Location Everywhere: What We’ll See in 2016

Opinion

2016 is going to be a pivotal year for location- and proximity-based technology solutions. Companies across industries are testing the deployment of location aware infrastructures, opening up a world of possibilities. Location technology adoption will likely mirror that of social networks over the past 10 years. On balance, and with good direction, location-enabled experiences are going to make our world more efficient, more seamless, and more enjoyable.

Here’s how:

Location experiences push beyond the Blue Dot. To date, many location-enabled services—at least those recognizable to the consumer—consist of social alerts or retail offers that pop up when you reach a specific location. The proximity marketer longs for the infamous “Blue Dot” they can track to trigger an action at what they think is the right time. “$10 off Seahawks boxer briefs on aisle 5!” Now, I love the Seahawks, but in this scenario, the marketer has a narrow margin for error. And as in this case, if done wrong, it inevitably causes many consumers to shut off their notification settings.

In 2016, we’ll be surprised by the care with which organizations guide us through new experiences—with thoughtful suggestions, dynamic content, and recommendations that will change the way we explore and engage with our world. An example is the sensational Broad museum in L.A., where the digital experience truly enhances the physical space, with well-timed content and information to supplement the art. But don’t look at your phone the whole time, and keep your ringer off. After all, it’s a museum! Soon, you’ll experience seemingly serendipitous moments in all kinds of spaces, from international airports to hospitals and malls.

You thought Siri was fun? Try asking Alexa where your friends are!

“Alexa, where is my VP of Marketing?”
“Hi Chris, Nathan is in Menlo Park, and I detect that he is currently on the Facebook Campus, would you like me to message him?”
“No thank you Alexa. Who is in the Seattle office today?”
“Asa, Dave, Jen, and Jordan are currently in the Seattle office.”

That’s a sampling of a real exchange between myself and Alexa, Amazon Echo’s cloud-based assistant. Alexa knows where my team is at any time through a combination of our employee app and iBeacon or Eddystone-enabled beacons. Capabilities like this will prove highly useful, particularly in fast-paced situations when, for example, surgeons need to be located fast.

OK … Is it really cool, or creepy? Value upends the creep factor. There’s been a lot of talk of “the creep factor” when discussing location technology. For example, if you get an offer for a phone you’ve already bought each time you walk by a mobile network store, you’re going to get annoyed. But if notifications on your phone save you from being late to that important meeting by relaying critical contextual information such as “time to leave, traffic is bad” and then “OK, you made it, would you like to stop at Starbucks?”, the story is different. Chances are, you won’t mind sharing data to power that kind of experience in the future too.

Traveling gets smoother and more enjoyable. Today’s typical travel experience is at the very best, hit or miss. But imagine if you could be guided through the entire travel experience by your phone as efficiently as Waze gets you through traffic. In 2016, many of today’s inconveniences will be solved by innovative location, mobile, and biometric technologies. Which security line is fastest? How much time do I have before my flight starts boarding and how far am I from the gate? In addition to many other things, location will finally automate the typical time-constraint equation done in the road warrior’s head a million times, making the whole journey that much better.

Serendipity everywhere. Your location adds context to your current situation. Mixed with other data streams, the output is a better-informed action that may really impress you now and then.

For example, Alexa knows I’m at home. She predicts when I want to wake because of my early flight. She calls an Uber to make sure I beat rush hour and show up an hour before my flight, because that’s when I want to be there before a domestic flight. My phone recommends the burrito joint as it knows how much money I spend on Mexican food. And so on.

All of the infrastructure is in place to deliver these experiences today. Cloud, mobile, and social platforms are the mode for delivery, and location will give them a new capability for adding context, meaning, and delight. If you are one of the many who will invest in empowering your company through location aware technology in 2016, just make sure to ask yourself one question first: will this make my customer smile? If so, you’re headed in the right direction.

Chris Smith is the founder and CEO of Area360, a location technology company, building products that enhance the way people engage with physical locations through the use of location-aware technology and mobile applications. Follow @ChrisSmith360

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