A new app called PlaceUs focuses on group location sharing as well as contextual awareness to bring mobile location functionality to a new level. The startup is led by Sam Liang, who used to be a Maps architect for Google. It is designed for use within a close circle of friends or loved ones, like a much more limited and privatized version of FourSquare.
PlaceUs approaches this goal essentially in two ways. First, the app learns the user’s routines so it can predict behavior and figure out ways to be of assistance. For instance, it can track a user’s commute and automatically notify a spouse if they had to stay late or ran into heavy traffic, or it can send a reminder if they haven’t been to the gym in a while. The app also can track when a user has visited a gas station and – based on mileage, speed, routes and distances – notify when fuel levels should be running low and automatically conduct a search for nearby stations.
The other function is what CEO Liang refers to as “group AI,” an alternative version of Google Now and Siri which he says are intended for individual use. The group aspect offers location data for each user in the group for others in the circle with highly specific GPS. Liang says it can be narrowed down as far as a single store in the mall, making group management in public places much easier. In the interest of conserving battery, location services are only turned on when another user wishes to view them.
The company assures us that none of the information will be broadcast to the public nor shared with third parties for advertising purposes. In addition, a user must opt-in to location sharing before it begins, and it can be temporarily disabled for privacy concerns.
This app shows promise, but it must be tested in the field to see just how useful it is. The AI must be quite intelligent to be of use and not annoying when tracking routines, and there are only so many situations where location sharing to this extent will come in useful without feeling invasive.
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