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Foursquare Pilgrim SDK Launched…

Dennis Crowley and the team at Foursquare launched Foursquare Pilgrim SDK a few weeks ago. The SDK grants app developers the ability to integrate the location powerhouse’s technology directly into their app.

What more do you need to know than that? In a week where Mobile World Congress failed to wow us, Foursquare did what they have done several times in the past. They went into stealth mode and demonstrated why they own the location app & data markets.

Who Is Foursquare?

The company started out competing for social location and recommendations, gamifying their app with check-ins garnering badges, leaderboards and mayorships of venues.

When the location market seemed tapped out, they split their app in two: Swarm for the check-ins and Foursquare for venue recommendations.

As Foursquare iterated into the commercial market, it became apparent that they had leveraged the big data behind their apps into the biggest consumer behavior database on the planet. Companies like Microsoft were interested in investing which sent Yahoo looking for competitive locational search and recommendation with Yelp.

Foursquare launched their API and now Pilgrim SDK enables apps to create personalized user experiences based on actionable location intelligence from within the app.

  • Personalized experiences
  • Tailored recommendations to their tastes
  • On their arrival to your physical location they can receive a curate list of recommendations thru your app
  • Drive foot traffic to brick and mortar locations

Thanks to Foursquare for making this video sharable
I wrote all this the day after Pilgrim SDK was announced but had trouble finishing the post: a combination of busy work schedule and I just felt the post was lacking punch.

A couple of weeks after I participated in a thread on Facebook where journalist Mike Butcher questioned the future of Foursquare. Foursquare CEO, Dennis Crowley owned the conversation with some winning stats. Then several days ago Entrepreneur magazine posted, After Years of Challenges, Foursquare Has Found its Purpose — and Profits. Proof of the pudding methinks.

Foursquare Pilgrim SDK - FB Mike Butcher

The Warptest POV

Foursquare have repeatedly lulled the tech bloggers and journalists into thinking they were done and then dropped the hammer on something new. Foursquare Pilgrim SDK brings everything that is great about their technology into your apps.

Prediction: we are going to see more big apps providing this kind of embedded / integrated solution.

Where are location apps going next? In the past I’ve posted about Foursquare and where I expected them to go. Here is my latest brainstorm on the subject:

Foursquare Pilgrim SDK - whats next

Anyway, congratulations to Dennis Crowley and the whole Foursquare team. It might be time to start using Swarm and Foursquare apps again.

If you are a developer then you definitely want to have a look at the Foursquare Pilgrim SDK.

Where do you think location apps are going next?

Location And Foursquare Are Hot News Again…

Just last week Foursquare announced a $15 million investment from Microsoft with the intent of Bing and other services leveraging the incredible added value of Foursquare’s check-in database.

Now we are reading in Recode about Marissa Mayer’s bid for Yahoo to utilize Yelp reviews for similar purposes by licensing their content.

Just to segue momentarily, I began writing this post before these pieces of news came along and forced me to sit and rethink my perception of the subject (but only slightly). That said this resulted in some major rewriting and ummm challenge of having predictions proven right before I could finish and post the darn thing.

So What?

Looking at the post on Foursquare’s blog announcing the news there are some key pieces of information to be digested:

“…60,000,000 entries and 5,000,000,000 check-ins” is an incredible measure of success and the Microsoft investment speaks volumes about how the data behind all these check-ins will contribute to Windows and Windows Phone apps and services.

I’ve postulated in the past that Foursquare is the source of consumer behavioral / business intelligence just waiting to be analyzed but putting that aside for a moment the key phrase in Foursquare’s blog post announcing Microsoft’s investment is “contextually aware experiences”.

What does context mean in terms of information and content from applications like Yelp and Foursquare?

Yelp - logo - foursquareFoursquare - logo

Context, context, context!

So, what does context mean with regard to location and check-ins?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We can classify check-ins according to: –

  • Location Name.
  • Type.
  • Expected Activity.
  • Expected Duration (a function of Expected Activity).
  • Habitual (or not).
  • Recommendation: explicit when a user adds a strong comment, implicit when they are a frequent or habitual check-in or the Mayor in Foursquare’s case.

Does context simply mean this or is there another layer of data and usage just waiting for Yahoo or Microsoft to take advantage of?

The Warptest POV

Referring back to my segue about having to rewrite this post, I was hurriedly finishing up my post when a post in Twitter on my split screen caught my eye on the Verge about Project Cortana on Windows Phone using Foursquare. The phrase I was writing before I read this post was that “contextually aware services will evolve the Smartphone into the Intelligent Phone” at this point though I decided to pour myself a single malt and not get frustrated at being beaten to the punch three times on one post.

