Loopt enables you to connect with your friends on a mobile phone, know where they are on a map (assuming they're letting you track them), send them photos or messages (and your location is automatically included), and look at your friends' recommendations for places to check out around your current location. This is a great start, but currently, the onus is on individual users to make the service useful. If you have a lot of friends on Loopt, and they are also active users, then there is value to be derived from it. If not, users who sign up for this service will be prime candidates for social media fatigue. Loopt as it stands today is a platform, but not quite a service. They are well-positioned though, to use the data generated by their users to offer a variety of interesting services. Before we examine that angle, let's take a quick look at another startup that is offering an interesting service.
Sense Networks uses massive amounts of real-time location data to provide aggregate consumer traffic trends. This can be really valuable for users if they're looking for something to do on a weekend ("hey, why's everybody in Golden Gate Park today?") or trying to discover the trendiest spot to dance the night away. It also offers a great way to explore a new city. One of my friends, on arriving in a new city, would go to city center and look for crowds of people to follow. By switching crowds every so often and spending the day doing this, he would create for himself a great walking tour of the city. I'm sure he'll appreciate the data Sense Networks' service can now provide him.
With enough traffic, Loopt could create more sophisticated variations on this approach (routes through the city by interest group, for example). It also has the opportunity to provide other relevant services, like:
- Show nearest street corner with highest likelihood of finding a cab
- Show "best bet" public transit stop, given a destination
- A "remember your umbrella" pop-up message if it's raining outside and you're leaving home. Or a "10 minutes to next train" message as you're running out the door.
- Automatic "shop together" invitations if you and your friends are in a mall at the same time.
- Tickets to a cool concert (or reservations at a great restaurant) near your current location when you're looking for something to do
- If you have tagged people on your "friend" list as "want to meet soon", proximity notification and suggestions on where to meet when they're near you
- Pedestrian route recommendations that can be customized for weather or consumer preferences. There's a company in Japan, Navitime, that provides exactly this service. I don't speak Japanese, but the idea is quite clear from that page! Having said that, the US is not exactly pedestrian-friendly, so it is unclear if this will be a mass-market product here.