There has been a lot of discussion over the past week about what exactly Apple and Google are doing with the location data they have been collecting from users smart phones.
Chris Dixon had an interesting take on this, pointing out that Eric Schmidt, before stepping down as CEO of Google, made the case for the evolution of an autonomous search engine.
Schmidt said that while the Google Instant predictive search technology helps shave an average of 2 seconds off users’ queries, the next step is “autonomous search.” This means Google will conduct searches for users without them having to manually conduct searches. As an example, Schmidt said he could be walking down the streets of San Francisco and receive information about the places around him on his mobile phone without having to click any buttons. “Think of it as a serendipity engine,” Schmidt said. “Think of it as a new way of thinking about traditional text search where you don’t even have to type.” – via eWeek
Location would be a key element in this kind of predictive search. Knowing when a user is at home versus at work would help Google to understand if they should be serving up information about local deals or the rush hour commute. When serious weather or a big sporting event is happening in the near vicinity, Google would prep searches on this for quick and easy access.
Foursquare’s recently shifted its focus to a similar, forward looking model. “We have to look at the future tense; that’s a big opportunity,” Crowley told the crowd at the Where 2.0 conference last week. “How do you tell people where they should be going?” Like the continuous tracking on smartphone, Foursquare is exploring ways to enable automatic check ins for users.
Research scientists envision a future in which this data allows them to peer into the character of cell phone users. “”We can measure their daily exposure to political opinions,” project scientist Anmol Madan at MIT’s Media Lab, told The Wall Street Journal. “Maybe one day, you would be able to download a phone app to measure how much Republican or Democratic exposure you are getting and, depending on what side you’re on, give you a warning.”