup BankOns, Team Moving To Capital One Labs

Photo

Sarah Perez

May 7th

Uncategorized

Capital One Acquires Mobile Savings Startup BankOns, Team Moving To Capital One Labs

bankons

San Francisco-based BankOns, an early stage mobile startup, has been acquired by Capital One and will now be incorporated into Capital One’s Digital Labs. This very young company was founded in summer 2010, and launched in May 2011, with the aim of offering tools that would allow banks to reward users based on their geo-location and their purchase history.

Investors in the company include Dave McClure’s 500 Startups and financial consultant Mark Greenough, who had put in during the friends and family seed round. Neither the amount of the seed round nor the deal terms were disclosed.

However, McClure says that the deal was a quick acquisition, and was good for 500 Startups.

The company was founded by Joshua Greenough, who, prior to BankOns (think “bank + coupons”), served as VP of Operations at social commerce network PowerReviews. And yes, Mark and Joshua are related – they are father and son.

For those unfamiliar, BankOns is something of an anti-Groupon, in that it’s not focused on enticing new users to try a business or service by offering a deeply discounted deal, but is rather rewarding local customers based on their spending history. The company made its debut last spring at the Finovate Conference in San Francisco, where it won “best of show.” (That same conference is starting up in San Francisco again tomorrow.)

As Joshua explained last year, “financial institutions are able to connect with their customers on a daily basis whenever the customer checks their smartphone for anything from a bank balance to directions to their favorite restaurant,” he said. “The power of our platform to link transaction data to a customer’s location makes it possible to deliver highly targeted and welcomed offers, creating new and repeated revenue opportunities for financial institutions and savings opportunities for consumers.”

Here’s how it worked: After you created an account and entered your bank card login data, Bankons, which was built on top of Yodlee, accessed your transaction history to determine your spending habits and find the nearby deals best suited for you. Bankons utilized your transaction history as well as other local deals like Foursquare, which it could also use to verify your location. And the app allowed you to search for any zip code even if you were not currently in it, and then save the offers you liked.

For financial institutions, the service was an interesting value-add, because it could offer a feature set beyond balance inquiry in their mobile apps, which is what banks are actively in search of; meanwhile, for consumers, the app appealed because it would showcase more relevant offers based on their own behavior.

Capital One, which purchased Bankons for an undisclosed amount, acquired both the intellectual property and talent from Bankons. Greenough will now serve as Senior Director of Capital One’s Technology Innovation in San Francisco following the acquisition. (Capital One’s Labs are a new group that does rapid prototyping, incubation, and testing of product ideas before they are rolled out to customers.)

In a statement, Capital One says: ”the combination of our Lab and the strengths of the Bankons team will add to the talented Digital Innovation Lab team and help accelerate the Labs innovation and rapid prototyping agenda at our innovation labs.”

Through Capital One Labs, the former Bankons team now has access to Capital One’s customers – all 45 million of them – a number, Greenough says that most startups can only dream about.



Comments Off on Capital One Acquires Mobile Savings Startup BankOns, Team Moving To Capital One Labs

Photo

Sarah Perez

May 7th

Uncategorized

Hoppit Launches The World’s First Ambience Search Engine For Restaurants

Hoppit_logo

Finding a good restaurant – even in a city you’ve never been to – has never been easier. Thanks to Yelp, Urbanspoon and its various brethren, a good place to eat is generally just a few clicks away. What if you want to find a restaurant with a very specific atmosphere, though? Say you’re in the mood for a pizza at a relaxed place where the noise level is just right for a good conversation? Chances are, Yelp won’t be of much help there, but the newly redesigned Hoppit is putting these kinds of searches at the core of its service. The New York-based startup describes itself as the “world’s first ambience search engine for restaurants and bars.”

The service is now available in 25 cities and offers desktop and mobile web apps. Its apps for Android and iPhone should launch in early May.

To get started, you simply tell Hoppit where you are and what you are looking for. You can use keywords to search for specific places and dishes, but you can also just tell the service what kind of atmosphere you are looking for (classy and upscale, hipster, romantic, swanky and posh, etc.). From there, you can restrict your searches by cuisine, neighborhood, atmosphere (fireplace, dimly lit, view) and noise level. The site also aggregates food and beverage deals from Groupon and Gilt City.

To aggregate all this data about these restaurants, Hoppit uses what it calls “state-of-the-art natural language processing technology and related algorithms [that] take into account a consumer’s preferences and provide personalized search results.” For the most part, this works really well, though I noticed that while Hoppit will happily show you search results for virtually any town and zip code in the U.S., its filters don’t actually work in most of these places (the full-blown service is only live in 25 major cities, after all).

