According to the pundits, the hottest technology to emerge in 2012 will be location-aware personal discovery applications. What does this mean? It means that there is technology being launched whose sole purpose is to put you together, in both the digital realm, and more importantly, the real physical world, with others who share your interests.
So what does this technology do? How does it work? Once you’ve downloaded the app, it typically asks you to login via facebook. Why you ask? So that the app can scan your friends lists and your interests and then make telling connections between your friend/interests, and others and let you know whose close by using location-aware services on your phone. Basically, it will tell you when people are physically near you who share your interests. In some cases, this is pulled from your list of pre-existing facebook friends. In other cases, you’re being introduced to people who you do not yet know, but the software figures you might want to.
If you’re going to a conference like SXSW, or have just moved to a new city and want to meet new folks, it sounds great right? But wait, what about the fact that your socially-enthusiastic teenager has access to this very same person-to-person recommendation engine? Do you want her reaching out to everyone who shares her taste in Eminem? Or even M&Ms? Or even more unnerving to her parents, having her being approached by strangers who happen to be introduced to her via one of these emerging services? Only time will tell if this type of technology has broader application among later adopters of technology
If services like this are to gain traction, privacy concerns will ultimately have to be addressed. Where do you net out? Is privacy worth reducing if it means more meaningful human connections?