Whether the rumor of the voice activated, interactive Cortana “AI” is correct or not, the evolution of Location and Check-Ins is here. Whether Microsoft and Yahoo attack this in the same direction or not we’ll have to wait and see.

IMHO “contextually aware services” should be aiming for these kind of cases. If I check-in at a coffee-shop then unless I habitually take meetings there (and share that) the expectation is I’ll be there for coffee and maybe a bite to eat; especially if this the coffee shop I use en route to my “I’m at work” check-in. In a nutshell, context should allow us to realize how long based on location someone is expected to be there before they actually check-out.

Context also needs to offer greater monetization opportunities: If I check-in every day at the start of my run and mention a brand of running shoe (or even if I don’t) then a smart sports store nearby could follow me, extrapolate based on average run time / distance the wear on my shoes and after several months offer me a discount coupon for a new pair of running shoes.

notification - foursquaree-coupons - foursquare

Even simpler is the idea of e-coupons for whatever retail outlet you check-in: the moment a habitual (read loyal) customer checks-in the e-coupons should appear in a notification.

This is the “evolution of
the Smartphone into the Intelligent Phone”. Having Cortana deliver this to me intuitively and automatically will make it so.

At the end of the day winning in Locational Social Mobile will not just depend on which data provider the content discovery and services build on but on the added value they offer as a result. A big question is but how will Yahoo compete on Mobile Services and Apps not just in browser search?

Are you ready to check-in?

Is it just me or…?

Has Foursquare been awfully quiet lately? Not just Foursquare but the other contenders in the Location based market seem to have faded into the background. Is this because Locational Services have evolved as far as they can go? Sometimes silence indicates that something big is coming.




Clipart courtesy of Microsoft Word ClipArt.


I was visiting Manchester, UK to see family and escape the August heat in Israel. I spent every morning in the local Costa Coffee ensuring I started the day suitably caffeinated (day trips with the kids make this a must). Most places in the UK now use smart chipped credit cards and when I renewed my Visa last year I made sure to get a chipped card. Basically you “dip” the card into a reader and enter your PIN number.

All this was pretty cool but it got me thinking…

Warptest Speculation for 2012/13

Given the rise in consumer adoption of Smartphones and the drive for the phone as a wallet. I believe we are going to see a convergence of eWallet and Locational Services.

A check-in to a Store, Coffee shop , Restaurant or even your local Costco is the precursor to your shopping in that location.

Lest we forget Locational Services contain excellent Business Intelligence all about our habits and behavior.

Even as a basic validation of your payment processor: that you couldn’t possibly be using your Credit card to physically purchase in two locations simultaneously or too far away to have reached within the time between purchases is a sound feature.

So the Warptest prediction is that Facebook, already with a money/ account feature will tie this to Facebook location check-ins and perhaps Foursquare will head in the following direction(s): –

1. A strategic alliance with VISA, American Express or Mastercard where your Locational Check-in via Smartphone allows you to receive targeted real-time offers, virtual coupons and a Check-out handshake at the cashier’s till to pay for items your phone scanned as you shopped.

2. Foursquare offers a pay for use API for real world stores who wish to adopt a Locational Pay model where your Supermarket Chain tracks your Check-Ins, sends reminders that you haven’t checked in for your weekly shop, analyzes your purchases to create an on-the-fly shopping list and provides In Store location updates for your favorite purchases when they are moved from Aisle 3 to Aisle 5.


Nokia Lumia 920 image from

Of course, this should drag several secondary services such as enhanced Smartphone security kicking and screaming into 2012.

Can you see yourself using a service like this?


Technorati Tags: ,Locational Services,,

Location Search

Location, Location, Location. In my previous blog piece on Locational Apps I gave my opinion on what they do and don’t do.

Recently, I have cause to revisit the field of Locational Applications and it encouraged me to do a bit of basic testing and research.

I started by looking at the three leading apps at the moment (or so it seems):

For the next part I’m going to attempt to use generic terms rather than any one application’s names or terminology: –

Each of these platforms work on the common paradigm of Users  and Locations. As a distinct user notifies the platform of their arrival at a location this is disseminated to their followers on the application/ platform and subject to the original user’s settings via Social Networks they use like Twitter or Facebook.

I suggested in my previous blog piece that the “Big 3” search engines should be indexing locations.

Isn’t a physical check-in to a location SEO worthy in the same way as arriving at a link in a search?

