Saturday, October 15, 2005

Positional Alarms

I was eating at one of my favourite fast-food curry (カレー) restaurants in Japan recently (Coco Curry) and after ordering, a friend reminded me that on a previous visit I had said that next time I would order such-and-such. Well, the next time had just arrived and I had forgotten to order the meal I had been so excited about last time.

It occurred to me then, that what I needed was a positional alarm. Currently, all of my alarms are time-based: pay this bill by this date; play squash on that date; etc. The technology for positional alarms is becoming more and more commonplace. GPS receivers are found in cellphones, PDAs, MP3 players, and cars, to name a few. (Other technologies exist as well: beacons, etc.)

Regardless of how it's done, I want to be able to set the following geo-alarm on my cellphone: "Order the pork cutlet curry." The name of the restaurant should be optional, depending on the fuzziness of my alarm. If I create a "tight" alarm, it will go off when I'm back in the restaurant. If I create a fuzzy one the alarm would go off when I'm driving near the restaurant allowing me to decide whether I want to eat some pork curry or not. In this scenario, the "snooze" button delays the alarm until the next time I'm in the area. (Snooze could allow for alarm tightening if I drive by the restaurant everyday and the alarm becomes annoying.)

This is a trivial example of a positional alarm, and makes no use of the web, or of social networks. If I can manage and share my personal geo-alarms on the web, and import or subscribe to other users' alarms, then things get more interesting. I could subscribe to alarms for "pasta Toronto" and get buzzed around dinner time when I'm in the proximity of a great pasta restaurant. I could subscribe to "art global" and get notified about art galleries and museums within walking distance wherever I am on Earth. (These examples are awfully close in concept to my previous post on Geo RSS.)

I see a lot of utility simply in the ability to set personal positional alarms. The cooler social applications would present themselves once this service was more widespread.


Terence said...

Try GeoMinder (Google will help you). The idea is great. The execution lousy.I just couldn't get used to it.

Sean O'Hagan said...

Thanks Terence, I'll check it out.