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Why the future of mobile is hyper local

August 18, 2010

Rob Woodbridge is founder of

Rob Woodbridge is founder of

By Rob Woodbridge

There is an awkward pause at the beginning of most social engagements for smartphone users today as everyone launches their location based service du jour and checks in to stamp their location and broadcast it out through Twitter, Facebook and every other available medium, except television.

Welcome to the hyper-local world of mobile applications.

Two years ago, New York-based Foursquare launched its location-based service and since then the number of companies offering similar check-in software has grown into a micro but popular industry.

Foursquare is still the industry leader and recently closed a financing round that valued the company and its 2-million-plus users worldwide at more than $100 million. But it is facing stiff competition from companies that have learned from the mistakes and limitations of that platform or are focused on a specific niche.

Even the big boys such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are dabbling with these new business models as they try to gather more information about us for their services and turn it into revenue.

Check out check-in
The viral nature of these applications is, according to Seth Priebatsch, chief ninja at Boston-based SCVNGR (Scavenger without the vowels), something he calls the Social Coefficient.

The Social Coefficient is a score determined by the number of social interactions at a specific location.

Unlike check-in software similar to Foursquare and Gowalla, SCVNGR is building a game layer on top of location data where users participate in six-second challenges when they check-in.

The more friends at one place or the more users participating in the challenges over time, the higher the Social Coefficient score for that particular location.

While Mr. Priebatsch, with Google’s help – Google Ventures has invested $4 million into his company – is trying to create the ultimate global location-based game layer, the reality is that the interactions and the strength of this platform is, by nature, local.

The highest adoption for his software has been with universities and colleges but even the U.S. Navy has leveraged this platform for adding a social layer to their naval bases.

Both share similarities as they are small communities where a high percentage of the population transfers in and out every year and SCVNGR helps the new neighbors navigate and socialize in short order.

As platforms such as SCVNGR, Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and many others continue rolling out services based on your present location, Danny Moon and his New York-based team at UpNext are trying to bring all that location data together in a new twist on the old-fashioned map.

UpNext builds an interactive layer on top of a city map that details the tenants in each building in the city. Need to know what companies are operating at a specific address? Load the map and click right on the building. Up comes all the information you would expect.

As companies open their troves of location-based data, Mr. Moon anticipates adding multiple levels of services to his mapping layer. You do not have to be a genius to think that UpNext will eventually pull in restaurant reviews from Yelp, location-aware coupons from Yowza or Clip Mobile or even EventBrite events as overlays.

There’s a map for that
Maps get even more relevant as they get more local.

There is nothing more local than garage sales, flea markets or even selling something to your best friend or neighbor.

Services such as Anttenna and TagSellIt are bringing the local of local to smartphones by creating applications that help you find sales or products in your city or neighborhood. All you need to do is launch the application and it does the rest based on your location.

If you are beginning to see how leveraging the likes of Anttenna and TagSellIt to sell product or help promote your local yard sale is a quick and easy entry point into this hyper-local world, the leap into using SCVNGR, Foursquare, Gowalla, Clip Mobile and others is not as challenging as you may have thought.

According to Sam Taggart, the project lead for New York-based VaynerMedia, every company, big and small, has the ability to embrace, leverage and generate customer loyalty from these services with very little effort.

Mr. Taggart helped the New Jersey Nets fill seats at the last home game at the Izod Center by using the virtual goods found in Gowalla.

The VaynerMedia team virtually “placed” tickets at real locations scattered across a 75-mile radius from the stadium and when people checked in to one of these locations with Gowalla, they were presented with a virtual tickets redeemable for a pair of tickets to the game.

Mr. Priebatsch echoes this thinking. He is seeing businesses from around the world leveraging the SCVNGR platform to run localized challenges as incentive for free product or in-store discounts.

Think of it as a new type of loyalty card where every time patrons complete a challenge they get points. Once they earn enough points, they get their reward. This type of initiative can be done today, for free, using SCVNGR software on your smartphone.

The true benefit of mobile is its always-on, hyper-connected and hyper-local nature.

Smartphones might be used to stay on top of global news and trends but the value is staying connected locally.

You do not need to be a huge brand to start using these services for your benefit. They provide all the necessary tools. You just need to embrace this virtual layer and see how it can benefit your company the way it has the other early adopters.

Rob Woodbridge is founder of, Ottawa, Canada. Reach him at

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