Welcome to the second edition of Editor’s Pick Of The Week. This week Sathya talks about a location based automation tool for Android devices, Llama.
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve walked into your office, begun a discussion with your colleague, only to be disturbed by your loud notification tone? Or have a bunch of app updates/RSS feeds/ Other apps scheduled for auto-update when WiFi connection is available, only to forget enabling WiFi once you’re at home because you were preoccupied with some other work.
This happens to me often, and it often frustrated me that I’d remember to switch on WiFi late in morning, instead of previous night — or have a notification alarm sound off when I’m in the middle of a heated discussion. I sought our techie-buzz’s resident Android guru, Rajesh, for an app suggestion and I took Llama for a spin. Needless to say, it’s been one of the best apps that I’ve ever installed.
What is Llama?
Llama terms itself as a “Location Profiles” app which, honestly is quite an uninspiring name. Llama uses GSM cell phone tower locations to mark designated areas. And once you enter/leave the designated areas and upon on other conditions, Llama lets you trigger actions. Llama supports a whole lot of conditions and triggers — some of the parts of your Android phone Llama can act upon include:
2G/3G/4G network modes
Play, pause and other media buttons
Mobile Data (before Android 2.3 only)
allowing you to create events based on
Phone start up and shut down
Time of day
and so on. So how do I actually use this app? First, you’ll have to train Llama to ensure it knows what the areas are. I’ve defined some set of rules to automate few things that I would otherwise have to do manually.
The rules include:
Switch off WiFi once I leave home – WiFi hotspots are rather rare here, and I’d enable it if required. This allows me to save on some battery life
Switch on WiFi when I reach home – Enables dropbox, Google Currents, Google Play to auto update.
Quiet at Work between 08:30 and 18:45, change to quiet every 15 minutes — Llama also allows for actions to be triggered at repeated intervals and at specific times. This rule automatically puts the phone on silent mode between the times mentioned, and the repeated interval check ensures that even if I accidentally enable sounds, it gets disabled.
Switch to Normal once I leave Work — My phone doesn’t have to be silent mode anymore, once I leave work.
No mobile data when connected to Wifi – Once I’m on Wifi, my phone doesn’t need mobile data enabled, neither do I need 3G enabled. Having these results in better battery backup.
Disable 3G at work: The 3G coverage at my workplace is very spotty, with transition between 2G to 3G and vice versa happening very often, killing my battery. Having 3G disabled means that my battery lasts longer.
These are just some of the rules that I use, and Llama’s UI, though not pretty, is quite intuitive. Llama’s available for free on the Play store, though I went ahead and purchased the Donation version simply because the time I have saved using the app has been enormous.
Nokia is very strong in location-based services and to demonstrate this strength, they have a few apps pre-loaded on their Windows Phones, like Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive, Nokia Transport, Nokia Pulse and Nokia City Lens. I got a chance to look at Nokia Drive and Nokia Transport at the Nokia booth during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Nokia Drive is the free turn-by-turn navigation app that comes pre-loaded on Nokia Windows Phones. It lets you search an extensive database of points of interest (POI) and also get directions to a specific address. Nokia Drive comes in 50 languages and in 100 countries, and allows downloads of specific maps to the phone so that it works even when the phone is not connected to the network.
Nokia Transport is in beta, and it is an app which lets you get from one place to another via public transport (including walking). The interesting part about this app, as you will see in the video, is the ability to pin a certain route to your Start Screen. This pinned Live Tile then keeps you updated with the next 3 times of departure for your route. This app demonstrates the beauty of the Windows Phone OS: pinning the route to the Start Screen allows you to get to that route instantly without opening the app and then searching for the route, and the Live Tile which keeps updating the route timings throughout the day.
Nokia Transport comes with information on public transport in 450 cities in 46 countries.