So my first test was to run searches on Bing, Google and Yahoo for specific users and locations. I used random users and locations; where the same user(s) and location(s) were used for each search engine. The table displays my results: –


Conclusions to be drawn from this are:-

  1. None of the Big 3 Search Engines indexes individual locations: again, lost ROI for the locations in terms of ranking.
  2. Gowalla users across the board are indexed and found when searched for.
  3. Bing couldn’t find the Foursquare users but Google and Yahoo could.
  4. Google found the Brightkite users but Bing and Yahoo couldn’t so they offered several partial suggestions for other users on Brightkite with similar locations.

I decided that one more test was warranted against the search engines. I decided to search for <platform_name>, <locational_terminology> and two areas [Tel Aviv and Riverdale].

Location - Map Tel Aviv

The two areas were chosen because based on experience Tel Aviv, Israel is probably the highest concentration of early adopters of tech like this I was familiar with and Riverdale is an area name that could catch several places in the US and these apps / platforms are based in the US.

The table displays my results: –


Partial suggestions = a short list of results. Each with a link on the platform/ app website.

Aggregated results = one link in search results containing an aggregated list of links on the platform/ app website.

Conclusions to be drawn from this: –

  1. Bing did not find results for either areas except on Brightkite.
  2. Google indexes all three of the app/ platform locations, at least partially however differences we seen in the total number of links in favor of the US area.

In a nutshell I guess looking for locations from locational applications via search engines is something of an oxymoron.

I looked at these results some more and figured that linking to user profiles on the site has value for personal ranking. However, with the sheer volume of venues being described by all three app/ platforms, what would the increased load be on the web and the search engines to handle each and every checkin?

One bit of encouragement is that as Real Time Search has begun, linking your Gowalla / Foursquare / Brightkite to Twitter or Facebook should mean that de facto Tweets and FB statuses regarding checkins should be indexed like any other.

The big question is, if one of the Big 3 search engines implements their own equivalent Locational Application / Platform or even the new Facebook Places, will their locations be indexed individually giving this missing bump to ranking (SEO) for businesses as locations?

More important, if they do have this added value, how will this affect Gowalla, Foursquare or Brightkite?

Seirra Madre - Badges

Geo-web version 1.0: if you asked me how I perceive the cluster of geo or Location Based Social web applications  around today, that would probably be my answer.

gowalla 4sq

These are truly Web 2.0 applications and mobile or smart phone enabled at that. After all what’s the point of sending the same location form your desktop PC?

These applications are 1st generation to me, why? Well let’s glance at what they do: –

  • Checking In – this is the term describing the process of sharing your location.
  • Social – again the collaborative element but also coupled to..
  • Competitive – the process of earning badges of achievement or status/ ranking based on overall frequency of check-ins and frequency per location.
  • Contribution – the user is able to add to the overall geo-database with new locations.
  • Proximity – this again ties back to the Social Element: when you see a friend has just checked in at a nearby coffee shop etc you may decide to call them or simply surprise them.
  • Implicit Advertising  platform – each check-in that relates to a given store, coffee shop, restaurant is de facto an ad and the frequency of check-ins and or competition over mayorship of the location boosts the online profile of the location.

So, what’s next? Or more appropriately what should these platforms be doing to give us added value beyond badges, coupons and collaboration?

I know the video seems kind of harsh and actually I like the badges thing but my question remains: added value?

Location in a social networking platform should be about two things relevance  and context.

  1. Relevance: who is my location relevant to?
  2. Context: what aspects of my location make it relevant to me or others in my network?

In a relevant, contextual framework if I connect my Twitter / Facebook, Blog etc to Locations these simply shouldn’t be an outlet for my check-ins or changes in ranking. The Locational application should index and retrieve data that I post in these to create an extensive profile of me and those included in my network.

If for example in my Facebook profile I describe myself as Jewish and Religious then obviously I am only interested in Kosher restaurants; If I tweet for example about being lactose intolerant then I’m not really interested in Dairy restaurants.

Now this isn’t a hard and fast rule but the ability to glean information from external networks that a Locational application is connected to provides context. Which further allows the application to rank or filter the information on a by user basis.

An example of relevance is that I may check-in at a new location for me such as “I have just landed at Newark Airport, NJ” and one of my network happens to be mayor there. The Locational application would suggest based on relevance that they are the user with the most extensive knowledge and familiarity of the location.

Beyond this perhaps at conferences and the like the Locational application would utilize Augmented Reality to display user IDs over the head of people in my network as they check-in.

A final thought, I spoke about added value and all these ideas are nice but remember this each check-in is another point of information adding to an ever growing geographical database.

