Ambient location technology is hot right now, with a wide variety of apps and developers trying to figure out an interface that makes people feel comfortable enough to submit to a form of constant surveillance. The app INTRO is trying to build location-aware functionality into business interactions — framing itself as a sort of place-aware LinkedIn. With INTRO, users can search for and find other users in their immediate vicinity that could potentially be good networking connections.
The company’s founder, Anthony Erwin, explained to Street Fight recently that location technology can be used to mirror our connections in the real-world. In our everyday lives, we don’t want to know about every person around us and all of their information — this may be why some social location apps are having trouble going mainstream. But in the business world, people do want to know more about strangers around them — so long as they fit certain criteria.
“People in business want to vet the other person before talking to them, it’s just kind of the way things work,” Erwin says. “We don’t want our users to just be able to chat to other people instantly, because that would just annoy people.”
It’s a bit ironic that location-sharing in this case actually helps bring a higher level of control — where people can find the right people to have business conversations with, without wasting lots of time trying to find the right people. Erwin says that INTRO is great for start-ups or freelancers looking to find potential employees or jobs. He says apps that just provide location “[aren’t] interesting enough, there needs to be more a reason for a match.”
INTRO provides the benefits of allowing a user to meet exactly the kind of business associate they need to meet. The user can set specifications like field, degrees of separation, or specific experience as criteria. This harnessing of ambient location technology highlights the potential of the niche-app market. Erwin says that having these scenario-specific apps like INTRO are ultimately what should be developed because it “comforts” users who are not totally sold on the idea of location-sharing.
“If [an app tries] to do everything, and you’ve got location, people get confused,” Erwin says. “So if you really set the tone early on as a sort of niche, then I think people get it more. I think with new technology, people are often sort of afraid of it to a certain extent and you have to explain to them why it’s useful.”
Of course no one knows how this technology will play itself out in the consumer market. As Erwin pointed out “users will define how they use certain apps,” but he says INTRO’s goal is to close a gap between how professionals manually connect and how they use, or often don’t use their online networks. He says ambient location technology should lead to apps that do the work for users, and provide them with the right kind of information, instead of just “noise.”
“So, as opposed to a user having to manually check-in, which is kind of the old way, now you’re seeing this new location which will automatically run,” Erwin says. “So I think that’s kind of the future… Basically, doing as much as possible for the user so the user gets alerted just with the information they need to know.”
Isa Jones is an intern at Street Fight.