CNN is reporting that Facebook has acquired location based social network Gowalla for an undisclosed sum. Gowalla, which was one of the stars of SXSW 2009, had been struggling in recent times, having lost the battle of check-in services to Foursquare. Towards the end of last year, it almost conceded as much by integrating competing services like Foursquare and Facebook Places into the mobile app. More recently, it has been trying to sell itself as a travel and storytelling app. On the other hand, Facebook also failed to hurt Foursquare’s dominance, and has been relatively quiet about the Places feature.
Considering the circumstances, an acquisition by Facebook might be the best possible outcome for Gowalla. The amount paid by Facebook for the acquisition is not known; however, it will almost certainly not be on the higher end of the spectrum. However, the more interesting question is what Facebook intends to do with Gowalla. Facebook has a frustrating habit of acquiring promising apps and killing them off. It’s most likely that they will do the same with Gowalla at some point next year. However, the travel diary and guide features unveiled by Gowalla at TC Disrupt are intriguing and compelling. CNN believes that Gowalla’s team will work on the Timeline feature that Zuckerberg unveiled earlier in the year. Timeline is still under beta testing, and available only to developers and select users.
Last month, at the IBM Software Universe 2011 in Mumbai, India, all delegates were given a unique device called SpotMe. SpotMe is a specialized mobile device to get all event attendees activated and engaged in event activities and the networking around it. Of course, at the end of the event, everybody was required to return the device.
The device helps in engaging attendees through active participation and includes ways to gather audience response. The attendee features and location functionality make for supercharged networking experience using the device. The device also facilitates logistics and information dissemination by providing maps, navigation, agenda and venue information, and other event details.
At the event, I met Damien Plumettaz, the Event Engineer from SpotMe. I asked Damien if such functionality can be achieved using mobile apps on different platforms rather than lugging another device during a conference. He said that’s something they have on their idea board as well but wasn’t sure if they would venture in that direction. Damien also shared an interesting trivia about the SpotMe device. The device has microphone because during the design phase they wanted to include calling functionality so that you could call other event attendees through the device!
Here’s a quick hands on of SpotMe that I recorded at the event:
Foursquare, the location-based social network, is set to be bumped up to version 3 soon. Foursquare was first conceived and built under the project Dodgeballwhich was purchased by Google and replaced with their Latitude service. This week marks the 2 year anniversary since the launch of Foursquare at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
The new updates to Foursquare allow for a much richer experience with the use of a recommendation engine. It allows users to search for a place and be provided back with aggregated results combining previously checked-in places, places friends have checked into as well as popular and similar places. The leaderboard feature has been updated, providing users with more information on points, badges and statuses. Badges were one of the major cornerstones to the progression and wide spread adoption of Foursquare. It created real-life rivalry and competition to gain badges and attain mayorstatus of a location. Often times retailers would provide discounts to mayors of stores.
Another unique addition to the service is the for retailers to reward and attract consumers with specials. Check-in specials, swarm specials (large amounts of check-ins), friend specials (for groups of friends), loyalty check-ins (for regular users), newbie specials (new check-ins), mayor and flash specials. These can be used to entice potential customers as well as reward existing customer loyalty.
A new Foursquare client is set to be rolled out to iOS and Android devices later this evening. BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone 7 updates are to come at a later unspecified date. See below for more screenshots of the features.
Looks like location is taking a new dimension. You can no longer just visit some place and not tell your friends about it, literally. Facebook recently introduced a new location based service called Facebook Places. Facebook Places was in direct competition with previously introduced service Foursquare.
It looks now that Twitter is also all set to introduce Places and Check-ins. As you can see from the image above, Twitter has some sort of check-ins in place where users can claim to be in places. In addition to that people can also check-in to places as seen in the "Recent people in Twitter HQ". If you are a Foursquare user, you might be familiar with this, albeit, instead of claiming a place, you actually become the mayor of a certain place.
With location based services heating up, thanks to the additional advertisements services can obtain from local businesses, this is definitely going to be another way for Twitter to claim a share of revenue, just like Facebook did.