I for one would love to see a coverage map displaying the world and which parts of the world, countries and cities are and are not within the geo-database and the volume of users for each location.

Steve Jobs is sitting in his den feet up video conferencing with James Cameron and gloating how the iPad has knocked Avatar’s page rank down.

I haven’t seen the movie, the trailer was sufficient for me; with a 4 year old and a pregnant wife entering her 8th month I have to be a little choosy about which movies I take the time to see. As for the iPad, the last piece of Apple technology I used was an iMac (except for QuickTime and QuickTime VR) and whilst I think Apple have a neat gadget in the iPad I’m going to be staying with Windows based technology.

In terms of cutting edge tech or something that is breaking paradigms and perhaps redefining how we interact with our technology Avatar slaps the iPad down with ease.

I know, you’re shocked. the iPad that touch sensitive, Kindle Terminator that has shown us that convergence can be a good thing versus a movie about blue aliens? Can anyone say Smurfs?

Forget the story for a moment, Avatar is potentially a world-shaking tech event for the 3D experience. The last time I saw a 3D movie was in 1983 called Treasure of the Four Crowns. A 3D, poor mans version of an Indiana Jones movie. It was definitely B if not C grade and I loved it.


Now we are seeing other movie producers jumping on the bandwagon to show their movies in 3D too. Apparently Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson will be filming Tintin in 3D.

So, what next? If 3D movies are going to become mainstream in the cinema can we expect 3D TV?  TV is an interesting concept but are we talking News, Reality, maybe Action/ Thriller shows e.g. 24-3D or Lost 3D that might get a little overwhelming.

Forgetting about 3D TV what about our Personal Computing experience? 3D Browsing, multimedia and YouTube but a real potential winner.. Gaming; imagine EA’s Command and Conquer, Age of Empires and others in glorious 3D.

For the web 3D could be an enriching experience in e-commerce creating virtual malls etc. and whilst on the subject how could 3D affect virtual worlds like Second Life? Then of course one of the early tech fields to adopt 3D had been photogrammetry / GIS.

Of course, lest we forget: mobile tech.. this probably deserves a blog piece all to itself what with Augmented Reality.

The real questions may well be: –

  • How much added value or richer experience will all of these become in 3D?
  • Will 3D provide a more immersive interaction in our daily personal computing life?
  • How is this going to impact hardware such as GPU’s, screens and mobile battery life?

One thing is for sure, finding out is definitely going to be fun.

Technorati Tags: ,,3D Browsing,,,,,,

A shorty .. thanks to Martin for his comment in part 1 about a mistake I made in explaining this.

All true Martin and thanks!

Moving rapidly on … we have established a relative location to the fixed position of several cellular antenas. This information changes as you move from the coverage of one cell antenna to another.

In the words of Q, Pay attention 007. If all this is true, then imagine visualizing the locations of all the cellular phones in a given region on a screen, where each cellular phone is a dot on the screen.

As the data updates in real time what if any patterns will begin to stand out and what other geo-data can we extrapolate from this imagery: –

  • If we see linear streams of dots travelling at proportional speeds to each other but faster than clusters or isolated dots in random or fixed positions then this probably represents cellular phones on cars travelling on roads. We have just extrapolated roads.
  • As this data updates we can estimate traffic speeds on these roads based on changes in position and subsequent traffic jams. We have just extrapolated basic traffic details.

That is just for starters. I am sure that you are already thinking of more extrapolations.

More to follow … as and when it occurs.

Can I tell you a secret? Okay not such a secret but lean in .. I used to be a geographer. No stop! I don’t know the capitols of every city. I studied all about cartography (making maps), GIS (Geographical Information Systems), GPS (don’t get me started on GPS) and in addition Computer Science with some Psychology thrown in just to keep me sane I guess.

Now then, let me ask you another question. Did you know that the cellular phone in your pocket is yelling “yoo-hoo! I’m right here” to your network provider right this instant?

Your cellular phone is continually seeking the best reception from the nearest and strongest signals it can receive from at least two if not more cell antennas or towers.

Slightly oversimplified but basically now you know. Cellular phones are radios; they can transmit and receive in full duplex and most radio signals rely on line-of-sight to enable this process.

So what does this mean to you? It means that your cellular phone has a measure of knowledge of where it and thus you are. The network antennas are fixed positions i.e. the cellular provider and anyone with a map, GPS etc. has its coordinates/ location.

You however with your cellular phone have the unmitigated cheek to keep moving. This tends to make things complicated as you and every other cellular phone moves in 3 dimensions.

