The smartphone is not a PC, but we still use it as if it were, says Sanjeev Agrawal, CEO of the location-based recommendation service, Aloqa. “This whole idea of a phone being a smartphone will not be realized until you stop
using the browser all the time to type things in,” Agrawal said at Tuesday’s TechRadar. “That pull-based usage of the phone is not the way Mr. Bell intended it.”
Aloqa tracks static and moving objects in real time and notifies users of nearby events and people.
“What we capture are very deep user and location analytics. The idea of ‘who are you and what are you doing and what does your usage fingerprint look like?’, but also ‘what does San Francisco between 6 and 7 on a Tuesday look like, over time?’” Agrawal, former Head of Product Marketing for Google, said.
Aloqa is both a multi-OS stand-alone app and a platform that can be integrated into other applications. The app is composed of interest-based channels, and the app’s centerpiece is its Hotchannel, “An always-on, local mobile inbox.”
Aloqa’s Hotchannel gives “recommendations across a loca, based on your usage over time and who you look like most, plus the location fingerprint piece,” Agrawal said.
“It’s like an email in-box of stuff coming in,” he said. “As you move, it constantly refreshes, saying new stuff that you can be doing right now.”
“Think about it as a collaborative filtering for locations, not for people,” he added.
In addition to its stand-alone feature, Aloqa can also be integrated into other apps. “So if Keith [Lee, MyTown] comes to me and says, ‘I never want people to leave my game and go to Google Maps or fire up a browser,’ we could just be a tab inserted into his app, so that in addition to playing his game people can get recommendations for restaurants and bars and stuff like that in addition to the core purpose of the app,” Agrawal said
Agrawal describes calendars that can plan your weekend, address books that organize contacts by their proximity, services that show if electric car-charging stations are available in real time, or context-sensitive sales, like a salon offering 50 percent off haircuts on a rainy day.
Aloqa’s vision, in Agrawal's words:
We think the world will be going a little more in the direction of going away from just search and pull-based ‘I’m typing something in and looking for a Starbucks,’ to [the phone saying] ‘let me proactively tell you.’”
And going from this whole world we live in now, where 95 percent of the opportunities that are surrounding us are never brought to our attention, to one where textually-relevant information is being pushed to us at the right place and the right time.
Wherever I am, there is a bunch of stuff happening around me. There’s tons of stuff that’s both static and dynamic. The most static stuff is places; the most dynamic stuff is people moving around. Everything else is a spectrum in the middle.
Aloqa is just the things relevant to you, chosen, and then pushed to you. It’s taking all this stuff that’s happening around me and organizing it for me.
The company’s business model is based on its recommendations, for example a hotel channel that locates nearby hotel deals. Aloqa’s most popular channel is the real-estate channel, which shows the closest homes and large properties for rent or for sale; Aloqa gets a cut of every lead they send to realtors.
“The way we make money is very straightforward,” Agrawal said.
Aloqa began at the University of Munich, and is based on the doctoral work of two of its co-founders. It was a nominee at the Mobile Premier Awards 2010 and was winner of the 2009 MobileBeat Tesla award and Motorola Best Android App.
Aloqa went live in Q4 2009. It currently has about 400,000 users in 6 countries, and is growing by about 4-5,000 users a day.