Where am I and what do I want?

Where am I and what do I want?

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I was reading and listening to this talk and interview with Thomas Howe when I found my mind wandering.  It wasn't that Thomas was not capturing my attention, (quite the opposite) it was something that he said that got me starting to think about presence information and directed advertising.  

Thomas mentioned how people generally do not like their private information to be 'taken,' but that when asked in the context of a definable return, we often are free to give it.   I started thinking in terms of applications that could take advantage of certain situations in which a user would not have to give up any information (not already held by the service provider) and yet benefit from some level of directed advertising.

What comes to mind is a form of advertising that is associated with a mobile base station.   In other words, whenever a device comes into range of a particular cell tower (i.e. base station) the service would launch an email, SMS/MMS etc. that would alert the user to localized advertising, such as the restaurant around the corner or a local event.   The service could be offered to tourists and business travelers who by subscribing and perhaps providing a profile in advance can get such directed messages each time they enter an area that they have not been in for say; 24 hours.   The application would be fairly simple: As the handset registers with the base station, the corresponding billing records would check to see when was the last time this handset entered this particular base station's coverage area.   If the period exceeded 24 hours, then a directed advertisement, localized and filtered by their profile is sent to the user.  Advertisers would pay for the service, essentially making it free to the subscribers.   

I know services along this line of thinking already exist in some form or another, but I am not aware of any that are associated with a particular bases station's coverage area.  The same service can work with WiFi hot spots and metropolitan wireless area networks, only the user will have to log in first as opposed to the typical ranging and registration process used in cellular telephony.  

I suppose this could be taken to extremes such as; monitoring how often a user enters a base station's coverage area in a given period of time, (maybe if greater than 4 times an hour we should offer up a mapping service?), but it seems the threshold could be placed by the user in their profile.  

Services like this can be assembled fairly easily and rolled out with little impact to the network.  I would expect more of them to start popping up in the coming years.

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  • Brian,  

    Good post. I think one of the key issues is to somehow have the user control whether they are willing to accept such messages.   When I got to Hong Kong two weeks ago, I got a couple of SMSs from the local carrier.  This wasn't too annoying, but I wouldn't have been thrilled if Starbucks started pinging me when I walked near their store.  On the other hand, if the carrier offered me a profile which said I want messages from coffee shops, bookstores and, who knows, athletic clubs, this kind of permission marketing puts the control in the hands of the user.  

    I believe that the utility of such location based services will be greatly promoted if the user themself gets to drive the service.