Locative Lab

researching locative media

Five Trends in Smartspace for 2007

Five Trends in Smartspace for 2007

I’ve been asked lately to make forecasts
about mobile technology, smart environments and some of the other areas
I focus on, so I thought I’d feed the beast with five broad forecasts
for 2007 (and beyond) regarding Smartspace’s topics of interest. They
are in no particular order, though they are separated by what I’d call
positive smartspace (location technology used for general social value)
and negative smartspace (location technology used for top-down
control). They represent technology and user trajectories that are
converging in the near term, and for which we are likely to see
mass-market interest (save for the last one). This isn’t Giga Om or TechCrunch,
so I’m not making “hot or not” style predictions – simply putting down
some thoughts as the year closes. Feel free to add your own, comment,
offer a different view on those here or pass these along.

  1. Mobile social networks gain traction in US and Europe
    – Services such as Dodgeball have been cute but not much more than
    basic flirtware over the past few years. However, 2006 saw the intro of
    GPS-able mobile handsets in the US, somewhat later than Europe, which
    enabled the introduction of various location-based services such as
    Verizon’s Navigator, Boost Loopt, and Helio’s BuddyBeacon, the latter two subject of my last post. With the buzz over MySpace, Bebo
    and Facebook calming down, and MMORPGs too involved or just not that
    interesting for many younger consumers, taking social applications such
    as the aforementioned social networks into a mobile environment and
    allowing location-based connections will be a comfortable next step
    both for users of these social networks, who are also prime customers
    of mobile LBS. With more media services launching on mobile networks
    worldwide, new types of social context can come into play to create new
    objects around which to socialize, either in a fixed location or on the
  2. Play goes outside –  Following on this
    first forecast, we are seeing play take on new dimensions based on
    social applications. Communication becomes play and vice-versa. This
    shift will bring on outside (as in not in-home) dimension to this kind
    of play, with social communication and play becoming increasingly
    place-related. This is a bigger leap than the first forecast, but I
    think the fun aspect of location applications and social communication
    will converge and evolve more rapidly then these areas have emerged
  3. Social annotation emerges
    One byproduct of this last convergence is social annotation of
    locations. This is already taking place in 2D environments such as Platial and various mashups that use Google Earth. However, applications such as Socialight
    are taking annotation out of the 2D environment and into the world
    around us. These applications are becoming more accessible via mobile
    devices (laptops, mobiles), allowing us to see user-generated content
    related to place. Again, the fun factor helps make this a desirable
  4. GPS for security, not just wayfinding and socializing
    GPS has been mainly focused on wayfinding in consumer markets thus far,
    with most of us using our own location and that of our desired target
    to get from point A to point B. We have also seen the emergence of
    social uses of location information as mentioned above. The newest
    twist is the use of personal position data for safety and security
    purposes – via childfinding services, parent minders and emerging
    applications of presence information. Fear and risk aversion are easy
    buttons for mobile operators to push, and some have gently made their
    way into this area through services ranging from roadside assistance to
    “kiddiephones”. While neither of these have been breakout applications,
    the time is ripe as the potential benefits of the personal security
    aspects of location data become more well understood.
  5. Negative smartspace trumps positive smartspace, for now
    This is a fundamental conflict that is emerging around the application
    of technology in consumers’ lives: technology for social value vs.
    technology for control – bottom-up vs. top down. It’s fun to talk about
    new ways of connecting to each other, communicating, sharing. But the
    current world security climate provides ample cover for governments to
    utilize “location” technologies, from CCTV to GPS to RFID to keep a
    tighter rein on citizens, rather than use them to create or improve
    services that create social value – education, welfare, health, social
    communication. This tension will mark the way communication technology
    evolves over the next 50 years, let alone the next 12 months. I hope to
    map this in the way some map the world by values or religion so we can
    get a closer view of how smartspace technologies are applied at a local
    level. Watch this space!

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Cityscape LocativeLab.org is Ronald Lenz's research website on locative & mobile media. This is mostly an archive of blogposts I find inspiring and interesting and an overview of my work. I'm a strategist, technologist and researcher in the field of Location-Based Mobile Services and work at Waag Society, a medialab in Amsterdam, The Netherlands where I head the Locative Media research program and at 7scenes, a platform for GPS games and tours as creative director. Picture 4 Find me at Twitter, LinkedIn or via ronald [at] waag [dot] org.

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