We have already told you about MapmyIndia’s RoadPilot which is a slim, pocket friendly 3.5″ navigation device loaded with all India maps for turn-by-turn voice guided navigation across India. MapMyIndia has now launched a special city guide for Commonwealth Games 2010 venue – Delhi.
Located at MapMyIndia.com/CWG, this website offers detailed maps and information about the dedicated Games lanes, road maps to venues and stadiums, location of hotels, events schedule and other places of utility such as ATMs, malls, restaurants, historical monuments and tourist attractions which people might want to visit while in Delhi during the Commonwealth Games.
Facebook has launched its long awaited geolocation service, Facebook Places. Places is very similar to other location based services like Foursquare and Gowalla. It allows you to check in to places you visit, and also tag friends with you at the same place. You can also edit the privacy controls to disable tagging with Places.
You can view the recent activity of your friends at the place you are checking in. There is also a “People Here Now” section which allows you to see others who are checked in at the same place at that time. You can prevent yourself from being added to the section by editing your privacy controls.
Facebook is also working with companies like Foursquare, Gowalla, Booyah and Yelp; they can use the Places API in their applications to get and send location data to and from Facebook.
Facebook Places is currently available only for users in the US. To start using Places, you can download the latest version of Facebook for iPhone or use touch.facebook.com if your mobile browser supports HTML 5 and Geolocation.
Facebook has a 500 million user base which is much higher than all the other location services combined. With Places, it can also rule the geolocation space.
Location based apps are all over Android and iPhone. From Google Maps to geo-tagging of photographs to location aware search, all of it gives wonderful results with GPS.
Though, one thing that has not caught up with this is the speed of GPS satellites serving data. This scenario is going to change with more satellites being launched for this sole purpose. GPS has been really slow on phones until now. Also, current GPS satellites are accurate only to a certain limit. Though, with the new satellites, the figures can get significantly less.
Boeing is manufacturing 12 new Block IIF satellites which have twice the accuracy of current satellites. These will be stationed in the next ten years. This accuracy of GPS data can come in handy in checking population concentration, track usage of apps and in other activities like search and rescue.
Augmented reality which barely works currently will also get more realistic with this improvement. Once again, all this comes at the cost of privacy as apps may collect various types of location based user data. The improvement of GPS is a boon though, and is a welcome move as it will open up a new dimension of mobile computing and application development.
New York Times reports that Facebook will launch a couple of location sharing features at their annual conference in April. The features, as reported, will allow users to share their location information along or within their status updates. The users will of course have the chance to opt-out of it if they want. Developers will also be able to use the location information through API to create applications using that data.
It sounds like a great idea automatically displaying to your friends you are at the Starbucks down the street! Or is it really? Small social networking tools like FourSquare and Gowalla currently let users do that but a huge drawback of telling somebody where you are is also telling them where you are not! To better understand this, let’s check out a great small app called PleaseRobMe.com. The app scans Twitter and FourSquare and makes a list of people who are not home. How does the app know I am not home? Simple, if you just tweeted that you are in Orlando and your home town is New York. PleaseRobMe does a very good job of highlighting how sharing your location on social networks can make you vulnerable to stalkers, burglars and everybody else with a negative intention.
Facebook is many times larger than Twitter or FourSquare so the vulnerability would be many times more. Even if 10% of people opt-in to share their location, that means 40 Million people would open themselves to burglars, stalkers and other possible vulnerabilities. It is true that unlike Twitter or FourSqaure your location will only be displayed to your Facebook friends, however, with number of friends going up to thousands for some people, you can never be sure who is actually your friend. Of course, sharing location can have a very positive use as well. Let’s say you are trapped somewhere and managed to damage your cell phone’s mic, you can just update your status and your friends would know where you are.
Just like any other innovation, location-sharing can be used for both positive and negative things but when we talk about a significant number of users being impacted (say 400 Million), Facebook would have to be very very careful.