Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A google-like location based service

A google-like location based service

In a new city/neighborhood and trying to find a good place to eat which is nearby? Or a decent place to grab a drink? Or a club? And you've got your mobile. What if you were able to get a listing of places where people tend to congregate, the theory being that if a lot of people frequent a place, then chances are that's its a decent spot.

How would you implement this? Use the functionality already used to provide location based mobile services. At a very high level, here's the idea.

First, getting recommendations for places. For this, the service would send an SMS (or any service that gets you back a response with location info) to your group of mobilists, at certain times of the day: lunchtime (for good lunchspots), dinnertime (popular restaurants), maybe later in the evening (someplace to grab a drink) and perhaps at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, for clubs. If they wish, they simply reply with an empty message, which is basically a vote for a place. Using the location info in the reply, you can map where they are. If you get a lot of responses around lunchtime from the same location and a bit of post processing determines the location is a restaurant, then you would rank it as a good spot to eat lunch.

The thing that strikes me as powerful about this idea for getting recommendations is that a recommendation is only valid if it is sent from the place that is recommended. So you're getting recommendations from people who are at the place right then and there. Its also a very simple response, i.e. no filling out forms on a website, which may prod users to make more recommendations.

Second, giving out recommendations to people, or how would someone use this service. Its lunch time. A hungry mobilist is looking for a place to eat. They send an SMS to the service which contains the word restaurant. The service responds with a map based on their location, which was contained in the SMS, and restaurants nearby that have received votes, including the number of votes received. They can then base their decision on where to eat lunch based on other people's recommendations.

Someone at google is already working on this, I know. Or maybe it already exists. Stuck in my little corner of Germany, the modern world really doesn't get here too quickly.


Martin said...

The modern world is just a desk away :-)

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