So if you are looking for that perfect French restaurant with a wine bar and exposed brick for your next date, give Hoppit a try.



Comments Off on Hoppit Launches The World’s First Ambience Search Engine For Restaurants

Photo

Frederic Lardinois

April 10th

Uncategorized

Lightbank-Backed Social Travel Planning Service Gtrot Shifts To Local Discovery

gtrot-logo

Social travel planning service Gtrot is changing its focus and is now officially relaunching its website with a new emphasis on local discovery. Somewhat reminiscent of Foursquare’s “Explore” feature, Gtrot is working to build a platform where you can discover, save and share the best restaurants, bars, clubs, arts, events and even the best local deals from services like Groupon and Gilt City.

These changes have been underway for some time, as Gtrot has been moving away from the travel vertical since as far back as last fall. But the current version of the website you see now, was soft-launched just last week.

Why the shift? According Gtrot co-founder Zachary Smith, “we actually saw that nearly half of our users were using our technology to explore our home city. Because we did give these instant recommendations and they were personalized and social, it was a really cool tool for finding things to do this weekend,” he says. Plus, “local discovery as a space makes a lot more sense than some travel specific application that you can only use a couple of times a year,” he adds.

The new interface for the Gtrot website looks a lot like a less developed Trippy now, and both look a little bit like Pinterest. Gtrot’s functionality is similar to Pinterest, too. Instead of “pinning” items to “pinboards,” users “add” items to “collections.” Although Smith is quick to point out that Pinterest didn’t invent the image pinboard layout, when he does describe the service’s aim, it does sound a lot like Pinterest:

“Gtrot is really more aspirational, or even inspirational,” he says. “We want you to browse all this content we’ve aggregated, start creating collections of things, and start to build up things you might want to do in the future, and stuff that you love in your city,” he explains.

The site allows you to sign in via Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare, and plans to further integrate with social services to aggregate your own checkins in a list called “Places I’ve Been.” (This feature did not appear to be live at the time of testing.) It does, however, currently aggregate the number of checkins a venue has from Foursquare to indicate its popularity.

I think that having Gtrot’s data sync back to Foursquare – for example, to its lists feature – would be useful, but there aren’t immediate plans to build a tool to do that at this time, Smith tells me. That’s too bad, because Foursquare’s lists are definitely an underutilized and underdeveloped aspect to its service. Just the other day, a friend was spouting off the names of restaurants he liked, and the app I launched to record them was the iPhone’s notepad. Sad.

That said, while browsing Gtrot’s site was enjoyable, using it as more of a utility was difficult. The search function, for example, was wonky. If you didn’t have the exact name (in some cases, including the “´” in “café”), the result wouldn’t appear. There were no automatic suggestions as you typed or “did you mean?” prompts on the results page, and Gtrot hasn’t figured out to always show you a result, even if it’s some 50 miles away. A match, even if further than you thought, is always better than “no results found.”

Going forward, the plan is to add data from other content providers to the site, so users can read restaurant menus or book reservations right on Gtrot, or buy concert tickets or purchase a daily deal. The startup is also about six weeks away from the launch of iOS and Android apps.

Gtrot was originally founded by Smith and Brittany Laughlin, but Laughlin is no longer playing as active a role (she still sits on the board, though). The company currently has 15,000 users and around $1 million in funding from Lightback, from a round raised last spring.



Comments Off on Lightbank-Backed Social Travel Planning Service Gtrot Shifts To Local Discovery

Photo

Sarah Perez

April 10th

Uncategorized

Local Search App AroundMe Trumps Yelp’s Mobile Apps With 6M Monthly Users

aroundme_in-use

Wow, AroundMe has really been flying under the radar. The location-aware mobile search app is announcing today that it’s now passed the 6 million mark for monthly unique visitors. To put that in perspective, Yelp’s mobile apps see 5.7 million+ monthly uniques these days. Not bad, then, considering AroundMe has a single founder, a team of four, and no outside funding.

The company is also now reporting having surpassed 1 million downloads per month, and has recently announced new partnerships with OpenTable, Booking.com for hotel reservations, and Telenav for web-based navigation.

For those unfamiliar with AroundMe’s app, well, check your phone. You probably downloaded it at some point. I know I did. Heck, I even launch the thing occasionally, when I’m looking for a nearby gas station, Starbucks, or restaurant and have gotten frustrated with using Apple’s built-in maps app to find something nearby.

Currently available on both iOS and Android (and Windows Phone soon), the app reaches most of the world, but its user base is still largely American. About 60% of users come from the U.S., 35% from European markets, and Japan is seeing some growth, too.

