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September - 2009 - issue > CEO Spot Light
Phones must be 'Smart', Not Just 'Smart Phones'
Sanjeev Agrawal
Thursday, September 3, 2009
In the next few years, phones will change in three fundamental ways to become a lot ‘smarter’ than they are today. Phones will add value by notifying us of interesting things than just being used as browsers. A phone is not a PC. It is an interrupt-based device that is intended to alert you – it rings when someone calls or buzzes when an SMS comes in. In the same way, it should ‘proactively notify’ you of content, people, places in your surroundings that would add value to your everyday life. You should be able to use your phone as a phone – a device that alerts you, as obtrusively or unobtrusively, as you’d like, of opportunities to socialize, play, work, shop, watch a show, or just grab a coffee.

Interestingly, location will be a commodity and will be used in conjunction with other aspects of a user’s ‘context’ to enrich their experiences. Location Based Services (LBS) has become a dirty word for our generation of mobile users for a good reason – historically, ‘location’ has been used a little too simplistically by most mobile apps. The example people give of the holy grail of LBS is always the same – You are walking by a Starbucks, and you get a coupon sent to your phone. Well from what we know, Starbucks doesn’t even have coupons – the occasional unsatisfied customer may get a free drink voucher from the barista to use next time. And even if they did have coupons, if all I got all day from location based apps is marketing material of various kinds, of course I would hate LBS too.

Here is what we believe. Location is one very important component, but only one component of a user’s context. Who the user is, what they like, the time of day, their social graph – these are all important inputs to context as well. The phone has the advantage of always being with you – it knows your location, it can be trained to know whom you are and what you like, including social relationships you enjoy and therefore a perfect device for you to get ‘Context Based Services’. And in some contexts, those coupons we talked about do make sense – like if you want to shop or are looking for a cheap place to eat.

Sanjeev Agrawal is CEO of Aloqa. Aloqa, founded in 2007, is the company, which created application for mobile phones which pushes notifications in real-time about nearby events and social opportunities – with relevancy based on the user’s current location, pre-defined interests, and social networks. Aloqa has offices in Palo Alto, CA and Munich, Germany
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