My first post on Guidar showed how difficult it is for an ‘independent’ app to even get noticed. Amongst the million others, a new app not linked to an existing online or physical presence struggles to even get noticed. With 90% of iOS apps free, monetisation is a second challenge.
To explain why spending hard-earned money on developing Guidar may not be as crazy and foolish as it sounds, I need to first write about two big ideas that, in my opinion and judgement, are going to be more important in the next few years. The first one- the Location Graph- is below while the other one is in a following post.
Let’s start with a familiar term, the Social Graph.
The term originated from Facebook: a Social Graph is a person’s network of relationships with other people. These relationships can be categorised into groups- such as friends, family, and co-workers.
Other sources of social graphs include the person’s Address Book, Skype, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
A person’s relationships network, as mapped in a Social Graph, is generally available programmatically to other apps and services with the person’s consent. For example, via Facebook’s Open Graph API. Social graphs are generally used to control distribution and permissions. For example, a list of people who can see a person’s status update or photographs.
All common social graphs share some features in their practical implementations- created for an internal purpose; available externally with consent; crude groupings; and proprietary formats/protocols/silos.
I see a Social Graph as a sub-set of a larger map of all of a person’s connections (which is a defining feature of a network). Calling this a ‘Connections Graph’, it is a Social Graph extended to:
1. Go beyond people as nodes in the network to map a person’s connections with objects, places, events, etc.
2. Go beyond only social relationships as connections between nodes to all sorts of relationships, such as one-off transactions or having a common goal.
A person’s Connection Graph can be so vast and complex that it quickly becomes meaningless. That’s why a Social Graph as a sub-set of the Connection Graph is a useful construct. A Social Graph has real meaning within the boundaries of social context and interactions.
Similarly, I see a sub-set of a person’s Connection Graph that maps a person’s relationships with all sorts of nodes (people, objects, places, events, etc.) but within a location rather than social context. I’d like to call it a Location Graph but recognise that this term has already been taken over by aggressive marketers looking for new avenues to target advertising based on a person’s location. However, for want of a better term, I’ll stick with the term Location Graph for the time being.
Similar to a Social Graph, a person’s Location Graph is a useful and meaningful construct to describe the distribution and permissions for a person’s location information.
Conceptually, there is no reason why a Location Graph has to be in relation to a person. It could equally be used to describe the relationships of an object, place or event within the context of location information.
Location Graph examples
So far, in my opinion, most location-based services have been limited to social context (using a Social Graph) and situations where the person has direct control. For example, navigation or local search or access restrictions. Foursquare is one example of a step forward in using a person’s Location Graph in relation to places but Foursquare is still largely operating in a social context off a Social Graph.
I believe using the Location Graph as a distribution and permissions mechanism will become increasingly important in the years ahead. People carrying smartphones all the time and increasing interconnectedness point to it happening fairly quickly.
This will encourage and enable location-based services to go beyond social context and direct control. At the same time, it introduces new complexities and opportunities.
These five (simplistic) examples should help to illustrate both the need and the opportunity:
1. I want my family (and the apps and services they use) to be able to locate me whenever they need to. However, I want my co-workers to only be able to do so during working hours. In an emergency, with permission from any family member, I want anyone to be able to locate me at any time.
2. I want to be able to locate, and be located by, people I’ve never met before or may not meet again in some situations- pick up at the airport, at a conference, or a business meeting. I’m fine with their apps and services alerting them about possible delays or that I’m ‘x’ minutes away.
3. During a major fire or other emergency, the response controller wants to be able to know the location of each person in the team and, possibly, other first responders. This has to be done in a way that is very accurate and automatic.
4. In the future, I want my shared self-driving car (seriously!) to be able to locate me during the period when I’ve hired it. Or, that drone with my pizza to make sure I get it quickly.
5. I really want the courier with a ‘must get delivery signature’ package and the plumber to be able to figure out a time to come at the same time during the period when I’m actually home. Our respective intelligent helpers should be able to figure it out automatically.
My hypothesis is that there is a need and an opportunity to develop the Location Graph concept and its practical implementation based on the following key assumptions:
1. That a person’s location is useful and important to other people and objects in a way that benefits everyone involved. These other people and objects are autonomous, i.e. they are beyond a person’s direct control.
2. Many people are careful and sensitive about sharing their location information with these autonomous people and objects. They want granular control of their own location information- who, when, why, etc.
3. The provider or broker of a person’s location needs to be trusted with a demonstrated ability to keep data private and secure. The business model and monetisation needs to be aligned and transparent.
4. While the ultimate goal is an open, universal service, the Location Graph needs to start with an internally useful purpose (as the Social Graph did with Facebook). An ecosystem and standards will follow.
Take a look
So far I’ve only covered a part of the answer to ‘why Guidar’. Hopefully it’s enough to interest you in downloading and using Guidar to get a first-hand feel for the possibilities. If you’re interested in the Location Graph or anything to do with location-based services, please get in touch with me and let’s talk.