The app reminds me of an independent version of Google’s Places app, which offers listings in many of the same categories: restaurants, ATMs, bars, hotels, etc. Except in Google’s case, the listings point to the Google Place pages, of course. Also, notes founder Marco Pifferi with a laugh, “actually, we started first.”

The idea to list nearby places of interest, stores, venues and the like was rather innovative when AroundMe launched back in September 2008. When Google later mirrored the same concept with its Places app, Pifferi said he wasn’t really concerned.

“Nothing really changed for AroundMe,” he says, “we kept growing.”

Plus, he adds, “the market is huge, so there’s space for a lot players in the same field.”

The company, also notable for being profitable since its launch, monetizes its service in a number of ways. In-app advertising generates much of its revenue – the $2.99 upgrade to disable the ads isn’t a main revenue source, just a feature for those who prefer it.

AroundMe is also focused on lead generation. It has established partnerships with several third-party services, which involve either affiliate streams (as with Booking.com) or just a flat fee, as with its contract with Warburg, a real estate company for the NYC area.

Going forward, Pifferi says the goal is to integrate more of these types of services into the app, some through partnerships while others will be built in-house. He mentions a gas price finder, for example, as well as taxi finder service, as two in development now. Further down the road, the goal is to introduce an ad marketplace where merchants can bid in real-time to target nearby users with their offers.

Although not an overnight success story, AroundMe is doing well. The company is profitable, growing, and still in no need of outside capital. “We’re generating more money than we can spend,” Pifferi admits.

As for its under-the-radar status? Well, they’ve just been busy, he says.

“I’ve always been focused on just building a company,” says Pifferi, “but now I think it would be great to tell the world that we’ve reached a very nice milestone.”

A few, actually: 6 million monthly uniques, 1 million monthly downloads, and 27 million searches per month, across 209+ countries and 19,000 cities worldwide. Not bad, AroundMe.



Comments Off on Local Search App AroundMe Trumps Yelp’s Mobile Apps With 6M Monthly Users

Photo

Sarah Perez

April 5th

Uncategorized

Engineering Serendipity

flickr-ktoine-surprise

I don’t know if Highlight, Glancee, Banjo, or any one of those other startups you’re now officially sick to death of hearing about are going to make it, but I know that for the first time in a long time, we’re starting to move in the right direction in terms of mobile innovation. And no, I don’t mean we need more people-stalking apps, I mean we need more passive use of our mobile phones.

Less life lived looking down means more life actually lived.

The trend that strikes me here as being important is not necessarily “ambient location” or even “people finders” – that’s just all we’re capable of today. The real end game is engineering serendipity.

Each of the new contenders, oddly, has decided to go after the same vertical: people tracking. Perhaps this is the more easy and obvious market to first attack, given the apps’ abilities to run on top of existing social structures like Facebook or Foursquare. But arranging serendipitous encounters isn’t always a function of who you know, it should also be a function of who you want to know. Or who you should want to know, even if you don’t realize you should want to know them. That’s a bigger challenge than any of the new socializing apps can address.

Consider this, instead, a giant alpha test in preparation of taking that next step.

To move forward, the metrics these startups should be obsessed with should not just be how many users signed up, how many downloads they have, or how many pings they sent out, but how many real connections between people are actually being made. This is the Holy Grail for engineering serendipitous people discovery: alerting users immediately that somebody is nearby, but also making sure that’s a connection the person actually wanted to make. (It’s too bad all smartphones don’t have a nifty proximity sensor in them that can detect when you’re rapidly closing the distance between you and a fellow app user, for example. That would indicate a real connection! There are ways around this, but they’re far more complex than tapping into a provided sensor like the GPS).

Case in point of what a poor serendipitous experience feels like: one of the top apps alerts me that Steve Wozniak is at the airport, and he’s even in my terminal! He’s having a bite at a nearby restaurant. I rush to the other side of the terminal (which was a hell of a lot bigger than I thought), and scope out the restaurant, but no Woz. I scope out the nearby gates, still no Woz. What happened? A little manual people-stalking of my own and I find his flight took off over an hour ago. Fail, fail, fail, fail. (True story, sadly.)

A good app wouldn’t have even mentioned he was there. A good app would wait until it could say, Steve Wozniak is at the airport…and HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

So yes, all these apps still have a way to go before they even work correctly at their primary function.

While I know that it’s one step at a time, I worry that the market will see these apps as tools that do only one thing – merely alerting us to nearby people of interest – and will later give up on them when the trendiness wears off. That concerns me because we’ll then lose sight of other, bigger challenges companies operating in this space could one day solve. Challenges that take time. Not months, but years: engineering serendipity is not just about the who, but also the what, where, how and why.

