In recent years, thanks to the advent of social networks and smartphones, a new term has entered our vocabulary: the location, our location, where we are. In fact, it consists in using the GPS of our smartphone (or the cellular network or the geo-location of an IP address, or other technologies such as beacon, wifi and bluetooth) to share on the internet at what latitude, longitude and height we are. All this in a passive way, asking the user the minimum possible effort, ie nothing.
Our coordinates are some of the three most sensitive information but also among the most useful since they tell a lot about us: who we are, what we do, where we go and, if whoever holds our data also has those of other people, who we meet. There is only one industry that had this information in its hand before the Internet: the Telco. Thanks to their mobile network, telephone companies have always known the position of the devices that are connected to them and, consequently, of those who carry them in their pockets. They are always careful not to use this information, however, except with rare exceptions, and for reasons of privacy and lack of readiness in the use of Big Data, if not to share them with law enforcement agencies that have a mandate. The risk of the effect Big Brother (by Orwell) and the large profits have always discouraged even the most daring.
Something has changed today. With the advent of the web everything is different: we have gradually become accustomed to voluntary opt-in and a world of possibilities has opened up for large companies and start-ups to create products that proactively influence and modify our day and our choices. Receiving an alert in the morning while we take a shower informs us that on the path we will take to work there is a traffic jam or a notification when we leave the office that a friend is in the bar around the corner, will become more and more integral part of our day. All this described so far, although many do not use it, is already possible today and most likely down configured on your mobile phone.
I know where your children live, work and go to school.
One of the most immediate and comfortable uses of our location is to add a reminder that requires a notification not at a certain time but at a certain place. For example, “remind me to call Anna when I get out of the office.”. But Google Android and Apple iOS go further. Since it constantly records its location, after a few days of use our smartphone is able to know which way we will travel that morning and warn us if we will find traffic so as to choose another. Respectively, Google and Apple already do it today with Google Now or the Apple Today Notification Center and, with Location History and Frequent Locations, are able to show our usual routes and how often we visit certain places.
Having a trace of our daily path, that is when we visit which places, allows us to determine where we work and where we live banally, analyzing the places we usually visit during the day and where at night. And with a large volume of users, this information can help identify who our colleagues, family and friends are. Our real social network, not the social network, and the related relations between members.
The possibilities that open up are incredible for both users and businesses and will increase as users get used to sharing their position and as providers show themselves worthy of that trust.Then as it happened with banks and ATMs in the 70s.
Home warm house – an example
Thanks to our geographical location and that of our family members a European startup, Tado°, allows you to control the heating and air conditioning at home intelligently via an app on our smartphone (which is the only user interface).
What makes it interesting and different from the best known (and not available in Italy) Google Nest is the logic, simple but powerful, behind it: Tado° independently regulates the temperature according to the distance of the user from home. So in winter when the last family member leaves in the morning to go to work the heating will be turned off and then on again when any of the family members will walk home. Everything will happen automatically, adapting to the lifestyle and the less and less regular schedules of all of us, favoring some savings on heating if, for example, one evening we decide to stay out for dinner.
Small measures that, according to the manufacturer, can save 30% of consumption.
Whether or not the products that will be created will be paid for and the implications on the privacy of users will depend primarily on how the offer evolves: whether in the future consumers are willing to pay to access these services or whether advertising will pay for them as was the case with the e-mail account, the use of thelocation mass is just beginning and will permeate our way of life.
Soon we’ll forget what we used to say: “I’m on my way, throw away the pasta.”.