Really though the theory and practice of locating a phone is based on triangulation: –
  • To establish the distance from your phone to one cell antenna imagine using the simple formula time x speed = distance i.e. if it takes 2 seconds to ping an antenna with a signal travelling at 1km/ second then the distance from the antenna is 2km.
  • Do the same thing to another antenna and just to be sure a third tower.
  • Let’s assume that we can establish the rough direction each antenna is from us and now if we were to draw a line that shows the distance calculated from each antenna then where the three lines intersect is the triangulation point of the cellular phone.
This is not exact or at least as exact as GPS but it works. More to follow in part 2.

Maps and Locational applications on the Web are hot news. What makes these relevant to the Interactive Web are that both Google and Microsoft provide ways for the run-of-the-mill user to create there own maps using baseline content and enrich this by adding GPS, Geo-metadata, photographs and 3D CAD Sketches.

Both of these contenders allow the user to search for a location and create a base-map of: –

  • Map
  • Satellite Imagery
  • A hybrid of both data-sets

Google’s application is a local installation that interacts with their web Geo-data: Google Earth. Their web Geo-search tool is of course, called Google Maps.

Microsoft simply installs a link in the Start – Program Menu to Virtual Earth which is their Live Maps.

Each allows the user to create their own maps and publish the creation to the web however, Google Earth goes one step further by following classical GIS (Geographical Information System) style using layers. Each layer of data may be enabled/ disabled for the location allowing a richer, more customizable map. Microsoft has just released a beta add-on called Map Cruncher that apparently provides layer level customization of user data-sets but as yet they do not provide layered data within their maps the way Google Earth does. I say “apparently” because I have yet to try this out.

Each allows the addition of 3D CAD Sketches: Google uses Sketch Up their locally installed application and Microsoft their beta equivalent called 3DVia (created with Dassault Systemes) also a local application.

Both require the user to be logged in to their respective Google ID or Windows Live ID to publish and share their maps.

Google’s search within Google Earth shows other published data-sets in their proprietary KML/KMZ format which if shared by other users may be displayed and used.

Microsoft Offered me the opportunity to install something called the Microsoft Location Finder something I have as yet been unable to get to work. This allows a user connected via WiFi to the Web to see their own location in the Live Maps instead of simply using the IP address to provide a rough location. For the laptop user on the go this can be an invaluable add-on feature to get your location on the fly.

Google Earth have added a toggle feature to look outwards to the sky and stars.

Each have a pay business model for companies but the business models are something to investigate and blog another time.

Real World Implications: being able to search the web for shared data-sets and publish your own allows for a great variety of uses some more sinister than others: Google was asked by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to lower the satellite imagery resolution over Israel during the 2nd Lebanon War for fear that Hizbullah were using the imagery and coordinate data to target their Katyusha Missiles.

Also more recently Google Israel was reported in the Israeli news as being petitioned in the courts to remove false data published by a Palestinian. The Geo-data erroneously located what he claimed was an annexed Palestinian village however, the Israeli village located there had been built on open land and this claim was untrue.

Many of us who know the history of GPS are aware that the US DoD intentionally dithered the coordinate data available to civilian GPS users for years to prevent its misuse.

In short, these applications provide a powerful toolset but the user should verify the age of the base-map data content as these satellite images and maps are not updated every day.

Technorati Tags: ,,Windows Live Maps,Microsoft Virtual Earth,Geographical Web Services,

In a previous life I was a geographer and no, that doesn’t mean I can tell you all the capitol cities in the world; I studied Geographical Informations Systems (GIS) and even worked in the field for a while. As to being a Geographer, there are more of us out there than you realize. When you ask someone at a party what they studied and they mumble something incomprehensible you can be reasonably sure they are embarrassed but they majored in Geography.

You are probably wondering what this GIS stuff is well, if you ever used one of these online locational services where you query how to get from your house to point X and it gives you a lovely map and directions this is a basic GIS. (Someone reading this just said to themselves, “Doesn’t he mean GPS?” GPS is something completely different, that’s what inexperienced hikers take into the woods and get lost trying to use to find there way.)

Anyway, I was saving the phone number of a great restaurant in my cellular phone (a Nokia 6233)contacts and accidentally hit the option to add more details. I had a really nice idea then and went online on my desktop PC and found the restaurant on the map, saved the map as a JPG and then sent it via bluetooth to my Cellular phone. The JPG map now resides as the photo for that contact and when inevitably someone asks me how to get to this restaurant I can message them the map and phone-number.

If you have a PDA or Smart-phone you may not need this litle hack but still for those of us with slightly less advanced technology this is pretty neat.