Facebook rolls out new location-based feature “Nearby Friends” in US
Last week Facebook released its new location-based feature for apps called ‘Nearby Friends’. We’ve been hearing about it for a long time already and 3 years after buying Gowalla and 2 years after the acquisition of Glance it’s finally ready… and I must it’s promising. Well… at least the concept as Facebook released updates to its apps only in US, and as a European citizen I cannot download it:/.
We know several apps which in theory do similar stuff. For example Latitude which was finally shut down by Google last year, or Apple’s Find My Friends which I never really used because no one I know uses it. What Facebook does better than Google and Apple? The answer is simple, brilliant but might be also a drawback – it’s based not on your precise location but on proximity information.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION… NO… PROXIMITY, PROXIMITY, PROXIMITY
Facebook Nearby Friends is based around broadcasting how far you are from friends, not your exact coordinates. This is why it could succeed where other apps have failed.
Once you opt-in for the feature you’ll be able to see a list of friends who also opted in and turned on Nearby Friends. Instead of viewing them on map you’ll see be able to get info how far they are from you and if you’re in a big city it will also show their neighborhood. Now you’ll be able to select a friend from the list and tap on the compass icon next to friend’s name. This will allow you to share your precise location with that person but what’s interesting also how long do you want to share it (an hour, a few hours, until tomorrow, until I manually stop). You can also include a 40-character message for example to propose a meeting and perhaps to request that they send you their exact location.
OPT-IN AND OUT WHEN YOU WANT
This quite cool but very unintuitive and it seems like a lot of trouble at least at the beginning. Fortunately your are able to easily opt-in and opt-out from the service which is very important for many users.
IS IT GOOD ENOUGH?
Certainly it’s really good that Facebook experiments with location. It’s a natural way to go. Nearby Friends seems to be however a little bit over-thought and over-done. Somehow I don’t feel like jumping to it right away. But we have to remember that the biggest value in Facebook is that everybody is on the platform… and how cool would it be to know where everybody are;). Creepy but cool. Let’s wait and see how many of us will adopt it.
Your smart phone will soon be able to predict where your going in next 24h.
What results come out from Nokia Mobile Data Challenge (data from smartphones of almost 200 participants captured constantly for 1+ year)? Researchers from University of Birmingham claim that they have devised an algorithm which is able to capture your mobility patterns and can predict, down to 20 metres, where you might be 24 hours later. A little bit scary isn’t it?
Dr. Mirco Musolesi, from the University of Birmingham’s School of Computer Science, who led the study, said: “Information extracted from the usage of a mobile phone is an intriguing source of data about people behaviour. We have shown that the accuracy of the prediction of an individual’s future locations could be improved if his or her previous movement and the mobility information of his or her social group are taken into account.”
Dr Manlio De Domenico, who took part in the research, said, “In a world dominated by social networks and always-connected mobile devices, the potential applications of our study are many, in particular for marketing, advertising, and personalised services. If a system is able to predict with reasonable accuracy where the user is directed, it could provide geo-localised and personalised recommendations based on his or her future movement. For example, a user might receive meal offers related to restaurants in the area they are moving towards.”
Mr. Antonio Lima, a Ph.D. student of the School of Computer Science involved in the study, said: “In order to predict movements of people accurately, this study leverages their synchronicity and correlation. For example, friends John and Emily usually have lunch together either at a Chinese restaurant close to John’s office. Sometimes, though, they like to go a little farther to a nice Italian restaurant. When Emily is heading to the Italian place, this algorithm uses this information to predict that John is very likely to go there soon as well.”
The potential of this study is huge. Mobile operators already says that they’re able to predict with over 90% probability where you will be in 24h, but 20 meters accuracy is something totally else. I can imagine situation like this “Siri could you tell my where I will be tomorrow at 7.33 pm”?