A little history: a couple of years ago, Google’s then CEO, now Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt spoke of a world where our phones alerted us to nearby shops and deals and discounts as we walked down the street, all personalized to our own interests. Serendipitous discovery of the world around us.

Now forgive me for saying so, but a world where Google knows what I want to do before I do it, gives me a chill. Can’t someone else build this first, please? And build it on top of data that comes from everywhere, not just one big Google-owned database?

Apps could start by telling you who’s nearby, then slowly grow, until they could alert you about all sorts of things, and do so just as spontaneously.

One company already doing this, to some extent, is Foursquare. With its Radar feature, Foursquare is branching out from check-ins to become a tool for exploring by suggesting nearby places and alerting you to nearby friends. In terms of engineering discovery of the world, not just people, it’s already ahead of the trendy background location apps. As CEO Dennis Crowley explained, “what we have been doing with Radar is finding a way for people to use the app really without having to actually use it.” BINGO. But this is all such a new game; anyone can still win.

Engineering discovery is a complicated one to solve. For example, it’s a combination of knowing not just where you say you like to shop, but where you’ve actually shopped; not just where you say you like to dine, but where you actually dine. It also needs to know what sort of activities you would want to attend (Concerts? Games? Family friendly outdoor festivals? Dog shows? Plays?), then ping you accordingly. It needs to tell you of a concert only when there are still tickets left. It needs to know personal details like your shoe size, shirt size, dress size, and then check the in-store inventory levels before it ever bothers you about a nearby sale. And so on. It needs intelligence. Otherwise, the damn thing will be way too annoying.

And yes, some of this may not even be possible yet. But it will be, so plan ahead.

Oh, and here’s another tricky part: for any app to be able to truly be capable of serendipitous discovery, it would also have to surprise you from time to time with something that’s just outside your typical interests, but where historical, aggregate data from a wide user base indicates that hey, you just might like this, too.

So how would any app be able to know all these things? Well, APIs, for starters. Many web companies provide them, but apps tend to build on top of only the social three (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare).

How interesting would it be for apps to build on top of your preferred food-sharing and wine-tasting apps, your travel logs, your Amazon purchases, your credit card statements, your daily deal buys, your past check-ins, your Eventbrite ticket purchases, your Meetup groups, your Kindle e-book collection, your favorite shops at Fab and Etsy, etc., etc.? Oh, and all those your friends like too, of course?

Scenario: That guy browsing cookbooks at the bookstore knows your friend Julie and is currently reading the Steve Jobs bio (he’s got it on his Kindle, actually). PING!

Scenario: When you were in N.Y., you went to a restaurant your friend Joe recommended and loved it. This local restaurant is owned by the same folks and your friend Jim ate the ribs here two weeks ago and thought they were crazy good. PING!

Scenario: That little black dress that’s been sitting in your Amazon cart for 2 days looks a lot like the one this store is selling. And it’s half off. And they have your size in stock. PING!

Does any of that sound crazy? Then you’re not dreaming hard enough yet.

Or maybe it just sounds terrifying. Well, sorry (old fart?), but the machines are coming and they want to get to know you better.

Unfortunately, not all the data to build a (creepy) understanding of you and your behavior is available via API just yet, but by the time anyone could get around to expanding into all these verticals, that may change.

To be clear, the end result is not a scenario where every store you walk by blasts you with a geo-targeted deal, just one store does, and the result is incredibly, almost disturbingly, relevant. The apps don’t tell you about every possible dinner recommendation, only if the restaurant you’re considering now is any good. They don’t tell you about every person you’re somehow connected to nearby, only the ones you really want to know.

Or in other words: serendipity means you don’t have to manually launch apps all the time to know what’s going on. The apps launch you.

They don’t constantly ping you, and bother you with every little thing. Every time the phone buzzes, it would feel random, but would be meaningful and important to address.

Looking at what we have now, well, let’s just say we’re far, far away from that vision. But in the people trackers, we see the first baby steps.

That’s why they’re interesting.

And, who knows, at the end of the day, maybe such a thing won’t even be an app, but an extension of the handset itself. Maybe that’s what Siri and its VPA brethren will become. A smarter Siri who doesn’t just wake when you need something, but who, like a real-life assistant, would tap you on your shoulder and whisper, Pssst….Did you know?

Image credit: Flickr user ktoine



Comments Off on Engineering Serendipity

Photo

Sarah Perez

March 30th

Uncategorized
line
February 2016
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29